20 December

Which were the most memorable art experiences of 2019? Today's answer is by Francesca Astesani and Julia Rodrigues from the curatorial agency South into North.

Our three suggestions for the ‘best of 2019’ all channel in different ways the transformative power of rethinking agency and creativity beyond individualism. We sense a growing awareness, a zeitgeist of sorts – if something of the kind can still be found in our deeply fragmented present – and it deserves celebration.

Barbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, Swinguerra, still, 2019.

Barbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, Swinguerra, Pavilion of Brazil, The 58th Venice Biennale

This two-channel video piece celebrates the beauty of resilience and collective action in the grim face of Bolsonaro’s Brazil. Collective power is here expressed through choreography, interpreting the grassroots movement of team dance competitions from the region of Recife, one of the country’s poorest areas. The artists worked closely with a group of local youngsters, many of whom identify as non-binary, to develop the choreographies that the teams dance in formation, in staged challenges. Against the backdrop of the country’s increasing intolerance, this forceful and beautiful amalgamation of dancing queer bodies left us both exhilarated and in tears.

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, Living Branches, 1935. Museum Jorn, Silkeborg.

Sonja Ferlov Mancoba, No-one Creates Alone, Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery), Copenhagen. Curated by Dorthe Aagesen and Mikkel Bogh

Institutional recognition at last for the great Danish sculptor, who spent most of her life working and living in Paris. The exhibition had a non-monumental take, focusing on plaster and clay sculptures, and attempting to convey not only the poetics around the works, but also Ferlov Mancoba as a person. Featuring a vast number of drawings, letters, and photographs, this rich archive of material revealed the artist’s uncompromising belief in art’s duties to build a community and to work across cultures. For Ferlov Mancoba, ultimately, there was not such a thing as an individual artistic process: “Only through each other can we live and breathe, and no-one creates alone.”

The Serpentine Podcast: On General Ecology, Serpentine Galleries, London

The four episodes of this podcast, hosted by artist Victoria Sin and Lucia Pietroiusti, spin out of the Serpentine research project On General Ecology (2018–2019), an interdisciplinary platform that explored post-humanism, plurality, and interspecies consciousness in the light of environmental issues and climate change. Sin and Pietroiusti interview some of the key participants in the series of performances and symposiums held over the year-long program. From animal consciousness to plant sex, we are invited on a timely journey into complexity, where our conception of individuality shatters and expands in a plurality of directions. Beautifully entertaining, with endearing sound contributions by artists including Jenna Sutela, Vivian Caccuri, Chris Watson, Elvia Wilke, Antoine Bertin, Michael Marder, and Rosa Johan Uddoh. 

– Francesca Astesani (b. 1980, Italy) and Julia Rodrigues (b. 1978, Brazil) live and work in Copenhagen, where they founded and run the curatorial agency South into North, which specialises in contemporary art commissions. South into North is currently curating the art strategy for the New North Zealand Hospital in Hillerød (DK). In the pipeline for 2020, there are several projects in connection with international institutions, with artists Tue Greenfort, Haegue Yang, Daiga Grantina, Jon Rafman, and Do Ho Suh, amongst others.

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