Interview with Pedro Neves Marques

Pedro Neves Marques (1984) is a Portuguese artist based in New York whose practice ranges from video to the written word. Pedro Neves Marques’s works have much in common with science-fiction, but above all they are political. What is under focus is ecology from all viewpoints. Marques, represented by Umberto di Marino Gallery, won the latest edition of illy Present Future Award at Artissima 2018. In the interview that follows, we uncovered some of his art’s most interesting aspects.

 

Pedro Neves Marques, The Pudic Relation Between Machine and Plant (2016), video (color, sound), 2'30''. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

Pedro Neves Marques, The Pudic Relation Between Machine and Plant (2016), video (color, sound), 2’30”. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

 

MARCO ANTELMI – Transgenic seeds, genetically modified mosquitoes, and androids are all protagonists in your post-natural cosmogony. Can you clarify what post-natural means for you? Can you comment your position about the post-natural and sexuality?

PEDRO NEVES MARQUES – I find the term post-natural even more perplexing than posthuman, which I never use. I say this because Nature, as we understand it when using “post-natural,” refers to a very unique concept developed by Western science and philosophy throughout modernity. Historically, this Nature has served to domesticate and “dehumanize” the land and its animals, as well as to control subaltern bodies — of women, black and indigenous peoples, and others — and from there to rigidify notions of reproduction, gender and sexuality, but also plain kinship beyond the human. But as anthropology shows us, there are many other conceptions of Nature across the world, from Amazonia to Oceania, with very different human-to-other than human relationships. What I try to do is to remember, narrate and extrapolate on this history of colonization, if you will; but also, through all these “characters” you mention, look for connections between these different “naturecultures”, to use Donna J. Haraway’s term. For example, how do androids speak to indigenous struggles and futures; or what does genetics or AI tell us about the collapse of the modern nature-culture dualism, our particular natureculture?

 

Pedro Neves Marques, YWY, a androide (2017), video (4k, color, sound), 7'40''. Courtesy the artist  and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

Pedro Neves Marques, YWY, a androide (2017), video (4k, color, sound), 7’40”. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

Pedro Neves Marques, Semente Exterminadora (2017), video (2k, color, sound), 28'. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

Pedro Neves Marques, Semente Exterminadora (2017), video (2k, color, sound), 28′. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

 

MA – How do you trace the line between representation and fiction? What is the moment when you decide to add the sci-fi element?

PEDRO NEVES MARQUES – I grew up on science-fiction literature. Science-fiction, or speculative fiction, relies on world building, which simultaneously is and is not connected to the “real world”. This world-building quality is something that I’m very attracted to. At the same time, however, I try to keep it close to the present, almost to a point where I disguise the science-fiction, and it may even go unnoticed at first. With my latest project, A Mordida, the science fiction is not even fictional at all: its main characters – genetically modified mosquitoes – are very much alive, they already exist. I didn’t have to invent anything — and still the feeling of estrangement is still there, and that’s the most important element. Perhaps, I enjoy this discretion because I want people to deploy, almost unawares, their expectations onto the work, to start at this level of representation, as you say, only to then realize things are not quite what they seem. My short film YWY, a androide is very much about this sudden confrontation, this slip in expectations.

MA – Through biotechnology, you tell stories of colonization. Would you like to tell us more about this aspect? What is in your opinion the colonization that will happen in the future?

PEDRO NEVES MARQUES – I’m not going to answer to this. I love futuristic science fiction, but could never dare attempt to foresee the future. Looking back to the past, however, the only thing one can say is that colonization has always been biological and ecological through and through: colonization of peoples is intimately entwined with colonization of land. Historically, there is no separation — from land extraction to population displacement to the industrial food on your plate. Maybe things haven’t changed that much since the rise of early capitalism, it’s only the technologies, and the form of their violence, that have shifted.

 

Pedro Neves Marques, Umberto di Marino

Pedro Neves Marques, Linnaeus and the Terminator Seed (2017), video (color, sound), 15′. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

 

MA – You come from Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city, famous for its port activities throughout the centuries. You also represented the consequences of its colonial past in A arte que faz mal à vista. You describe it as a film-manifesto for the city. Are you deviating your practice to a more “real” one, one that doesn’t include fiction?

PEDRO NEVES MARQUES – The short film A arte que faz mal à vista came from a very concrete and timely demand: contesting a statue of sixteenth-century Jesuit missionary Padre António Vieira, erected in Lisbon’s city center in 2017, which became polemical for its evangelizing representation of three indigenous children. Vieira lived in Brazil and is a canonical Portuguese literary figure — I have no issues with that, but I do have issues with the representation in the statue. I wanted the film to be a direct statement against the statue, as well as a prevailing conservatism in Portugal towards its colonial past and racist present, in a time when historically marginalized voices, particularly black, are becoming increasingly heard in the city. This “realistic” strategy comes from having to react on the spot to the issue, and for the need to involve different activists, journalists, anthropologists, and so on, in the project. One has to choose one’s artistic strategies carefully, depending on the political goals behind each project, whether one needs an immediate reaction to events or struggles for other imagined futures and worlds.

 

Pedro Neves Marques, Aedes aegypti (2017), video (digital animation, color, no sound), 1'50''. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

Pedro Neves Marques, Aedes aegypti (2017), video (digital animation, color, no sound), 1’50”. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

 

MA – The characters of your video-essays usually are non-humans. Do you think that humans will lose their importance in the future? What do you think of evolution (human and non-human)?

PEDRO NEVES MARQUES – I have a similar answer here to when you ask about post-nature: just like Nature, “humanity” too is a construct and should not be seen as universal, that is, to mean the same everywhere. Conceptually, the “human” is crumbling in front of our modern eyes. On the one hand, this is a good thing, because as it falls apart it reopens some breathing space for other conceptions of humanity, and non-humanity, at play in other naturecultures – for example, other humanities that extend beyond the “human” species, that connect differently to animals and plants, that are not as violent, or at least not in the same way. So, one has to be positive about it. But at the same time, however exclusionary of others, of other species and so on, humanity did come with a bond, a sense of sharing, of empathy, which one should fight for, especially when faced with the rise of xenophobic fascisms globally. I’m talking about the relation between humanity and rights. In fact, perhaps this rising fascism today is the result of the loss of that segregationist humanity, which placed some above the others.

 

Pedro Neves Marques, Semente Exterminadora (2017), video (2k, color, sound), 28'. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

Pedro Neves Marques, Semente Exterminadora (2017), video (2k, color, sound), 28′. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

 

MA – In YWY, a androide plants claim bodily rights talking to a female robot, YWY. What do you think about YWY’s rights – artificial intelligence rights?

PEDRO NEVES MARQUES – What I can say is that the erasure of the borders of certain longstanding terms, like human or nature (important legal terms), might be precisely what’s pushing for a redefinition of rights, either trying to answer the emergence of new sociopolitical agents – like nature itself, animals, AI, etc. – or regulate them so as to keep them at bay. One should also not forget that today we’re witnessing an attack on basic civil rights, like women’s or LGBTQ rights, globally. That’s something I keep close to me when working. At the level of the imaginary, I have this sentence which I can’t seem to shake from my mind: how is it that we can more easily imagine the rights of AI or robots than those of indigenous people? This thought scares me.

MA – We find YWY in another work, Semente Exterminadora. Should we wait for another “sequel” where we can meet YWY again?

PEDRO NEVES MARQUES – That’s definitely something I’m working on, together with Zahy Guajajara, who plays YWY, the android. We’re still at a research and funding stage, but either a sequel or a prequel is one of my main goals currently. After finishing those two films, I was left with many questions about where the character came from and where she might go next. Being an encounter between indigenous worlds and Western, modern science fiction, that is, by embodying a clash, but also, possibly, a convergence between these two imageries, she still has many stories to tell. Furthermore, considering the rise of fascism in Brazil, I’d wish her to kick of lot of fascist asses along the way. On another note, I like the idea of returning to the same characters and landscapes, to not give up on them, and allow them to evolve, similarly to science fiction sagas or Marvel movies. I’m still struggling with a novel I’ve been writing for the last year or more — who knows if I’ll ever finish it; it’s set in the same time and space of Semente Exterminadora and, although it’s a different story, I’ve already managed to smuggle both YWY and Capivara, the main characters, in there.

 

Pedro Neves Marques, Learning to Live with the Enemy (2017), video (4k, color, sound), 9'30''. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

Pedro Neves Marques, Learning to Live with the Enemy (2017), video (4k, color, sound), 9’30”. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino.

Discussion Un commento

  1. August 26, 2019 at 8:00 am

    […] spíše než domorodý člověk?“ To je otázka, kterou si Pedro Neves Marques klade v jednom rozhovoru, v němž také podotýká, že jeho práce upozorňuje i na současné útoky na práva žen a […]

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