A pervasive sense of uncertainty has grown heavier in Brazil over the past few years. When Jochen Volz and his team of curators—Gabi Ngcobo, Júlia Rebouças, Lars Bang Larsen, and Sofía Olascoaga—announced the title of the 32nd iteration of the Bienal de São Paulo as “Live Uncertainty,” the biggest country in Latin America had already weathered an economic and political storm, with the public’s fury swelling as the day of the show’s premiere approached. Just 10 days before the doors opened here at the Oscar Niemeyer-designed pavilion in the heart of São Paulo’s Ibirapuera Park, the Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff was finally ousted from office and replaced with former vice president Michel Temer, the culmination of a months-long impeachment process.
Nearly half the country sees this as a coup d’état based on flimsy allegations against Rousseff. The other half celebrates the end of an administration that brought the economy to a halt, having fought for her removal no matter how dangerous a precedent this could set for Brazil’s young and rather fragile democracy. With protests raging in the streets outside, and reflections of that tumult inside the pavilion on the day the show opened for VIPs, “Live Uncertainty” manifests something of an ideological battle. Despite the exhibition’s esoteric, new age, sometimes outright hippie feel, no artwork in the show can escape a political reading.