First solo presentation in a U.S. museum of the highly acclaimed video installation

(Boston, MA—February 8, 2022) On March 31, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) will open Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca: Swinguerra, a recent acquisition and room-filling, immersive video installation. Swinguerra (2019) is a 21-minute, two-channel video work that focuses on competitive dancers, including transgender and nonbinary performers, in queer communities of color on the outskirts of Recife, Brazil. This will be the first solo presentation of the installation in a U.S. museum since it premiered at the Brazil Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. Organized by Anni Pullagura, Curatorial Assistant, Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca: Swinguerra will be on view through September 5, 2022, concurrent with A Place for Me: Figurative Painting Now, which celebrates a new generation of artists at the vanguard of contemporary painting.

“We are excited to present Swinguerra for the first time since we acquired it for the ICA Collection,” said Jill Medvedow, the ICA’s Ellen Matilda Poss Director. “The dance and music performance is both exhilarating and a necessary perspective on contemporary Brazilian culture during a time of substantial social and political tension.”

Swinguerra features three contemporary dance styles—swingueira, brega funk, and passinho da maloca—as performed by three competitive dance groups. These mixed dance styles recall Brazil’s colonial and slave trade history, where music and dance functioned as discreet methods of organizing politically under oppressive regimes and in the wake of ongoing social and gender-based violence. The film, whose title fuses two words: swingueira, the dance style, and guerra, the Portuguese word for war or struggle, exceeds genres of documentary and fiction to forward a fluid, narrative experience of movement, choreography, and ideas of self-expression. Fast-paced, athletic, sexy, dreamlike, and aggressive, these dance styles make Swinguerra an exhilarating and unforgettable viewing experience, illustrating how dance and music offer rich sources of agency, resistance, and community.

Collaborating since 2011, Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca create works in video and installation that explore contemporary histories of underground dance and musical genres. Frequently made in collaboration with cinematographer Pedro Sotero, these moving-image works, which they refer to as “documentary musicals,” often center on the South Atlantic diaspora, from the Franco-Indo creole musical genre maloya to frevo dancers and brega singers. Constructing their films collaboratively with the performers, their approach merges the cinematic with the fictional, documentary, and ethnographic to address questions of surveillance, visibility, and creativity in an increasingly connected, postcolonial world.

Swinguerra explores how these performers use dance and music to create spaces of representation and resistance within larger political systems. The artists’ practice is rooted in a philosophy of collaboration: they frequently work over several years on a project with both the subjects of their films and with colleagues. The collaborative nature of their work means they are very intentional about letting people speak and perform for themselves, foregrounding a celebration of self-possessed knowledge and agency,” said Pullagura. 

About the Artists

Working collaboratively since 2011, Wagner & de Burca have shown in exhibitions, biennials and film festivals, including: the 33rd, 35th Panorama de Arte Brasileira, the 32nd São Paulo Biennial, the 20th Festival de Arte Contemporânea Sesc VideoBrasil (São Paulo, Brazil); the 36th EVA International (Limerick, Ireland); the 5th Skulptur Projekte (Münster, Germany); the 67th, 68th, 69th Berlin International Film Festival (Germany); and the 72nd Locarno International Film Festival (Switzerland). In 2020 they took part in Manifesta, the European Nomadic Biennial. In 2019, Wagner & de Burca represented Brazil at the 58th Venice Biennial and unveiled solo presentations at Jumex Museum (Mexico City, Mexico) and the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, Holland). Their work can be found in collections such as: ICA/Boston (Boston, USA), Kadist Art Foundation (France), Museu de Arte de São Paulo (Masp) and Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) (São Paulo, Brazil), Pérez Art Museum, (Miami, USA), and Arts Council of Ireland, among others. The artists are represented by Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

About the ICA

Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener. Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. The ICA is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210. The Watershed is located at 256 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at Follow the ICA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Swinguerra was acquired through the generosity of the General Acquisition Fund, Fotene and Tom Coté Art Acquisition Fund, and Anonymous Art Acquisition Fund.