Ojibwe Artist Jim Denomie Brings Native American Perspective to International Event

In June of 2018, NACF was approached by the Brazilian organization Associação Cultural Videobrasil, which every two years since 1983 has organized a contemporary art festival in the city of São Paulo featuring artists from the global South. Videobrasil was broadening their geographic scope for their 21st iteration and wanted to include indigenous artists from the U.S and other countries. We helped spread the word about their open call and earlier this year when they announced the selected artists we were delighted to see the name of our 2018 National Artist Fellow Jim Denomie!

Denomie is the first American artist to ever participate in this exhibit and his work is being shown as part of the 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil until February of next year.  While the Contemporary Art Sesc_Videobrasil Biennial  (formerly called Contemporary Art Festival Sesc_Videobrasil) has focused on artists of the global South (an area comprising Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Oceania and some countries in Europe and Asia), for its 21st iteration the curatorial team chose to broaden the range of voices in the exhibit by including indigenous peoples of all nations, as well as other communities that had not traditionally participated in the event.

The theme of the Biennial – ‘Imagined Communities’ – was borrowed from the American historian Benedict Anderson’s classic study and was used as a lens to explore community organization expressions that transcend the construct of nation states and the challenges different communities face. Many of the artists and works selected addressed issues of displacement, land, gender and racial equality from diverse cultural perspectives. The two works of Denomie’s being exhibited at the Biennial are Off the Reservation (Or Minnesota Nice), which depicts the 1862 Dakota War, and Standing Rock, which captures both the absurd and the reality of the Standing Rock movement. Both these pieces articulate the tenacious resistance of Native peoples during two distinct periods in history that, while over 150 years apart, present commonalities such as oppression and brutality that Denomie so masterfully exposes.

Denomie has exhibited in Wales and Germany on several occasions, including a solo exhibition in Friedrichschafen in 2015, and a group exhibition at the Westphalien State Museum in 1999. However, he says that the 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc Videobrasil is by far the most important international exhibition he has ever participated in. “My work is being viewed by a new and broader audience and who knows what opportunities could come from this,” Denomie told us. “Already, one of the curators, Miguel Lopez, has invited me to show in an exhibition he is part of organizing in Vienna, Austria, at Kunsthalle for next summer,” he added.

The 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc Videobrasil is being held at the SESC 24 de Maio, a venue that includes exhibition spaces, a library and a vibrant community center and that receives more than ten thousand visitors a day.

Jim Denomie (right) and Aotearoa artist Brett Graham (left) at Opening of 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil
Photo by Denise Andrade. Courtesy of Videobrasil

2018 National Artist Fellow Jim Denomie (Ojibwe) was one of nine indigenous artists selected through an open call process for the 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil. The curatorial team reviewed 2,280 submissions from artists of 105 different countries, and selected 55 artists. The exhibit  includes videos, performances, actions/activations, meetings with artists, lectures and educational activities. It opened on October 9 to a full house and will go on through February 2, 2020.


October 9, 2019 – February 2, 2020

Work of other Indigenous Artists exhibited at the 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc Videobrasil

¡Kachakaniraqkun!/¡Somos aún!/¡We are, still! by Peruvian artist Claudia Martínez Garay
Scene from film Guardiōes da Memória by Guarani videographer/filmmaker Alberto Guarani, Brazil
Photo courtesy of Videobrasil
Photo by Everton Ballardin. Courtesy of Videobrasil
Scene from film Interrupción del Sueño by Mexican filmmaker Noé Martinez
Photo courtesy of Videobrasil
Guarani Tribal Leader Toninho Wera at Opening 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil
Photo by Denise Andrade. Courtesy of Videobrasil
21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc_Videobrasil
Photo by Denise Andrade. Courtesy of Videobrasil