‘An Anatomy Fair’: Jonathas de Andrade on Representing Brazil at the 59th Venice Biennale

Jonathas de Andrade (right) works with the sculptor Silvio Botelho in Olinda, Pernambuco, Brazil, on his pavilion project

ArtReview sent a questionnaire to artists and curators exhibiting in and curating the various national pavilions of the 2022 Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published daily in the leadup to and during the Venice Biennale, which runs from 23 April to 27 November.

Jonathas de Andrade is representing Brazil in Venice; the pavilion is in the Giardini.

ArtReview What can you tell us about your exhibition plans for Venice?

Jonathas de Andrade My project, With the heart coming out of the mouth, is anchored in an extensive collection of popular expressions that are metaphors of the body. It will make the Brazilian pavilion a kind of anatomy fair through sculptures, photographs and a video that deal with the sensorial and the absurd to get closer to the subjectivity of the present, about the impressive events of our times. How to try and fail in explaining feelings speaks about the untranslatable and about the specificity of this point of view. I start from the language as a resource to talk about the strength of a collective feeling, as an allegory that uses the nonsense literality of these images to describe feelings that are difficult to translate, and that carry parallels with what we live in the present: a moment that urges the need for reinvention through the collective, the reconnection with nature, and with the body’s own memory capacity to respond to adversity and reconnect with reinvention/creation.

AR Why is the Venice Biennale still important?   

JdA I believe that Venice manages to be a certain subjective/poetic thermometer of international geopolitics, and in general it offers an overview of how art can or cannot respond to the urgencies of the moment, from different perspectives. I think the dynamics of the biennale and the pavilions offer the possibility to see the complexity of the art system that, like the rest of the world, brings contrasts. It is powerful to see artists who can produce from contexts with so many conditions, and to see others who bring such powerful works from limited resources. The biennial can be a moment of intense exchange and also a moment of a certain symbolic spark.

AR Do you think there is such a thing as national art? Or is all art universal? What is misunderstood or forgotten about your country’s art history or artistic traditions?   

JdA The idea of ​​national representations has already proven to be insufficient and kind of outdated, but I think it is an interesting dynamic that brings revealing nuances. For example, to see which works most take the perspective of universal art, and which others take the local perspective. An individual representation will always be a cut, even if in my work I often try to talk about the collective dimension of culture. Representing Brazil today is especially challenging in the face of such a complex panorama, with so many historical urges and with so much vertigo in the air. Being in touch with this urgency is one of the reasons for doing the project With the heart coming out of the mouth.

AR Which other artists from your country have influenced or inspired you?  How does having a pavilion in Venice make a difference to the art scene in your country?

JdA I believe that having a pavilion in Venice, and being the second oldest biennial, as we have with the Bienal de São Paulo, creates a commitment and a tradition that undoubtedly has an impact on the scene in Brazil. In a way, I think it also strengthens and impacts the Latin American art scene. Brazil has an artistic scene of intense activity, and I believe that having an institutional solidity is fundamental for that.

AR What else are you looking forward to seeing?

JdA I am curious to see the political temperature of the other pavilions, and how the exhibition of Cecilia Alemani will articulate the idea of ​​the dream, because the idea of ​​the dream and delirium has always interested me. In addition, I will participate in the Penumbra exhibition too, at Complesso dell’Ospedaletto, with a new work, commissioned by Fondazione In Between Art Film. The foundation has commissioned a new film for the Brazil pavilion too. I’ve been working on this since last year and I’m curious about its premiere in Venice.

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