Jonathan de Andrade

Image: Jonathan de Andrade


Considerations on the exhibition “In the city of the hangover”

John Cage once said that much of what we understand by art could be summarized as a peculiar way of being in time and space. This peculiarity would find its first stimuli in the way sounds and images circulate in our environment, configuring a sensory network from which art can emerge. If this seems to me a suggestive way to start, it's because one of the main themes Jonathas de Andrade dedicates himself to takes us back to his city. We can even say that his most recent solo show revolves, almost entirely, around Recife. If not as a compliment to him, at least as a memorial of his ambivalences.

The artist teaches us that we must understand a city beyond its geographic mapping. It is also composed as a drive imaginary, determining our ways of relating to ourselves and to the other. Throughout the works, Andrade questions the ways in which the capital of Pernambuco is inhabited, problematizing the time and space to which our urban imaginary is imprisoned. How are its times circumscribed, how are its spaces confused, what affections circulate and what subjectivities does it prescribe?

Adult education responds to questions like these by offering an affective dictionary of Recife's imagination. Comprised of dozens of posters, the work subverts Freire's method of literacy, in which literacy comes from insertion into everyday objects and scenarios for students. When we turn to posters like 'progress', however, we see a split socialization, where local reality seems to be captured by a vocabulary that is alien to it.

Rather than a mistake, the apparent semantic shock focuses on the imprisonment of a social grammar that only recognizes the homogenization of the landscape as progress; it vocalizes a way of life whose contradictions have already been converted into 'truth', even our ability to find it strange is denied. Opposite vocabulary and imagery, we are asked to ask ourselves to whom such progress would be at the service, displacing its naturalness and invoking another way of inhabiting time and filling space.

We would be wrong if we reduced its 'truth' to the context of Recife, however. More decisively, however evident Jonathas de Andrade's attention to Recife's everyday details is, there is little of regionalism there. If there is territoriality, it appears in the negative: the presence of the absence of something that never materialized. On the one hand, an absence that is as present as in the thousands of other cities in the global south to which it alludes, brought together by the brute mark of a past forcibly interwoven with a homogenized figure of universalism. On the other hand, a presence that imprisons the time-space of the city and robs it of its territoriality.

But because there is no ode to the particular, his cartography of Recife points to problems present in practically all of our large capitals. It becomes a denunciation of the failed modernization project to which we are subject and of which Recife has become an example. Throughout works such as house opening project (2009) and Moral census of the city of Recife (2008), even the particularities of the city choreograph an oblivion, a universal citizenship that could only be achieved at the price of becoming false.

In the first, we find a model of an abandoned house assembled. Taken by the vegetation and consecrated with the details of its ruin, the house seems to set the tone of the unusual materiality of a prohibited citizenship. Its debris restores the question of decent housing on the urban map of Recife, putting into question the increasing verticalization and privatization of its spaces. Turning the rubble into a model is also a way of denouncing how the contradictions that mark the city make it an ideological project. A project that insists on how, even what appears as mere rubble, it is rather a planned confirmation of the maintenance of injustices.

The housing bottleneck would be just one of the first faces of the capital's socioeconomic disparity, whose population density is also felt by the entrenchment of the neighborhoods. Through a questionnaire with questions about “good manners”, Moral census of the city of Recife we are introduced to the divisions between peripheries and central zones that are heard in the intimate lives of their subjects. The work shows us how such trenches are modulated in different ways: certainly economic, they also mark the subjectivities of their citizens: our urban projects appear as ways of life, starting to determine and confirm addicted ways of sociability.

When analyzed together, we see how the model and the survey are two sides of the same map: they contain or intensify emotions such as fear and self-absorption. Affections that range from our most everyday gestures to the way our bodies will circulate in the streets, saturating our subjectivity to the detachment of an abstract progress.

Em The Levant (2013), we see Jonathas's critical sensitivity to resist homogenization. If art is a way of inhabiting time and space, this project appears as a political intervention in their current circulation. It seeks to balance the staticity that Adult education violently synchronizes our urban life to a time and space that are alien to them. In a necessarily modern Recife, the project sheds light on a group constrained to invisibility: the carters, whose activity is banned in the city. By gathering them for a race in the center of the capital, the uprising it suspends the 'normal' functioning of the streets in the name of injecting them with a different speed. Interdicted citizenship takes the center of the city for itself, as a way of confronting the progress that daily pushes it to the margins. Giving the space a different layout, space is opened for a speed that destabilizes the frenetic life of Recife and sends it to another time. Time and space, creatively combined, give rise to art as an intervention in reality.

the uprising it makes visible what previously appeared in our urban landscape as mere background noise, and which can now emerge as the virtuality of a different sociability. Saying that art creates the real is not to be confused with the intransigent imposition of a project alien to the reality from which it starts. To a certain extent, such encounters could only occur from a circuit that violently denies them. It is created as a modulation of the negatives, an attunement of his failures that starts to assume the function of denunciation: “The cavalcade started on the predicted path, then a gallop, a shouting, anarchy, and when it reached the straight of Avenida Guararapes, it gained an outburst that ripped through the center at a party, breaking the original path and getting out of control in a wonderfully autonomous way”.[ii]

Tearing up the center, “getting out of control in a wonderfully autonomous way”, more than a purely technical exercise, a laborious impression of a creative will that is projected into the world, invites us to a new way of inhabiting the present. Instead of copying reality, art intervenes in reality and, with that, also produces it. the uprising marks the presence of an inadequacy in the immediate state of reality: he fissures it, denouncing something that, at the same time, was already in it and had not yet found space to appear.

It is no coincidence that this piece is located in the “external” hall of the Museum: located before entering the exhibition itself, the work offers the feeling of inhabiting a borderline environment between the rooms where the works are displayed and the streets over which they narrate. This link between the calm internal environment and the chaotic downtown streets seems to synchronize two very different ways of inhabiting the city that Jonathas portrays: between the slowness and the frantic horns, more than a geographical reframing, a new disposition is encouraged. affective.

Praise for Recife is denounced here as a failure of regionalism: not as a boastful attachment to the particular, but as a right and belonging to a singular territoriality. It can only arise as a claim for another way of inhabiting time and space. It is in the service of this inventiveness that Jonathas de Andrade goes to meet.

*Peter Pennycook is a master's student in philosophy at the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE).


Jonathan de Andrade. In the hangover city.
Curatorship: Moacir dos Anjos
On display at the Museum of Modern Art Aloísio Magalhães (MAMAM, Recife) until June 18, 2023.


[I] All photos were taken from the artist's personal page and are available at


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