Writing Art History Since 2002

First Title

Curators Ángel Calvo Ulloa and Marta Mestre are delighted to announce THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY as the title for the forthcoming edition of Anozero – Bienal de Coimbra. 

The exterior of the Mosteiro de Santa Clara-a-Nova in Coimbra, Portugal, one of the sites for the Anozero’24-Bienal de Coimbra. Courtesy of Anozero–Bienal de Coimbra. ©Jorge das Neves

The Bienal is set to unfold across the city of Coimbra from 6 April to 30 June 30 2024, the year that marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Carnation Revolution.

In the imperative milestone of the celebrations of the fifty years of 25 April, we recall the revolutionary process that overthrew an authoritarian regime in Portugal that lasted almost five decades and put an end to the Portuguese Colonial War, paving the way for a democratic transition in the country.

As Ángel Calvo Ulloa and Marta  Mestre propose: “The fifth edition of Anozero – Bienal de Coimbra explores the idea of liberty and the strategies of  contemporary art to challenge, displace, and inhabit it. The title has an ambiguous and open  meaning. If, on the one hand, it suggests the idea that liberty is a phantom, an inescapable and spectral presence, on the other, it also points to a failed process, a disbelief in a once certain truth, more of a promise than something real.” 

The curators also emphasise that “based on the formulations of various artists, this Biennial reacts to a world undergoing turbulent change.” 

The focus of the curatorial team is the artistic production in the Global South and the curatorial board for this fifth edition is led by João Fernandes, Artistic Director of  Art of Instituto Moreira Salles in Brazil, and former Deputy Director and Chief Curator of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Spain, and Paula Nascimento, the architect and curator who won the Golden Lion for Angola’s National Participation at the 55th Biennale di Venezia. 

Anozero’24 – Bienal de Coimbra will take place throughout the city, the birthplace of one of the oldest  universities in the world. The curators conceived its structure “as a displacement  strategy, as a set of skillfully unravelled chapters spread across various spaces in Coimbra”. These include the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova, Círculo Sede and Círculo Sereia from Círculo de Artes Plásticas de Coimbra (CAPC), the Botanical Garden, the College of Arts, and the Sala  da Cidade. 

Since 2015, the Biennial has been organised by the Círculo de Artes Plásticas de Coimbra  (CAPC) in partnership with Câmara Municipal de Coimbra and the University of Coimbra.  A complete list of participating artists will be shared in February 2024. 

Curatorial statement: THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY

THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY is the title of Anozero’24 – Bienal de Coimbra, curated by Ángel Calvo Ulloa and Marta Mestre.

Inserted within the imperative milestone of the celebrations of the fifty years since 25 April 1974, this edition of the Biennial aims to explore the imagery of freedom and the strategies offered by contemporary art to contest, displace, and inhabit it. The title has an ambiguous and open meaning. If, on the one hand, it suggests the idea that liberty is a phantom, an inescapable and spectral presence, on the other, it also points to a failed process, a disbelief in a once certain truth, more of a promise than something real. If the nourishment of liberty (and art) contains its own transient uncertainty, what is the meaning of creating a reality in which freedom is impossible?

Based on the formulations of various artists, this Biennial reacts to a world undergoing turbulent change. Among other things, there is a change in our experience of history. The idea that the past illuminates the present and the future seems to be spent. Today, our futures are less clear, lacking the crystalline optimism of Sophia de Mello Breyner’s poem, “This is the dawn I longed for”. The individuation processes of consumer society aggravate this loss of historical purpose, deepening feelings of alienation and disconnection from the collective. Undoubtedly, history doesn’t belong to everyone. But perhaps this emptying, felt today, also brings a new experience of history. To paraphrase the Brazilian philosopher Paulo Arantes, we live in a “new time of the world”.

Defined as a critical event, THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY is a biennial that seeks to shake up the historical idea of celebration as something inescapable, omnipresent, and universal. We feel that the revival of the revolutionary ideology is a consequence of the paradigm of permanent crisis. In this sense, rather than generating some agreement about indisputable historical facts, we prefer to think about meanings that deviate from the imposed models. 

Seeking to trigger a certain kind of delirium, this Biennial does not deny the idea of celebration but shifts towards a trans-historical approach that is not built around systems of direct inheritance or ruptures but around forms of empathy and solidarity. We, therefore, claim poetic proximity to other ephemeris and contexts, such as the centenary of André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto (1924). 

In evoking the centenary of the Surrealist Manifesto, we are not looking at the scholastics of a historical avant-garde movement but rather at the revolutionary principles of liberty, love, and poetry. Surrealism is a guardian of the enigma within the doctrine of absolute freedom, contesting any submission of thought and art to political imperatives. Irreducible to the generative algorithm, it is unaccommodating to power and history, a defender of the unimaginable, the erratic, and the enigmatic. 

In this sense, the paranoiac-critical method, the surrealist exercise of spontaneous and irrational automatisms, serves as the basis for the curatorial work of this Biennale, especially as a “displacement” strategy. As such, we conceived the Biennial’s structure as a set of skilfully unravelled chapters spread across various spaces in the city: 

  • Mosteiro de Santa Clara-a-Nova 
  • CAPC sede 
  • CAPC sereia 
  • Jardim Botânico 
  • Colégio das Artes 
  • Sala da Cidade

About the curators

Ángel Calvo Ulloa (Lalín, Pontevedra, 1984) is a curator and writer who lives and works between Galicia and Madrid. Among his recent curatorial projects stand out Habitación. El Archivo F.X., las chekas psicotécnicas de Laurencic y la función del arte, de Pedro G. Romero, exhibited at CA2M (Madrid), MNAC (Barcelona), and La Nau (Valencia); Autoconstrucción. Piezas sueltas. Juego y experiencia, de Antonio Ballester Moreno, showcased at Artium (Vitoria-Gasteiz); Siron Franco: Pensamento insubordinado (Trabalhos, 1961-2023), presented at MAC Goiás (Brazil); Complexo Colosso at CIAJG (Guimarães); and Anidar en el gesto: unas estanterías de Alberto at Fundación Cerezales Antonio y Cinia (Cerezales del Condado, León). Since 2011, Ángel Calvo Ulloa has also curated exhibitions at institutions such as La Casa Encendida (Madrid), Caixaforum (Barcelona), MARCO (Vigo), CCEMx (Ciudad de México), Fundación Luis Seoane (A Coruña), Tabacalera (Madrid), Centro Párraga (Murcia), and EACC (Castellón), among others. In 2020, he co-authored, with Juan Canela, the book Desde lo curatorial. Conversaciones, experiencias y afectos, published by Consonni in its Colección Paper.

Marta Mestre (Beja, 1980) is a contemporary art curator and researcher working in Brazil and Portugal. She holds a degree in Art History. Currently, she serves as the artistic director of the Centro Internacional José de Guimarães – CIAJG in Guimarães. She is coordinating Heteróclitos: 1128 objetos, a post-ethnographic research on the collection, and a exhibition program featuring artists such as Artur Barrio, Fernão Cruz, Priscila Fernandes, Yonamine, Rodrigo Hernández, amongst others. In Brazil, where she lived for several years, she worked as a curator at the Instituto Inhotim in Minas Gerais, assistant curator at the Museum of Modern Art, and guest curator at the Escola de Arte Parque Lage, both in Rio de Janeiro. She frequently writes about artists’ work, serves as a consultant for cultural projects, and currently sits on the acquisitions committee of the Centro de Arte Moderna (F. C. Gulbenkian, Lisbon). As a curator or co-curator, Marta Mestre has organized exhibitions at Instituto Inhotim (Minas Gerais), MAM-Rio (Rio de Janeiro), Museu Berardo (Lisbon), Galerias Municipais (Lisbon), Museu Oscar Niemeyer (Curitiba), Fundação Iberê Camargo (Porto Alegre), SESC- Pompéia (São Paulo), S.M.A.K. (Ghent), amongst others. As a lecturer, she teaches at universities, public programs, and independent courses. She is a member of CIMAM – International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art.

For more information, please visit Anozero’24.

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