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Jonathas de Andrade » With the heart coming out of the mouth

The entrance is through an ear. The exit through the other. Between them, a warm back emerges from a wall and an eye, on the floor, sparkles from time to time. A little further on, hands in the fire, a foot stomping on a jackfruit, a head of wind, a bitten, severed tongue…

Jonathas de Andrade’s installation Com o coração saindo pela boca (With the Heart Coming Out of the Mouth), Brazil’s presentation at the 59th International Venice Biennale, suggests that the path towards “representing” Brazil today inevitably passes through the body. A body literally and repeatedly fragmented, silenced, ignored, torn into pieces again and again, year upon year, decade after decade, century after century. Yet these isolated and objectified parts also transcend the body, as the other structural element of this exhibition comes into play: language. The living everyday language of countless idiomatic expressions which, in speaking of the personal and collective weaknesses, virtues, attitudes and failures of the Brazilian people, resort to these very body parts: feet, hands, tongue, head, ears, backs, stomach, legs, arms, teeth, chest, bottom, eyes, jaw and this heart that, for being so big, generous and despairing, at times won’t fit in the chest and ends up coming out of the mouth.

An index of more than 200 of those expressions is the backbone of the immersive installation, which comprises photographs, sculptures, and a video, all produced specifically for the Brazilian pavilion. While physically going into one ear and out the other can be playful and fun, both this and many other sayings can also be read as clear metaphors of the present times, often marked by greedy and humiliating indifference. In de Andrade’s work, as in those expressions, strange and clumsy gestures and sudden jolts and jerks abound, like wayward marionettes or characters from the Theater of the Absurd. In this attempt to get to grips with what Brazil and the world are saying to us and imposing on us, we must set off today along the path of the irrational, the gigantic, the diminutive, the pantagruelian, the unfathomable, the allegory, the symbol, the excessive and the ludic. The path of absurdity and play.

The path of the infantile, of the wisdom of the child who points a finger and says: “The king is naked.”

Jonathas de Andrade was part of the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo (2016), where he presented the video installation O Peixe (The Fish), also shown the following year in a solo exhibition at the New Museum (New York, United States), and in the 29th Bienal de São Paulo (2010). His participation in the Brazilian pavilion is curated by Jacopo Crivelli Visconti.

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