2016 saw the rise of the Zika virus epidemic. In Brazil and elsewhere, terror in the face of viral infection was expressed in the language of military invasion. The immune system became a battlefield and the mosquito carrying the virus was declared an enemy of the nation. In parallel, the country experienced a resurgence of reactionary politics that led to the election of Jair Bolsonaro, an outspoken admirer of the military dictatorship. Drawing attention to how nature and culture mirror and reshape one another, these two apparently disconnected events serve as point of departure for this exhibition by artist, filmmaker and writer Pedro Neves Marques, developed in collaboration with London-based music producer HAUT.
It Bites Back features new and existing works based on a laboratory in São Paulo that breeds genetically-engineered mosquitoes. Used as a living insecticide, transgenic male mosquitoes are designed to mate with females and reduce the insect’s population by passing a lethal gene on to their offspring. Ranging from analogue film to sound installation, digital animation and poetry, Neves Marques’ exhibition interrogates the laboratory as a place that defines the biopolitics of the 21st Century.
It Bites Back examines the trauma of biological warfare against the backdrop of epidemics and the increasingly palpable threat against queer lives in Brazil and elsewhere. In the exhibition, body fluids and sex hormones are revealed as agents of power that operate with extraordinary force in our lives at the molecular level. Drawing inspiration from the literary traditions of horror and science fiction, Neves Marques invites the viewer to speculate on the future of love, care and intimacy in the midst of the current rise of authoritarian politics.
The exhibition revolves around the film installation A Mordida (The Bite), a diptych comprising two short films from 2018, separately titled Sex as Care and The Gender of the Lab. In them, polyamorous encounters and the intimacy of queer lives run parallel to the scientific production of gender in sterile laboratory environments. In a twist on popular tropes associated with pulp genres such as weird fiction and gothic horror, A Mordida investigates contemporary expressions of terror and moral panic in the face of viral infection. It also explores alternate forms of living together, exemplifying modest hope in a time of rising fascism and militarization.
The films are presented alongside a multi-channel sound installation featuring an eerie, dark ambient soundscape by HAUT. For Gasworks, the two film projections are synchronised with the dim lighting of the space, choreographing the movement of audiences across the galleries. In A Mordida, documentary footage and fictional scenes are interspersed with a selection of poems from Neves Marques’ upcoming book Sex as Care and Other Viral Poems, fragments of which will be presented in a public reading at Gasworks.
It Bites Back is punctuated by digital animations. One is displayed in a ceiling-mounted flat screen, while the others exist online. In the gallery foyer, Aedes aegypti (2017) is a hyperrealistic render of the infamous mosquito, which is a vector for diseases including Zika and dengue. The audience is granted a glimpse of the transgenic male specimen as it mates with a female, which then feeds on human blood. In dialogue with this work, a newly commissioned series of animations will be released through Gasworks’ online platforms as a viral intervention.
Follow Gasworks on Instagram #itbitesback to see Pedro Neves Marques' series of animations.
Pedro Neves Marques’ exhibition follows on from their residency at Gasworks in 2018. A version of the film A Mordida (The Bite) was originally commissioned by Perez Art Museum (PAMM) in Miami. Supported by Catherine Petitgas and Gasworks Exhibitions Supporters.
Limited Edition - Sex as Care, 2019
Pedro Neves Marques has produced a new limited edition exclusively for Gasworks on the occasion of their exhibition. Sex as Care comprises a ‘viral poem’ written by the artist in response to a need for intimacy in the midst of the current rise of authoritarian politics. Visit our shop for more details.
Pedro Neves Marques is a New York-based artist born in Lisbon. Recent exhibitions and screenings include: Pérez Art Museum of Miami; Anthology Film Archives, Sculpture Center and e-flux, New York; Jeu de Paume and Kadist Art Foundation, Paris; Tate Modern and Serpentine Galleries, London; Sursock Art Museum, Beirut; Times Museum, Guangzhou; Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon. In 2017, he published his second short-fiction book, Morrer na América (Dying in America). Together with fellow artist Mariana Silva, they are the founder of inhabitants, an online video channel for exploratory video and documentary reporting.
HAUT is a music producer, sound researcher and former psychiatrist working across the fields of experimental electronic music, affect and embodied music cognition. He is currently undertaking a MA in music at Goldsmiths, University of London.