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Jonathas de Andrade
Jonathas de Andrade was born in 1982 in Maceió, Brazil. He lives and works in the north-east of Brazil in Recife, a coastal city rich in contrasts, where old colonial buildings nestle amidst modern skyscrapers and where the failure of the tropical modernist utopia is a tangible reality. Anthropology, pedagogy, politics and morals are the lines of inquiry pursued by the artist to recount the paradoxes of modernist culture.
De Andrade uses photography, installation and video to traverse collective memory and history, making use of strategies that shuffle fiction and reality. He collects and catalogues images, texts, life stories and material on architecture to recompose a personal narrative of the past.
“I dive into this field of recollections”, says the artist. “This is a past I have no intimacy with, seen as if it were a territory, a place for re-enacting a kind of amnesia, an often-violent brush between today and yesterday. Not being touched by this is what allows me to rework the nature of these imagines. Art helps me to approach and respond to what provokes me. It also helps me to experience more wholeness along the way.”1
O Peixe [The Fish]
16mm film transferred to 2k video, sound 5.1, color; 38 min, 2016
De Andrade’s video, O peixe [The Fish] (2016), borrows the style of ethnographic films made by anthropologists to record the cultures and traditions they study. In a series of vignettes shot on 16mm film, we witness what appears to be an intimate ritual among fishermen in a coastal village in northeastern Brazil. De Andrade’s camera follows individual fishermen as they catch their prey and then hold them to their chest. Alternating expressions of dominance and empathy, the fishermen forcefully but tenderly kiss each fish until it stops breathing. The gesture that appears here as a ritual is, however, the one that the artist invented, as if to push a deliberately exotic portrait to the limits of plausibility. While the conspicuous subjects of O peixe are the fish and fishermen depicted, the absence of language and text in the film generates a poignant ambiguity and invites a range of interpretations: one might feel empathy and grief by witnessing death, or feel encouraged by the expression of solidarity with the natural world, or even captivated by the particular sensuality of this animist rite. Beneath these responses, however, lies an understanding that this gesture disguises violence as benevolence and suggests a symmetry between the power humans wield over other life forms and the power they wield over each other.