Caravan Museu do Homem do Nordeste, by Jonathas de Andrade, on display
In 2020, Jonathas de Andrade made a caravan through the interior of Pernambuco to itinerate with some work. On that trip, the "Museum of the Northeast Man" was transformed into an interactive piece, so that people could build their own museums. Today this project flows into the "Caravana Museu do Homem Nordeste", which "as a mobile brings this constant movement of balance and imbalance, in this place of a dispute between individual and collective in the configuration of imaginaries", says Ana Maria Maia. Photo: Christina Rufatto / Pinacoteca São Paulo

an invitation to represent Brazil at the Venice Biennale, the setting up of a panoramic exposure at the Pinacoteca de São Paulo — one of the most important art institutions in the country — and the full 40 years. All of this, in the midst of a Brazil teeming with elections and historic events. 2022 presents itself in an emblematic way for Jonathas de Andrade. 

Those who visit Pinacoteca Estação, in São Paulo, have the opportunity to learn a little about his 15 years of artistic career. The boat's rebound, on display until February 2023, brings together 20 of the 40 works produced by the artist from Alagoas during his career, and ranges from his first works — Love and happiness in marriage (2008) and Recife moral census (2008) — to an unpublished work, commissioned for the exhibition — Shard Decal (2022), the first self-representation exercise by the artist, who has always been willing to show the figure of the other and the collective. The expography, however, proposes a non-chronological look, placing side by side projects from different periods, but which engage in dialogues and conflicts with each other. Thus, it invites the public to reflect on the concepts, dynamics and devices that permeate this artistic trajectory. 

The curatorship of Ana Maria Maia seeks, more than a focus on the works themselves, a look at the politics of the relationships that surround them: “that is, what extrapolates the images, which is sometimes behind the scenes or in their subtleties, which concerns the way he to work. The approaches he takes, the people he works with as collaborators, as role models and as providers. This kind of occult performance, this game of bodies that occupy certain places, for me is what is most important in Jonathas' work", says Maia, who has followed the artist since the journalism school, which they studied together in Recife in the years 2000. 

Jonathas de Andrade echoes: “Looking at my story is not looking at the story of this ancient author, who picks up a pen and writes; it is an authorship very plotted by the other”. And he adds: “Faced with today's guidelines, I came to understand that it's not talking for the other, but it's talking with the other. This is what is tasty, inspiring and challenging for me. It is recognizing the power of resistance, which is so multiple, so potent, and understanding how this somehow inspires me and makes my own questions, contradictions, privileges and weaknesses explicit”.

The individual comprises a program focused on historical revisions at the Pinacoteca, alongside Ayrson Heráclito: Yorubaian, Modern Acts, Black Encyclopedia etc. “We thought he was a good interpreter and a good ally in this gesture of brushing Brazilian histories against the grain”, says Ana Maria Maia, currently head curator of the institution. “He IS an artist with a lot of strength to discuss history. He arrives bringing this contribution of a guy who risks messing with a hornet’s nest of hegemonic narratives, which are racist and violent, which exercise gender, race, class violence.”

In front, "Museu do Homem do Nordeste", by Jonathas de Andrade, in the background works by Candido Portinari, Almeida Junior and Paulo Nazareth. Photo: Levi Fanan / Collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo
At the front, “Museum of the Northeast Man”, by Jonathas de Andrade, at the back, works by Candido Portinari, Almeida Junior and Paulo Nazareth. Photo: Levi Fanan/Collection of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo
Ambiguity as the stage of the world

When building a museum dedicated to the northeastern man, in 2013, Jonathas was already dialoguing with this reading of the curator. Posters for the Museum of Man of the Northeast portrays 77 workers in the region. By referring to the institution created by Gilberto Freyre in 1979, the work gives rise to conventions and stereotypes about the identity of the northeastern people — linked to virility and manual labor —, proposes a look at sexist dynamics — to what the word ' man' as humanity, but, at the same time, transforms the work “into a museum of man, of the male and of homoeroticism”, explains Maia — and provokes the public of contemporary art to rethink issues of social inequality. “This work is done to destabilize and embarrass, precisely because it is magnetic. The images are, in fact, very intense and problematic, they show how much we don't look at those people”, completes Andrade. The work, now on display in the Pinacoteca collection, unfolds in The boat's rebound: Northeast Man Museum Caravan, which extends the reflections of the original project from the interaction with other people.

Both works bring a central point in the work of the artist from Alagoas: ambiguity. “Like life, projects don't have to be about just one thing, they are shards of possibilities and tensions. They are about affection-love, but they also carry differences, strangeness, which are part of human relationships”, he shares. And he adds: “I believe it is important that ambiguity be a seasoning in the works, so that the works can request from the beholder, from the person's own repertoire, so that he, then, understands what he sees with love or violence, as right or wrong. wrong. I think this middle ground has a huge pedagogical and debate potential.”

The boat's rebound makes this proposal even more explicit and extrapolates it to the expography. An example is the proximity between the Northeast Man Museum Caravan e The Battle of Tejucupapo — work based on a historical episode of the expulsion of the Dutch by a community of women in the Zona da Mata of Pernambuco, using their domestic utensils. “It is a story of female protagonism and, to this day, a group of women who live in this city stage the battle, a little to keep alive this legacy of struggle of women in the region. The proximity of the works stresses this narrative dedicated to the male universe”, explains Ana Maria Maia.

By proposing these destabilizations, in the works and in the expography, the work of Jonathas de Andrade seeks to expose poignant questions of the Brazilian reality. “The projects are not intended to completely rewrite history, but to turn it inside out, problematize it, give stage to its contradictions”, says the artist. 

The risk of flirting

This look at history has a particular tone: personal relationships. The ambiguity that the artist proposes in his works takes place within the scope of encounters. 

On the one hand, one can think of contact with the public. “I am inviting you to complete and play with what the work is proposing. It's very tasty, because there's capoeira there, it's dancing and fighting at the same time. Completing that depends a lot on the other, it is only the interaction that defines it”, says the artist. Perhaps the best example in this regard is Or peixe, also present in The boat's rebound🇧🇷 The video mixes documentary and fiction by portraying fishermen in their daily work, but proposing that they embrace the fish until the animal's death. “You have affection and violence”, explains the artist. Depending on who is watching and how, a different effect of the work is possible: “the person can reject the subject, as well as be completely intoxicated by the passion that the image evokes”.  

Personal relationships are also present in the construction of projects, when we think of the bodies that compose them. These encounters carry their ambiguities, bring a series of tensions and discomforts. “In the very process of conception and creation, these works raise a thousand questions, which is what really makes me grow. So it's not about being questioned or not, it's about how these structures are alive enough to challenge me to re-elaborate, to confirm or reinvent myself in the processes”, explains the artist. 

These are questions that we are reminded of when walking through the Pinacoteca Estação exhibition and reading, on a door in the corner of the last room: “Department of ethics and culpability”. “It was really nice to revisit the Department of ethics and culpability, to understand that there is a learning process in him and Jonathas' drive to take his place again as an individual. This involves negotiating the appearance of your own image. This involves understanding and taking care of both the formulation of jobs and the formulation of their credit and profit-sharing mechanisms. Understanding the ethical dimension for an artist with visibility and who talks about these colonial wounds, from a place of a man who was never racialized and who always had socioeconomic privileges, and also has to do with clearly defining his place as an ally and his limits ”, says curator Ana Maria Maia. 

For Andrade, the retrospective helps to understand how the works gain historical time, how their perception changes over the years, to which new discussions about the decolonial, the place of speech and the anthropological look are locked. Thus, the works seem to gain a new layer of ambiguities, which give rise to the tensions of their processes and allow rethinking the dynamics of the art world today, creating a repertoire for these debates, especially when we think of the relationship of the artist who portrays the other and the collective.

"The boat rebound it has to do with this dimension of consequences, the desire for the other, the desire to seize that other desire, which is related to a sexual appetite, but also to learning, living together, historical review”, says Maia. 

“Art is this living organism, and I want to challenge myself to be that living organism too. It's a huge challenge, because we create, but we also reproduce a lot. We are aware and sometimes we are not. So, the challenge is that art makes me a living cell, changing all the time”, adds the artist.

The artist enters the scene

With these questions, we come to the last room of The boat's rebound, with the first self-representation of this trajectory, shrapnel decal🇧🇷 The work puts Jonathas de Andrade in focus.

Born in Maceió, Alagoas, the young man studied law in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina. It was during graduation that he became more intensely involved with social movements and with themes that he brings to his work until today. “I understood a very intense South socially, a very European and conservative relationship. It was a moment when I felt very northeastern, an experience I had not yet had as a young middle-class man in Maceió. It was an hour of body awareness.” Andrade then decides to change areas, drops out of the course and enrolls in the Faculty of Journalism at the Federal University of Pernambuco. It was at that moment that he met Ana Maria Maia – at the time also a student and today the curator of his individual exhibition -, he began to photograph art exhibitions and set up, as his final work, his first individual exhibition – Love and happiness in marriage.

Afterwards, his portfolio was read by curator Eduardo Brandão and he was invited to set up an exhibition at Itaú Cultural, in São Paulo. Through Moacir dos Anjos and Cristiana Tejo, he exhibits at Banco Real in Recife. From these meetings, others take place, Andrade travels through South America, joins the Dois Pontos collective, participates in its first biennial – in Mercosur – and later in the São Paulo Biennial, curated by Moacir dos Santos, with assistance from Ana Maria Maya.

Through these lifelong encounters, he crosses knowledge and perspectives. Discover your professional paths in the dialogue between people, artistic languages ​​and fields of knowledge. “Ua series of things that could be for nothing, but that art tied up. So I owe a lot to these meetings, and I must honor these meetings”, completes the artist.  

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