Tropical Fealing / Jan Brokof

Mensbeeld – Arti

Galerie Maurits van de Laar presents the solo show of German artist Jan Brokof

Jan Brokof (1977) grew up in the former German Democratic Republic. A few years ago he met a theatre group and joined them on their tour of Brazil. During his first stay in Sao Paulo he had a culture shock similar to the one he experienced when he first visited West Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Brokof subsequently discovered a chronicle of the 16th-century German adventurer Hans Staden’s stay with a tribe of cannibals in Brazil. In his description of this exotic new world, the mercenary at the same time clearly defined himself as a European. Jan Brokof transfers this perspective to the present.

In the installation Tropical Fealing, he immerses the viewer in a flow of associations concerning cannibalism, capitalism, exoticism and the unknown. The exhibition features a painting of Sao Paulo produced together with the Brazilian collective 44flavours as well as videos from the ongoing Hans Staden TV project. In Tropical Fealing we are confronted with the fear of the unknown that is currently so often abused by populist political forces. In a penetrating and often absurdly-comical way, Jan Brokof offers us an opportunity to get to know ‘the other’ and open our minds to things that are alien to us.

Brokof likes to collect pop references about cannibalism using fashion magazines as sort of investigation into the ‘sexy meat’ of colonialism. The photos are a departure and a partial point of meeting between his collage and video.

Tropical Fealing / Jan Brokof
Tropical Fealing / Jan Brokof
Jumbled body parts from fashion shoots that often use models in savage and frightening poses.

Brokof takes cannibalism as a metaphor for cultural assimilation and explores ideas of the tropical other, imperialism, globalization and identity. He projects this feeling of cultural shock by using the historical figure of Hans Staden and the story of his journey to Brazil.

Staden (c. 1525 – c. 1576) was a German soldier and explorer who voyaged to South America in the middle of the sixteenth century, where he was captured by the Tupinambá people of Brazil. He managed to survive and return safe to Europe. In his widely read account describing his travel and captivity, he claimed that the native people that held him captive practiced cannibalism.

Did cannibalism as Staden reported really exist? Or was a it a powerful tool used for colonization of the New World, to promote its local residents as barbaric and frightening in order to minimize the importance of their eventual murder and enslavement while their land and culture was ‘cannibalized’ by Europeans? After his journey home, Staden made what some historians would call outrageous claims of the tribe people’s cannibalistic habits, but in the end, anthropologically speaking, we found out more about the perspective of the colonizer than we do about the indigenous population.

Anthropophagic Manifesto: Culture-eating or consuming another culture

“Cannibalist Manifesto” was first published in 1928 as part of the Revista de Antropofagia (Cannibalist Magazine). This movement was centered around the idea that Brazil gained much of its strength from its ability to “cannibalize”, or adopt and incorporate, the positive elements of other cultures. De Andrade’s cannibalism is a complex concept created under the larger heading of Brazilian modernism. Cannibalism is a reference to the colonizing destruction by European powers for the sake of greed and power. It is also a satire of European views about American cultures (the savage, primitive, Brazilian cannibal). In that way it is a re-appropriation of the word cannibal as a locus of strength, identity, and power against the colonizers. -Wikipedia

Tropical Fealing / Jan Brokof
Masquerading as a hans staden figure in his ongoing TV project 'Hans Staden TV'
Tropical Fealing / Jan Brokof
Tropical Fealing / Jan Brokof
Tropical Fealing / Jan Brokof
Collaboration with 44flavors
In the entrance soft ‘old world’ lighting and self-made wallpaper and floor tiling match a typical Sao Paulo brick pattern found in the city welcome the visitor.
Walking through the arch as a performative action in the gallery contrasts the journey from the soft light and decor of the old world into a stark, and somewhat sterile space.
Tropical Fealing / Jan Brokof
A canon used in depictions of the New World, common in prints in the 16th century, is the archway used a sort of window that looks from one world into the next. With the viewer becoming the other, and the ‘savages’ standing alone and afraid on the other side complete with the ocean in the background and the incoming colonial ships.

For the occasion of the exhibition, the publication Tropical Healing was issued. Galerie Vriend van Bavink hosts the parallel show: Exoot-Tropical Healing, including a series of performances developed in cooperation with dramatist Joachim Robbrecht and De Warme Winkel. 18 March through 28 April.

On view from 02 April t/m 30 April 2017 @ Galerie Maurits van de Laar