“Open Borders” is the title of the 14th Curitiba International Biennial of Contemporary Art which takes place in the capital of the state of Parana in Brazil from 21 September 2019 to 1 March 2020.
In the frame of this topic, as part of the team of curators of the Biennial, curator Massimo Scaringella presents a project entitled “Human/territorial relations“, exhibiting the artworks created for this occasion by a group of international artists from 9 countries. Among them, he decided to invite a territorial cluster composed by three Italian artists born in the same border region, Stefano Cagol, Hannes Egger, Philipp Messner, but belonging to three different cultural and linguistic official groups: Italian, German and Ladin. The region is Trentino South Tyrol, considered an example of coexistence and linked to Brazil and Paranà by a history of migration to that continent. Their artworks are exhibited in the most prestigious venue of the Biennial: the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, considered one of the most important museums in Latin America.
On the eve of their departure to Curitiba, he asked Stefano Cagol, Hannes Egger, Philipp Messner what they expect from this participation – for Egger and Messner the first biennial, Cagol already at biennials like the one in Venice. This experience will be special for them also because of the dimensions of the Curitiba Biennial. A ranking among global events such as the art biennials is impossible, but the Curitiba Biennial holds a record, as the last edition recorded over a million visitors in 6 months, almost double than the 600 thousand in 7 months of the Venice Biennale of the same year. The Curitiba Biennial – born in the nineties as VentoSul. Latin-American Visual Arts Biennial – has never stopped growing, becoming increasingly international, expanding the venues and the program, up to include a reduced version of the Biennial on tour at partner institutions in other countries.
Massimo Scaringella: Why is your research linked with the theme of this edition of the Curitiba Biennial?
Stefano Cagol: Almost a year ago we discussed the Biennial and its topic “FRONTEIRAS EM ABERTO”, which led me to propose you the idea of inviting two other artists from different cultures from my own region, Trentino South Tyrol, between Mittle-Europe and the Mediterranean. So with this meaningful invitation you focused an “exhibition within the exhibition”. The idea of border has always been part of my research. My reflections have evolved over time, looking at the boundary with the other in metropolitan spaces, between collective and individual consciousness in the formation of public opinion, physical and mental borders crossed in traveling projects up to “The End of the Border” and far beyond the Polar Circle, arriving now to investigate the boundaries between man and nature, the balances of this relationship and the anthropogenic interferences on the environment and the climate.
Hannes Egger: Our territory is full of borders, not only between nations, but also between different languages, habits and cultures. I am used to dealing with these issues, to being in balance on the line of demarcation, to thinking in a cross-border way. To this I have often dedicated my research, always trying to cross borders, working for open borders. An example of this is my project “Bivacco”, presented on the Island of San Servolo in conjunction with the current Venice Biennale. By triggering a very symbolic action, I transferred along the coast an alpine bivouac, a high mountain emergency structure, which by definition must always be open to everyone and welcoming – a refuge for those traveling from the Mediterranean to northern Europe.
Philipp Messner: In my work, I have often dealt with the concept of frontier through the representations of the identity. Having grown up in a multilingual territory in the Dolomites, I have always had an approach of “close distance” with the ideas of identity and social construction of identity, balanced by the contact with a landscape characterised by a very formative physicality and presence of nature. So I feel the theme very close to the matter of the perception that forms reality. This is the main approach in my work, which confronts different themes, always focusing on the question of how we form reality, how reality forms us, revealing these dynamics.
MS: How does the artwork you present at the Biennial respond to this theme?
SC: Traces of the heat, on other hands, on walls, on leaves, ice melting on the palm, flowing like blood. The work talks about the border with the environment, is entitled “It’s all about giving and taking energy” and is part of the project “The Body of Energy (of the mind)”, on-going since 2014. In Curitiba I present a video work and a picture from the last chapter as result of a workshop held at the MA*GA Museum with students of the Academies of Brera in Milan and of Verona. I use an infrared video camera, capable of highlighting invisible traces of heat, the permanence of our contacts with the surrounding, the extension of the consequences of our actions. Then I present the unreleased performance “NÓS SOMOS AQUECIMENTO GLOBAL” (we are global warming), with propaganda banner & caps, spreading thermo-sensitive postcards, visible only with the heat of the touch. A metaphor for climate issues, which are in front of our eyes and we are not able to grasp, which we amplify with our actions, a metaphor for the rising temperatures (also caused by deforestation) as part of the complex system of imbalance of the border between man and nature.
HE: The work “Silent Border in the Middle of No Man’s Land” is an audio- or, rather, an audience-performance. It consists of 10 audio tracks, transmitted via headphones, which invite the audience to perform. There are instructions and the sound is by the music designer mr. coon. Each of these sound installations reveals a different aspect of the border: an invisible wall with a crack, the border of one’s own sex, that of one’s own self-definition. Philosophical works and figures are also mentioned, such as the tightrope walker of the Zarathustra by Nietsche or the work “Huis Clos” (No Exit) by Jean-Paul Sartre. The installation choices are minimalist, the viewer finds 10 headphones and a pair of objects, but the work expands, becomes truly visible only when the public takes part in it: at that point the work begins to live and the bodies of the performers become its centre.
PM: For the Curitiba Biennial and the Oscar Niemeyer Museum I developed a series of new flags working with terms like “we“ or “all”, and with short sentences like “brain capacity” and “tactile fields”, that overlap and address directly to the public. The graphic superimpositions, instead of defining, open up to an idea of potentiality, of the space and the self from the individual to the collective. The flags, once installed, outline a space of open-mindedness and question possible future actions.
MS: Is this your first time exhibiting in South America? What do you expect from this experience?
SC: Being in Brazil right now is particularly significant. The Amazon Forest is so immense but fragile, so central to climate change, important themes in my research. And then the effects and the questions of forcing the border with the natural environment …
HE: This is my first time exhibiting in South America. I am very curious to see how the audience will react to my interactive installation, whether or not they will participate. I am also looking forward to getting to know Curitiba and its surroundings, because it is an area where a lot of people migrated to from my region as well.
PM: Yes, it’s the first time I’m working and traveling to Brazil and I can’t wait to get in touch with this huge territory, with so many resources. The future of the world is at stake in South America. It is also an honour to participate in the Biennial and to exhibit at the Oscar Niemeyer Museum.
- Stefano Cagol, “ETERNO”, 2019, performance, ice, hairspray cans, fire. Hofburg, Brixen. Photo: Leonhard Angerer
- Stefano Cagol, “It’s all about giving and taking energy”, 2019, infrared video and print presented at the 14th Curitiba Biennial
- Stefano Cagol,"NÓS SOMOS AQUECIMENTO GLOBAL (We are global warming)”, 2019, sketch for the performance at the 14th Curitiba Biennial
- Hannes Egger, “Modus Operandi”, 2017, performance. Hotel Schwarzschmied, Lana. Photo: Joan Casellas
- Hannes Egger, “Performance Now”, 2019, performance. Magazin 4, Bregenz. Photo: Sarah Mistura
- Hannes Egger, “Vedere l’invisibile”, 2017, performance. Fondazione Barriera, Torino. Photo: Stefano Fiorina
- Philipp Messner, Portrait, 2019. Munich. Photo: Michael Daiminger
- Philipp Messner, “Campos tácteis”, 2019, sketch for a flag installation for the 14th Curitiba Biennial
- Philipp Messner, “Incorporare”, 2016, installation, 4 flags. Temporary school building, Lana. Photo: Philipp Messner