Jonathas de Andrade
Counter-narratives and Other Fallacies
Jonathas De Andrade, Eu, mestiço, 2017, UV prints on Falconboard, variable dimensions. Installation view (detail). Photo : Paul Litherland. Avec l’aimable concours de l’artiste.

Translation: Kathe Röth

Produced with the support of the Frederick and Mary Kay Lowy Art Education Fund

Jonathas de Andrade addresses cultural and identity issues by exploring collective memory and historical narratives. He deals with blind spots and omissions in dominant narratives, uncovering the inherent violence of these discourses.

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In his exhibition Counter-narratives and other fallacies, de Andrade examines the processes of thingification by looking into the paradoxes that link corporality and violence. For the photo installation Eu, mestiço, he uses the study behind the book Race and Class in Rural Brazil (1952) as a starting point for outlining current racism issues in Brazil and questioning the categorization processes at the core of the research, which apparently conditioned the racist ideas that it purported to criticize. Led by Charles Wagley from the Department of Anthropology of Columbia University, the project was developed in the post-war context of the 1950s, during which the idea of racial democracy was highly regarded and investigated. The images used to conduct the research—and that led participants to express prejudices—were not published in the book. To compensate for this omission, de Andrade produced a series of contemporary photographic portraits that off-centre a conception of Brazilian identity. In Ilhéus (located in the same region where Wagley conducted his work), Imperatriz, São Luís, and São Paulo, he presented the study to potential models—people he met in the street—and asked them to perform the social categories described in the book. These images are juxtaposed here with text fragments from the book—a book that helped to shape the fallacies on which this conception of Brazilian identity was built.

In the video O Peixe, de Andrade examines the power relationships and dynamics of domination that humans enact over animals, as well as over their fellow human beings. Much like ethnographic films, O Peixe depicts what appears to be a ritual among fishermen in a coastal Brazilian village. In front of the camera, a fisherman catches a fish and hugs it gently until it dies. Imbued with both tenderness and violence, the gesture of affection that leads the animal to its death was conceived and staged by the artist but performed by actual fishermen. O Peixe simultaneously adopts and subverts the ethnographic approach, which, through its “gaze,” has the power to legitimize fantasy.

Counter-narratives and other fallacies presents strategies that disentangle the body from the coercive relationship and transform it into a thing. The theatrical and performative modes at the centre of these works create a distancing that allows for the critical reappropriation and dislocation of “corporalized” violence: a possible dethingification.

– María Wills Londoño, in collaboration with Audrey Genois and Maude Johnson


Jonathas de Andrade

Jonathas de Andrade (b. 1982) is a Brazilian artist who lives and works in Recife. His work has been presented in major exhibitions around the world, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Power Plant (Toronto), Museo Jumex (Mexico City), the New Museum (New York), and the Sharjah Biennial. He is represented by Galeria Vermelho (São Paulo), Galleria Continua (Les Moulins, Havana, Beijing, San Gimignano), and Alexander and Bonin (New York).


María Wills Londoño

María Wills Londoño (Colombia) is an art researcher and curator. Her major exhibition projects offer reflections on the unstable condition of the contemporary image and alternative views of urban themes in Latin America. Among the exhibitions she has organized are Urbes Mutantes: Latin American Photography 1944—2013; Latin Fire: Otras fotographías de un continente; and Fernell Franco-Cali Clair-obscur, presented at the International Center of Photography in New York, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris, Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid (PHotoESPAÑA), Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City, Museo la Tertulia in Cali, and the Museo de Arte del Banco de la República in Bogotá, among others; she was the temporary exhibition curator at the last institution from 2009 to 2014. She co-curated Pulsions urbaines, presented at Espace Van Gogh for Les Rencontres d’Arles 2017; Oscar Muñoz. Photographies, which toured to Jeu de Paume in Paris and Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires from 2011 to 2013; and was co-artistic director of ARCO Colombia 2015 (fifteen exhibitions shown in art spaces and museums in Madrid). In 2018 she developed a research project to recontextualize the collection of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá to question the concept of modernity, concluding with the exhibition The Art of Disobedience. She founded the Visionarios program of the Instituto de Visión, to highlight important figures in Colombian conceptual art, and was director until 2018. In 2018 she published The Four Evangelists: Consolidation Process of Exhibition Curating in Colombia (Barcelona: Editorial Planeta).

Audrey Genois

Audrey Genois has been the executive director of MOMENTA | Biennale de l’image (formerly Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal) since 2016. She has been very active in national and international contemporary-art communities. For fifteen years she held the position of associate curator at Galerie de l’UQAM, where she coordinated over sixty exhibitions and twelve national and international touring shows. She has also edited and coordinated the production of forty publications on contemporary art. Her curatorial projects include the exhibitions Guillaume Simoneau. Murder (Rencontre d’Arles); Expansion: Les 40 ans de l’UQAM (with Louise Déry); Videozoom: Between the Images (presented in twelve venues in Canada and abroad, with the curatorial collective La Fabrique d’expositions, of which she is a member); and Motion (in conjunction with HEAD–Genève and La Fabrique d’expositions). In 2007 she served as assistant curator for the exhibition David Altmejd: The Index, at the Venice Biennale (Canadian Pavilion).

Maude Johnson

Maude Johnson is an independent curator and writer who lives and works in Montréal. She holds an MA in art history from Concordia University and a BFA in art history from Université du Québec à Montréal. She is interested in the relationship among bodies, times, and spaces. In her explorations of performative and curatorial practices, she probes methodologies, mechanisms, and languages in interdisciplinary works. Her recent curating projects have been presented in the SIGHTINGS space of the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Montréal, 2016) and at Artexte (Montréal, 2018). Her writing has accompanied exhibition projects such as do it Montréal (Galerie de l’UQAM, 2016) and 150 ans | 150 œuvres : l’art au Canada comme acte d’histoire (Galerie de l’UQAM, 2018). A regular contributor to Espace art actuel and esse arts + opinions, she was the 2015 winner of the latter’s Young Critics Competition. She is the executive and curatorial assistant for MOMENTA | Biennale de l’image.


Eu, mestiço

With Eu, mestiço de Andrade plays the anthropologist, mirroring the knowledge systems behind the assignment of racial identities and the drive to categorize within nationalist myths. The result is a photo installation that leaves the visitor to navigate a large-scale typological study.

By its title Eu, mestiço (Me, mestizo) claims a subject position, only to set “me” and its accompanying qualifier into dizzying motion. “Me” becomes a performance for the camera, examined from multiple angles and arranged in series and grids. “Me” is also captioned, underlined, or bisected by an inventory of labels concerning heritage, emotional disposition, labour roles, economic standing, desirability, physical qualities, and so on.

Key to de Andrade’s method is his entry by way of an absence. While the source of the photographs used in the field studies in Race and Class in Rural Brazil (also on view in the gallery) remains unclear, de Andrade’s photographs are the product of conversations with each participant regarding roles and representation. Adopting an objective standpoint, de Andrade first spotted his participants at a distance—eyeing vernacular life and sizing up personalities and types—before inviting them to his studio. Behind this process is another hidden source: The Fairburn System of Visual Reference, published in 1970. By using this exhaustive catalogue of human figures, de Andrade equally contends with the persistence of typological systems within art education and the study of the body.

In occupying these systems de Andrade knowingly risks proximity to a racist logic. At the same time, he has dismantled the original study, isolating and drawing out its most barbed words. His studio sessions at different locations in Brazil reserved space for role-playing and self-representation among the participants. Eu, mestiço arranges an uneasy space for the visitor, an insider’s view that lays bare how image and text can service racist systems of thought and governance.


A living report. Combining image and text, Eu, mestiço is a highly graphical work, using the gallery’s white walls both as a page-like support and as a means to enclose or envelop the visitor.

How do you read Eu, mestiço? Where are the points of tension between the images and the photographs? In what ways do the images influence your understanding of the words? How do the words shape the image?

Forms of representation. Though it is unclear what photographs were used in the field studies for Race and Class in Rural Brazil, the book does include photographs shot in a social-realist style by Pierre Verger. Compare these photos to those shot by de Andrade.

What differences can be seen between the two styles? What are their aims? What points of view are adopted? How does the single portraits compare to the multi-image sequences? Can you use the book to navigate the exhibition and vice-versa?

O Peixe

Produced one year prior to Eu, mestiço, O Peixe can be thought of as a parallel case study to de Andrade’s expanded typology. Where Eu, mestiço invites visitors to examine the role of language and images within racist paradigms, O Peixe introduces a fixed viewpoint to consider how subjects are framed by ethnography and how the lines between fact and fiction can be blurred.

O Peixe documents fishermen on the coast of north-eastern Brazil conducting their usual labour. They travel by boat to a fishing spot, disentangle nets, cast lines and repeat—when the catch arrives they bring the fish close to their body and embrace it. The camera holds as the fish slowly asphyxiates.

Absent here is the language and categorization behind Eu, mestiço. However, as with the installation, performance and affect are key. The embrace is not among the fishermen’s routines. It is instead something conspired with de Andrade. Yet, the affect that amounts from this insertion troubles any easy object lesson on ethnography’s capacity for fabulation that O Peixe might first be presumed to offer.

First exploiting film’s ability to open up a space for desire and exoticization, the camera lingers on the men’s bodies as they work and rest. As the fish come into their arms this objective distance gives way to a palpable proximity between man and animal. True, it is a fiction, but it is also true that these are real fish slowly dying before the camera. As Eu, mestiço rehearses violent systems of knowledge by bringing the visitor within them, so O Peixe holds its frame in order to test the endurance of a sustained ethnographic gaze. It’s a waiting game. An experiment equally broken as the fishermen glance up to gaze back at the viewer.


Field recordings. Audio is an important element in O Peixe, using a surround sound system to immerse the visitor in the coastal environment.

What do these situated sounds bring to your experience of the work? Is it simply background? Does it add to the veracity of the footage? Imagine the work with spoken commentary? What would it say?

Witnessing. O Peixe assumes a documentary format, with each sequence leading up to the embrace and death of the fish. Consider the different forms of looking that the work guides you towards.

What information do you attempt to draw from the film? What information might it promise to deliver? Do you find yourself adopting different ways of looking at the footage? At what points do you share a distanced view? When is this distance troubled or unclear?



Under chattel slavery people are treated as things, as commodities to be stolen and sold for their labour capacity. This violent objectification, turning people into objects, imposes a uniformity on bodies by treating them as interchangeable property to be exhausted, discarded, and replaced in the interest of accumulating wealth. This logic is also shared within natural and physical sciences as developed from the Enlightenment on, where the detailed study and classification of bodies marked as other than a white European ideal informs a scientific racism underlying the colonial project which persists in different forms today. Accordingly, by relegating people to objects, objectivity is a form of gatekeeping of subjectivity.

Racial democracy

Conceived in Brazil through the first half of the twentieth-century, the racial democracy thesis lays claim to a political and social system where race is no longer an obstruction to social mobility. Widely adopted at a state-level, this narrative is guided by the notion that racial prejudice can not hold within Brazil’s highly mixed society, drawing further legitimacy through the belief that the country’s Imperial period and centuries-long engagement with slavery and land dispossession was mitigated and ultimately transformed by miscegenation.

Ethnographic gaze

As a scientific method, ethnography takes as its subject the culture of people and communities. It is executed in the field, collecting data through processes that aim for the immediate transmission of experience. The idea of the ethnographic gaze questions the presumed neutrality of these methods and resulting studies. A distanced standpoint or tone, romanticisation of the other, a disavowal of the presence the researcher, and the editing and manipulation of material are all suspect. Moreover, the gaze is not necessarily visual, rather it refers to an authorial space where the representation of the “object” of study is commandeered and contorted into an image that suits the researcher’s desires.

Affect and emotion

Affect and emotion can be approached as two (not always exclusive) categories of feeling. Where emotion is understood as an internal feeling, anchored in the self, affect is all the more abstract and centreless. As an identifiable response with a function and meaning, emotion can be thought of as narrative, while affect is a feeling that skirts categorization, its source and destination unclear. Where emotion is internal and personal, affect is found in between bodies. In this sense, affect is unfixed and uncertain; it can leave us restless in the structures around us, moving us around to feel out and apply pressure to their limits.



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