Award ceremony of the 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil. Credit: Pedro Napolitano Prata


Sharjah Art Foundation in partnership with the 21st Contemporary Art Biennial SESC_Videobrasil, Sao Paulo, awarded artist Nelson Makengo the prize of a two month residency at Sharjah Art Foundation during the Biennial’s Gala Prize Ceremony on 12 October 2019.

Makengo was selected for his 2018 video work E’Ville, where, visiting the ruins of an abandoned sports complex, the camera finds vestiges of the recent struggle for the independence of the Congo. From the scene of desolation emerges a ghostly voice-over that reads a letter written by Patrice Lumumba to his wife Pauline. Leader of the resistance against the exceptionally cruel Belgian colonial forces that dominated the country, the politician, after being chosen prime minister in free elections, was deposed, persecuted and murdered by opponents backed by the US and Belgium.

The prize was one of seven Biennial awards selected by the international jury composed by Alexia Atala (Chile), Gabi Ngoboc (South Africa), Marta Mestre (Portugal), Rosangela Rennó (Brazil) and Reem Fadda (Kuwait). They collectively analysed works by the 55 artists who are featured in this edition. Three eight-week residency awards were offered by partners of the Videobrasil network: Instituto Sacatar (Itaparica Island, Bahia coast); MMCA Residency Changdong (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul) and Sharjah Art Foundation Residency Program (Sharjah, United Arab Emirates). Sesc Contemporary Art Award is given to two works by Brazilian artists, which will be included in the Sesc Collection of Brazilian Art. The Ostrovsky Family Fund (O.F.F.) offers an award for the most innovative moving image artwork. Lastly, offered by Electrica Cinema & Video, the State of the Art Award is granted to the best participating artist or group. The winners received a trophy designed by the artist Alexandre da Cunha.

The Jury Statement about the award reflected on the selection of Makengo, “The artist provides a critical undertaking through video about the postcolonial narratives emanating from Congo. It is looking into conflating the image and material ruins applied to the debris of history and politics. The Sharjah Art Foundation Residency Award would provide the artist with intellectual and infrastructural support for his audiovisual trajectory. “

Nelson Makengo is a filmmaker and photographer born in 1990 in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo where he continues to live and work. He graduated in visual communication from Académie de Beaux-Arts in Kinshasa (2015) and in documentary film from École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de Métier de L’Image et du Son, Paris (2016). His work focuses on Congo’s history and society, from the colonial past to the present. His films have been screened at festivals including Clermont-Ferrand (2018), São Paulo (2018), Saint Louis (2017) and the Afrika Film Festival (2018). He took part in the Lyon (2017) and Lubumbashi (2018) biennials.

21st Contemporary Art Biennial SESC_Videobrasil: Imagined Communities opened on 9 October 2019 and will run through 2 February 2020 at SESC 24 de Maio, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Led by artistic director Solange Farkas and curated Gabriel Bogossian, Luisa Duarte and Miguel Lopez, Imagined Communities features more than 60 works, including videos, paintings, photographs and installations, as well as video programs, open classes, meetings and talks with artists and curators.

Included in the exhibition section of the Biennial was a selection of 14 large-scale photographs by the London-based Syrian artist Hrair Sarkissian. The series, titled Execution Squares is part of the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection. Included in the Biennial’s extensive screening programme was Lebanese artist Ahmad Ghossein’s The Fourth Stage, 2015, which was shown in the Sharjah Biennial 12 and originally funded by a Sharjah Art Foundation Production Programme Award. The lead prize at the Biennial was awarded to Gabriela Golder for her seminal four-channel video installation Laboratorio de invención social (O posibles formas de construcción colectiva), 2018. Golder’s work cows was previously included as part of the curated film programme for Sharjah Biennial 10 in 2011.

Videobrasil is an art platform and a cultural association for research and promotion of the artistic production of the regions of the world’s geopolitical South—Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Founded and directed by Solange Farkas, it is part of an action network that includes exhibitions, shows, publications, documentaries, meetings, and artistic residencies. With over a thousand video works and four thousand items, its collection is a reference for the conservation of videos, video installations and performance records on the continent.

Sesc_Videobrasil (Social Service of Commerce) is a private, non-profit institution created in 1946 by entrepreneurs in the fields of trade and service, present all over the Brazilian territory. In the state of São Paulo, Sesc has 40 centers, mostly focused in the areas of Culture, Education, Sports, Leisure and Health. The work of Sesc São Paulo is guided by its educational character and the pursue for social welfare based on a broad understanding of the notion of culture.

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