Apresentação do projeto Coro de Queixas
Performance: Complaints Choir, Biennial opening, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2011

A Collection of Multiple Voices: The 8th Mercosul Biennial & Pedagogy in an Expanded Field
Jessica Gogan and Luiz Guilherme Vergara

In The Pleasure of Architecture Bernard Tschumi said: “if you want to follow the first rule of architecture, break it.” Something similar might be said of curatorship. There are no parameters applicable to each case, just intentions and desires. It is better to be consequent with the development of a project than consistent with a hypothetical should.

José Roca, chief curator, 8th Mercosul Biennial1

[…] this Biennial seeks metaphorically to “re-territorialize” the field of pedagogy within the visual arts – to use a term of Deleuze and Guattari to indicate the process through which an old order is deconstructed and a new one established. An “expanded” field of pedagogy also refers to Rosalind Krauss’ influential essay, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field” which expressed the need for art practice to break down conventions and established parameters of exhibitions. In recent decades, this expanded “re-territorialized” field of art has acquired a social character, in which pedagogy can play a key role as an instrument of communication, reflection and, in the words of Paulo Freire, awareness.

Pablo Helguera, pedagogic curator, 8th Mercosul Biennial2

Registering practice is the thread that weaves the history of our process. It’s through it we can be for each other […] but it’s not enough to record and keep to oneself what was thought, it’s fundamental to socialize the content of reflection to each and every one of us. This individual offering is fundamental to the construction of the collective archive. As Paulo Freire clearly pointed out, the record of such reflection and its public socialization are “founders of conscience” […] and also the tools for building knowledge.

Madalena Freire3

Since its beginning and particularly in recent editions, the Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, has challenged and questioned established formats for contemporary art biennials. Fully aware of the criticisms such large-scale events frequently draw, each biennial has increasingly sought to experiment with place and locale, constructing something uniquely born out of the context of Porto Alegre as a distinctive counterpart to the history of internationalism of São Paulo’s more well known biennial.4

The curatorial premise of the 8th Biennial, Geopoetic Essays, 2011, in particular, strove to break rules, explore new formats and expand in time and place diverse artistic, curatorial and pedagogic practices. Amidst these experimentations an underlying curatorial question reverberated: how to be consequential? How then might one track such experimentation and follow a curatorship that seeks to break rules and expand in time and space artistic, curatorial and pedagogic practices that emerge organically and within particular contexts? How might we recognize what Pablo Helguera notes above as the re-territorialization of pedagogy within the visual arts and the artistic imaginary in the field of pedagogy? In what ways might we  evaluate and document hybrid curatorial-pedagogic processes that ground themselves in “imaginative, creative and flexible” practices “in accordance with the same dynamism that art offers today”?5

We asked ourselves these questions in response to the invitation by the pedagogic curator, Mexican New York-based artist, educator and curator Helguera, and the general coordinator of the pedagogic project, Mônica Hoff, to develop an evaluation initiative that could follow and explore the consequences of this emerging artistic-curatorial-pedagogic field.

Accompanying this emerging field meant following the hybrid processes inaugurated by this expanded pedagogy and seeing how these processes then returned to the Biennial as reverberations and resonances of territorializations of expanded possibilities for art with an ethical and geopolitical vision of pedagogy.  A particular aspect of note in this complicity between art, curatorship and pedagogy is what might be called a natural process of contagion – when not only the artistic event overflows into a phenomenological and pedagogical dimension, but also, in the same way, the pedagogic phenomenon emerges as an artistic, ethical and elliptical event of mutual transformations between subjects. This is the critical geopoetic zone where the curatorial, artistic and pedagogic meet. Is it possible to see this coming together as the ethical and esthetic contributions that emerge from the complex concept of pedagogy in an expanded field – experiences that are artistically geopoetic or geopoetically pedagogic? Could a merged praxis of geopoetics be seen as the actual geopolitical legacy of the 8th Biennial? Such instigations motivated and mobilized the idea of a collection of multiple voices of the individuals involved in the expanded field of pedagogy of the 8th Biennial.

Given the potential scope of such an “expanded” collection project, we naturally were required to set limitations and together with the pedagogic team, we selected to interview approximately 40 people, among them curators, educators, cultural producers, artists, community members, school teachers and administrators who had been partners on various editions of the Biennial. To facilitate the interview process and further establish evaluation parameters, we focused on four representative and diverse areas of the pedagogic project’s work: the pedagogic project in general; the mediator course and process of mediation with diverse publics; Casa M (cultural center for residencies, courses and programs created specifically for the Biennial that opened four months prior to the official Biennial opening); and two artist residency projects of the initiative Travel Notebooks – a series of residencies and exhibitions planned throughout the region in various communities and cities, culminating in a general exhibition as part of the series of the Biennial exhibitions in Porto Alegre).

Oliver KochtaOliver Kochta, artist, Travel Notebooks: Choir of Complaints

Gabriel Bartz, mediator, Casa M

Certainly, in order to have truly evaluated the reach of the pedagogic project in all its expanded intentions, it would have been necessary to augment the scope and process of collecting and recording the perceptions of participants. However, we choose to focus deeply rather than broadly. As Spinoza reflected: “it’s not enough to expose oneself to new experiences without expanding one’s capacity to be effected.”6

In other words, when proposing to experiment the new it’s necessary to also be prepared to be effected, to reflect and to transform oneself.  To recognize this transformation and the new paradigms and premises at play in the growing complicity between curatorial and the pedagogic projects, it is necessary to create spaces for listening, that allow oneself to be effected and to openly examine the relationships, bonds and exchanges developed between the Biennial and society, both in the metropolitan region of Porto Alegre and throughout the region. While our project was able in a micro manner to begin to identify such complicities, exchanges and bonds, in the future it will be important to expand such listening and collection projects to map and in turn potentialize mutual understanding, belonging and proximity between art and diverse publics.

For the 8th Biennial our choice was to maximize the reflective possibilities of a “micro” collection of voices by interviewing the same 40 people in three distinct moments over a period of six months in the Biennial’s evolution. At each interview we asked the same questions about motivations and risks related to each interviewee’s involvement with the Biennial. In this way we opted to evaluate and follow the pedagogic project in its poetical and political dimensions, breaking away from positivist evaluation models based on critical distance, objective parameters and quantitative impact. Via what we called “an invitation to reflect and a collection of voices” we inversely adopted proximity as a basis for a research intervention. In doing so we also recognized the mutual contagion between interviewees and their reflections describing their constructions of subjectivity during the 8th Biennial as well as between interviewees and ourselves. Our proposal was much more one of listening from the inside to the voices of those engaged in various aspects of this “expanded” pedagogy than watching from the outside.

It was interesting to note how much this inventory of voices was able to reinforce the care with the production of subjectivity already asserted as key in the symbiotic relationships between art, curatorship and pedagogy implied in the expanded nature of the pedagogy project. There was also a clear understanding (and collaboration) on behalf of all those interviewed that the evaluation device was also one of reflection, inseparable from the concept of a research-intervention that assumes complicity as its main tool – activating, reflecting and exploring motivations and concerns with the people acting in the field. In this way the “collection” project unfolded as a genealogy of motivations, searching how and where the expanded nature of the pedagogic project was reaching, activating and constituting a field of autonomous territorializations, beyond the exhibition warehouses, in the schools, at Casa M, in the public interventions of City Unseen, as well as in the interior of the state. Through these cartographies of enunciations, the evaluation mechanism became part of the means and ends of the expanded pedagogic project, providing a listening space – one of resonance and reverberation – recording the voices and processes behind the production of subjectivities in all their rhizomatic, microgeopoetic, and reterritorialized forms.

Mônica Hoff
Mônica Hoff, pedagogic coordinator 8th Mercosul Biennial

Pablo Helguera
Pablo Helguera, pedagogic curator, 8th Mercosul Biennial

A number of contemporary researchers inspired our approach – one of these was the work of Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi. His concept of “flow” describes a synthesis of the psychology of optimum experience, a word and state of being that his interviewees often used to express the feeling of being optimally immersed and fully engaged in a particular practice – be it making art, cooking, chess playing or mountain climbing.7 In his “flow” research, he points out important aspects that need to be present to conciliate those experiences. Amongst them, the most important are: intrinsic motivation, constructions with previous knowledge and autonomy, each organically interwoven with the possibility for immediate feedback.

Curso de mediação
Map associating ideas and experiences with the word mediation

Another reference for this research-intervention was the work of scholar Fred Evans and his proposal of an ethical dialogue that creates itself via elliptical open events (mutually effecting all parts of a process), fundamental for an age of diversity8. This elliptical event was one that was constructed and recognized as such, via the very fact of the collected statements, enabling an exchange of impact and perceptions, constituting and supporting an emerging body of multiple voices. Another useful conceptual reference in reflecting on the hybrid possibilities between artistic practice and an expanded pedagogy, was the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer and his exploration of art as game, party and symbol.9

From an evaluative methodology perspective, a key reference was the work of Harvard Project Zero, an educational research group affiliated with Harvard University in the United States, and one of its recent projects that sought to identify key indicators of quality in art education programs throughout the country.10 Besides important factors, such as participative learning, environment and quality of materials and professionals involved, they found out that the best indicator of quality is the actual pursuit of quality itself – suggesting the vital importance of creative will, motivation, constructive criticism and serious reflection on process. In other words, the more you see a pursuit for quality, the more quality is found.

Curso de mediação
Mediator workshop

Casa M
Teacher Course at Casa M. Photo: Lívia Stumpf/indice.com

This research amongst others influenced our choice to transform the mechanism of evaluation into an invitation to reflect – to create a kind of ombudsman, a resonant “listening” camera inside the process. In this manner, we were able to provoke and unite enunciations reflecting the ways in which individuals were seeing themselves, and how they were (re) nurturing and questioning their engagement, expectations and concerns. These exercises of speech and listening revealed an internal field of the construction of subjectivities, and brought with it a subterranean layer formed by the deepening of other temporalities prior to the “official exhibition,” rich with mutual contagion and diverse motivations. In this way, the very evaluative mechanism became contaminated. We were as much participants as well as listeners. The camera was a vehicle in a constructivist and phenomenological process of individualization, of voices expressing synergies between awareness, belonging and agency. Here, it became increasingly obvious that one of the only ways to capture this relational public life of art and its expanded or consequential possibilities is via such a micro collection of voices – a process that can capture microgeographic poetics, effects and politics. In a small way the research intervention inaugurated by this collection of voices was able to map aspects of this public life of art and its real and potential “expansiveness” via recording a polyphonic richness of perspectives, voices and desires. This richness itself pointed toward a future exteriorization and empowerment of an emerging collective “body”, that initially was not fully conscious, but in its process and collected form reflected the reverberations and resonances of the production of subjectivities in their organic, relational and ethical dimensions.

José Roca e Alexia Tala
José Roca (chief curator) and Alexia Tala (adjunct curator) 8th Mercosul Biennial

Mateo López
Mateo López, artist, Travel Notebooks: Field Notebooks

Much more than an evaluation project, this invitation to reflect was taken on by all participants as a kind of “third time and space” an in-between space of listening at different moments during the Biennial. In this way this evaluative-research-intervention can be seen as a means of capturing the reverberations and resonances of motivations (intrinsic and extrinsic as well as frustrations and risks) thanks to the trust and openness of all those who gave their time and collaborated with us in this project. As a result of this “collection,” five special video archives were created, each exploring a diverse aspect of the expanded work of the pedagogic project. On the occasion of the publication of the first issue of Revista MESA, together with this brief essay, we have also edited a selection of these multiple voices in a fifteen-minute video.

A Collection of Multiple Voices: The 8th Mercosul Biennial

In closing it is also important to note that even more than an invitation to reflect and a collection of voices, the project as a research-intervention was also able to map a microgeography of perspectives and collective themes, key relationships, difficulties and emerging critical and poetic practices. This profound engagement with the recording of experience is essential to developing a deeper, more critical and complex, understanding of the public life of art and what might be termed “consequential” work. As Paulo Freire noted “the record of such reflection and its public socialization are “founders of conscience” […] and also the tools for building knowledge..”

We are sincerely thankful for the participation, openness and responsiveness of all those we interviewed. Below is a listed of participants divided into the areas of activity and the video archives that were created:

1.Pedagogic Project: curators, coordinators, producers and educators

  • André da Rocha – educator, teacher training
  • Diana Kolker Carneiro da Cunha – educator teacher courses and mediator supervisor
  • Ethiene Nachtigall – mediator training and mediator team coordinator
  • Gabriela Silva – operational coordinator 8th Mercosul Biennial Pedagogic Project
  • José Roca – chief curator, 8th Mercosul Biennial
  • Liane Strapazzon – producer, 8th Mercosul Biennial Pedagogic Project
  • Mônica Hoff – general coordinator 8th Mercosul Biennial Pedagogic Project /Mercosul Biennial Foundation for Visual Arts
  • Pablo Helguera – pedagogic curator, 8th Mercosul Biennial
  • Rafael Silveira – distance learning coordinator mediator training and mediator supervisor

2) Casa M (artistic and cultural center inaugurated by the 8th Biennial in Porto Alegre opening four months before the “exhibition” and closing one month afterwards)

  • Fernanda Albuquerque – curatorial assistant, 8th Mercosul Biennial
  • Fernanda Ott – coordinator documentation & research, Mercosul Biennial Foundation for Visual Arts
  • Paula Krause – administrator
  • Gabriel Bartz – mediator
  • Luiza Mendonça – coreographer/artist, Duets
  • Michele Zgiet – mediator
  • Rodrigo Nunes – philosopher & neighbor o
  • Tatiana Rosa – ballerina/artist, Duets
  • Tiago Giora – artist, Vitrine Project

3) Travel Notebooks (artist residencies, exhibitions & pedagogic initiatives throughout Rio Grande do Sul inaugurated months before the official Biennial opening in Porto Alegre)

  • Alexia Tala – , adjunct curator, 8th Mercosul Biennial & curator Travel Notebooks
  • André Vilmar Mers – community participant, Choir of Complaints, Lageado, RS
  • Lucas Brolese –musician & composer, Choir of Complaints, Lageado, RS
  • Márcia Tomaseli – artist and art teacher, Illopolis, RS
  • Marlene Montagner – pedagogic coordinator, Municipal Education Department, Ilópolis, RS
  • Marizangela Secco – coordinator, Bread Museum, Illopolis, RS
  • Mateo Lopez – artist, Field Notebooks, Illopolis, RS
  • Oliver Kochta – artist, Choir of Complaints, Lageado/Teutonia, RS

4) Mediators & Teachers

  • Alissa Gottfried – workshop mediator/educational epace Ykon Game
  • Andréa Paiva Nunes – mediator 1st and 8th Mercosul Biennial
  • Andressa Argenta –mediator, City UnSeen
  • Denis Fromer Nicola – mediator, 5th Mercosul Biennial
  • Emanuel Silveira Alves – mediator, Travel Notebooks
  • Márcia Wander – arts and special education teacher, Municipal School Eliseu Paglioi
  • Maria Aparecida Aliano Marques – cultural politics officer of the Department of Education, Porto Alegre
  • Maria Helena Gaidzinski – education program coordinator Santander Cultural and mediator supervisor Eugenio Dittborn
  • Marilia Schmitt Fernandes – art teacher School EMEF Arthur Pereira e Vargas, Canoas
  • Paula Cristina Luersen – mediator, School Projects
  • Roger Kichalowsky – supervisor/educational epace Ykon Game


A version of this material was first published in Portuguese in 2011 translated as “Multiple Voice Essays: Notes from the Field: Evaluation of the Pedagogic Project of the 8th Mercosul Biennial” in Pablo Helguera and Monica Hoff eds. Pedagogia no Campo Expandido. (Porto Alegre: Mercosul Biennial Foundation, 2011) pp.125-139 and further developed in Instituto MESA’s final report “Um relatório geopoético: reflexões sobre o campo expandido do projeto pedagógico da 8ª Bienal do Mercosul” (A geopoetic report: reflections on the expanded field of the pedagogic project of the 8th Mercosul Biennial), 2012.

1José Roca. “[Duo] Decalogue.” Essays in Geopoetics, 8th Mercosul Biennial. (Porto Alegre: Biennial Mercosul Foundation. 2011) p. 23.
2Pablo Helguera. “Projeto Pedagógico: The Expanded Field of Education.” op.cit. p. 562
3Madalena Freire. Educador, Educador, Educador. (São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2008) p.55 & 60. [Author translation]
4First Mercosul Biennial took place in 1997. São Paulo Biennial is one of the world’s oldest with its first edition taking place in 1951.
5Pablo Helguera. Press release, mediator traiing curse, 8th Mercosul Biennial, April 2011.
6Ricardo Teixeira discussing Spinoza’s Ethics (Spinosiana Afectologia) presented on the occasion of the doctoral dissertation defense of Luiz Carlos Hubner Moreira (Clínica, cuidado e subjetividade: Uma análise da prática médica no Programa Médico de Família de Niterói a partir dos encontros no território). Centro de Ciências da Saúde. Faculty of Medicine, Graduate Program in Clinical Medicine. Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), 13 de abril de 2012.
7Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi. Flow and the Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper Perenial, 1990; Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi & Kim Hermason “Intrinsic Motivation in Museums: What Makes a Visitor Want to Learn?” in John Falk and Lynn Dierking eds. Public Institutions for Personal Learning: Establishing a Research Agenda. America Association of Museums: 1995. Also see Ted Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/por_br/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow.html.
8Fred Evans explores the idea of an elliptical event that realizes itself in elliptical and dialogic identities. This elliptical dimension (a geometric figure with two centers) translates the dialogic condition inspired by Bakhtin, where the subject of an enunciation is also effected by the return from his/her interlocutor. Evans also refers to Deleuzean territorializations and causal reversibilities, in the sense that events inaugurate a state of mutual transformation. All dialogue is then a mutually impacting relational construction. To be open to this elliptical condition of identity and event is to bring to the other the expansion of him/her self. From here Evans also develops the ethical elliptical proposition of a body of multiple voices – of engagement in solidarity, heterogeneity and creativity – here used for our collection project as a qualitative parameter as much for the pedagogic project as for the processes of collecting multiple voices. These conceptual points were instrumental in how we saw the motivations and experiences of the pedagogic project as a political and ethical instigation of the very geopoetic concept of the Biennial. In Fred Evans. The Multivoiced Body: Society and Communication in the Age of Diversity. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.
9Gadamer, Hans-Georg. La actualidad de lo bello. Barcelona: Ediciones Paidós Ibérica, 1991.
10Seidel, Steve et. al. The Qualities of Quality: Excellence in Arts Education, Project Zero. Harvard Graduate School of Education. p. 8. Disponível em: http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/arts-education/arts-classroom-instruction/Documents/Understanding-Excellence-in-Arts-Education.pdf.