Sesc_Videobrasil brings Arab artists’ work to São Paulo

The Contemporary Art Biennial features work by eight artists from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and, for the first time, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

Thais Sousa

São Paulo – The Sesc_Videobrasil Contemporary Art Biennial is featuring work by eight Arab artists. The event is running from October 9, 2019 to February 2, 2020 at Sesc 24 de Maio, São Paulo. Over 60 works and two collections by 55 artists from 28 countries are on display. Pictured above is a still from a film by Omar Mismar, of Lebanon.

The ongoing 21st edition is themed Imagined Communities, and deals with the rise of nationalism in the world. “Since the focus is on [featuring productions] from the global South, countries that were either colonized or late modernizers, we realized this was an opportunity to invite artists to speak up on this rebirth of nationalism. On a second level, Imagined Communities concerns indigenous peoples and groups that aren’t represented politically, or are represented in a more fragile way,” one of the show’s curators, Gabriel Bogossian, told ANBA.

The choice of Arab artists adds to the plurality of narratives in the exhibition, which has historically featured Lebanese art, and is now bringing artists from Saudi Arabia and Tunisia for the first time. “These perspectives hugely broaden our perspective. I believe Arabs are deeply interested in this issue of nationalism. We might describe certain conflicts are underpinned by exacerbated nationalism. Arab artists are some of the torch carriers for this event,” he said.

A video by visual artist Omar Mismar is featured in the Biennial

One of the artworks mentioned by Bogossian destaca is a film by Lebanon’s Omar Mismar (pictured). “His film was made at a gun store in the United States. It deals with issues relevant to our day-to-day in Brazil, with an administration that’s working to facilitate access to weapons. The film discusses gun policy in a very clever way. It prompts reflection by articulating current subjects,” the curator said.

Nidhal Chamekh of Tunisia has two works featured. One is the video Never Give Up, a portrayal of resistance by a group of refugees driven out of a camp in France, in 2016. In protest, they light their dwellings on fire before machines do. The other piece is De Quoi Rêvent Les Martys II (What Martyrs Dream About II), in paint, lead and transfer on paper.

Dana Awartani, in turn, was born and lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.; Arábia Saudita. She combines traditional elements of Islamic art and contemporary visual art. Her featured piece is I Went Away And Forgot You. A While Ago I Remembered. I Remembered I’d Forgotten You. I Was Dreaming, an installation-video combo.

The other Arab artists are Hiwa K, of Iraq, with a video; Sadik Alfraji, of Iraq, with a graphic animation piece, Hrair Sarkissian, of Syria, with a series of 14 photographs; Maya Shurbaji, of Syria, with a video; and Ahmad Ghossein, of Lebanon, with a video. The artists travelled to Brazil for the festival opening and will remain in the country until Sunday (13).

A Brazilian in Jordan

One of the Brazilian artists in the Biennial, Jonathas de Andrade of Maceió, Alagoas, is showing Procurando Jesus (Looking for Jesus), an installation made during a stay in Amman, the capital of Jordan. Andrade strolled around the city taking photos of common men, who might be Jesus, to oppose the European notion of a blonde, blue-eyed man. Visitors are given a date fruit and are able to vote on the face that resembles Jesus Christ the most. The work concludes with comments from Amman residents on which image is the most representative to them.

The Biennial will offer seven prizes, including three artist residencies lasting eight weeks each. One of the residencies is offered in partnership with the Sharjah Art Foundation Residency Programme and will take place in Sharjah, UAE. The award ceremony is slated for October 12.

Quick facts

21st Sesc _Videobrasil Contemporary Art Biennial / Imagined Communities
October 9, 2019 – February 2, 2020
Tuesday-Saturday, 9am-9pm; Sunday-holidays, 9am-6pm
Rua 24 de Maio, 109, Downtown São Paulo, 300m away from República metro station
Find out more: +55 (11) 3350-6300 /

Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

Press Release
Press Release

Related Posts