Brazilian politics took centre stage in Oval last night as a new exhibition previewed at Gasworks gallery.
It Bites Back by Pedro Neves Marques tackles Brazilian social issues amidst this year’s election of right-wing populist, Jair Bolsonaro.
Upon entry a digital mosquito animation highlights the Zika virus epidemic of 2016 that originated in Brazil. Two short films then explore reaction to the infection alongside creeping conservatism, scientific production and a precarious LGBT community. Interspersed with poetry, It Bites Back is a showcase of Neves Marques’ ability as a visual artist and writer.
Gasworks has played a key role in Neves Marques’ development. He wrote the script for It Bites Back during a residency at the visual arts organisation in 2018. This is the Portuguese artist’s first UK solo show and fits with Gasworks’ mission to champion emerging local and international talent.
We spoke to Neves Marques and he further explained the origins of his exhibition: “This initially was a horror film but then it was transformed by the political crisis. As I was writing and rewriting the script it became clear that the real horror story was happening in Brazil, especially with the rise of violence.
“The film answers this situation in the small way that it can. It uses the image of the virus as the kind of feeling that people had about this wave of violence. It felt like an epidemic, uncontrollable. That really shaped the film.”
A key theme of the installation is the increasing threat to queer lives in Brazil since Bolsonaro’s election drive. The country’s president is known for his homophobic comments and anti-LGBT agenda.
Neves Marques elaborated: “I have many friends in Sao Paulo who are LGBT and it was very obvious from the start [of Bolsonaro’s campaign] that it was one of the targeted communities. The whole crew in the film was LGBT and queer-friendly and we talked a lot about each other’s experiences.
“Brazil has one of the biggest queer communities in the world but one of the highest queer murder rates. It is a very paradoxical place. But this is not new. Bolsonaro ramped up this latent feeling in society and made it more visible.”
Neves Marques’ films dominates the space at Gasworks and the accompanying soundscape by music producer HAUT creates an other-worldly theatre-experience that reverberates into the audience.
The artist explained how he tailored his show for Gasworks’ gallery: “The installation is one of the most open shows I’ve seen here. The work was initially meant to be seen in one room with the films facing each other.
“My biggest challenge was to adapt – the soundtrack had to be redesigned and the films split into two rooms. I am really happy with the results.”
Gasworks is situated between Oval and Vauxhall tube stations, in close proximity to London’s ‘Little Portugal’ district. Based predominantly around Stockwell, the area houses nearly 30,000 Portuguese people and a blossoming Brazilian community.
Neves Marques was taken with the idea of this diaspora visiting Gasworks:“I would love them to come. That would be really beautiful. The Portuguese and Brazilian bond is so special and so strong. I would love them to watch my films.”
Currently living in New York, Neves Marques will be in Brazil this summer working on a film concerning the country’s indigenous populations.
It Bites Back runs from 11 April to 16 June and admission is free. To mark the closure of the event, Neves Marques will read poems from his upcoming book Sex as Care and Other Viral Poems at Gasworks on 15 June. More information can be found on Gasworks’ website.