The Power Plant presents a solo exhibition of artist Jonathas de Andrade.

CURATOR: CAROLIN KÖCHLING

A fish dying in the arms of a man is what first strikes us upon entering Jonathas de Andrade's exhibition. The film O peixe (The Fish) depicts in ten vignettes fishermen cradling their catch, the two species merged in a morbid embrace of sinew and scale. Shot on 16mm film, recalling an ethnographic lens, the work hovers between myth and document. The scenes in the film, simultaneously brutal and tender, confront the viewer with the tension and pathos of the dying process, up until the fish takes its last breath. At that exact moment, the scene moves on to the next couple—man and fish—and the tension begins again, transforming the single action, through endless repetition, into a ritual. The predator is stronger than its prey, the animal. He dominates it, yet he devotes himself to the fish throughout the process of its passing.

Power imbalance is also portrayed in de Andrade’s O Levante (The Uprising), where the artist organized the first horse-drawn cart race in the centre of Recife, a city in the northeast of Brazil. Horses are usually prohibited throughout the town, but they exist out of sight in the suburbs: a socially-deprived, parallel society excluded from the city’s economic and cultural centre. To obtain the municipal permit to stage the event, de Andrade announced his intention to produce a feature film. It was only the assertion of a fiction—the “fictitious fiction”—that allowed the suburb’s everyday reality to seep into the stately boulevards of the city centre. In O Levante, the city becomes the stage, but the protagonists are not actors and the narrative is not invented. 

Both works elucidate that all realities are socially constructed. Depending on the power relations in place, some realities dominate and define, while others are marginalized. Based on the realities of these peripheral societies, de Andrade’s works become the vessel through which those lived experiences can unfold upon a stage that he has constructed.

In his work Cartazes para o Museu do Homem do Nordeste (Posters for the Museum of the Man of the Northeast), de Andrade revisits the construction of the national identity of Brazil’s northeastern region, which was largely shaped by the sociologist Gilberto Freyre. Freyre’s book Casa-Grande e Senzala (The Masters and the Slaves) (1933) posits that racial democracy in the region has been achieved as the result of the miscegenation between Portuguese colonizers, African slaves and the indigenous people – a definition that led to the foundation of Recife's ethnographic museum Museu do Homem do Nordeste in 1979. Though Freye's text and the museum introduce multiculturalism as a positive force, this is controversial given the lived experience of racial discrimination. As a response, de Andrade proposes a new image of the museum through a series of posters featuring staged portraits of local workers who offer their faces as a representation of a reality that the museum only seemingly addresses.

Jonathas de Andrade’s exhibition at The Power Plant is the artist’s first comprehensive institutional solo exhibition outside Brazil.

Jonathas de Andrade
(born 1982 in Maceió, Brazil) lives and works in Recife, Brazil. Solo exhibitions include New Museum, New York (2017); Centro Cultural, São Paulo (2014); Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon (2013); and Instituto Cultural Itaú, São Paulo (2008). Group exhibitions include São Paulo Biennial (2016), the SITE Santa Fe Biennial (2016), the 10th Gwangju Biennial, Gwangju (2014); the 11th Dakar Biennial, Senegal (2014); the Lyon Biennial (2013); The New Museum Triennial, New York (2012); the Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul (2011); and the 7th Bienal do Mercosul, Porto Alegre (2009). His works are part of the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Modeern Art of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Tate, London.