The memory of biennials that have posed many of the questions already addressed in earlier biennales is interestingly enough something that has not been discussed yet. We can probably assume Anna Paula Cohen will talk more about this tomorrow.
What seems to tie together these three presentations is the idea of uncertainty and lost information and the questions that to a great degree remain unanswered: How can we as producers and how can researchers build this research? How can you produce this knowledge about things that no longer exist? A new way of speaking of oral history and the archive in the absence of documented, fragile history.
One might, as someone in the audience proposed, see this documentation issue as a part of the paradox where a biennale on the one hand challenges the freedom of expression, while on the other hand is regulated by funding structures which counteract it: How about finding an activism based, self organised funding structures?
In this sense, the catalogue is still in 99 percent of the cases a top-down document, and perhaps not the most appropriate way of understanding what actually happened. One strategy that is proposed here for researchers might be the use of informal paths; another is more or less an enhancement of the fictional narrative by, as Gardner put it, means of reference, rather than reverence and even including gossip, anecdotes.
It is clear that the archives held by many host institutions primarily hold external material like press clips, sometimes even lacking posters, etc. from the exhibiting artists. The institution does not always keep the most relevant material. The official voice of the institution needs to find a means of keeping the memory of the biennale.
Perhaps it is not the responsibility of the institution. Brazil still has a close history of dictatorship and the archives play a central role. So speaking of the past here also has its specificities, In Bahia, it was even common with mysterious fires in the archives, or they were allowed to deteriorate.
No narrative is innocent and so the institution does not produce innocent stories, one proposal that was taken up was a temporary figure like the curator could be a candidate to work with the production of this archive. Meanwhile, the curator has to create an image that goes beyond the biennale itself and creating a narrative is different to creating an archive. Gardner means that the whole concept of a curated archive sounds appalling. Indeed, a “de-curated” archive might be much more sustainable for future researchers than what would seem relevant for the curator today.
In a nutshell: How important is historical memory to the understanding of the now?