Curator Julia Rodrigues on Vivian Caccuri’s “Mosquito Revenge”


For her first solo exhibition in Denmark, Brazilian artist Vivian Caccuri presents Mosquito Revenge, a multimedia exhibition that retells the story of European colonization of “the new world” with mosquitoes playing the main role. In this story the insect is seen as a paramilitary force, referring to the power of tropical nature, that is disturbed by new artificial structures, poorly planned dams, sugar plantations and slavery. As a result of this overall catastrophe, mosquitoes become ubiquitous and deadly – as implied in the title of the exhibition: Mosquito Revenge.

Intrigued by the impact on the human body by the sound of mosquitoes, the artist has researched the origins of such hate and physical repulse. Vivian Caccuri is interested in unwanted sounds, that have been put in a subaltern position due to a specific social / political / historical situation or context, independently of their source.

Her research has led to the identification of a series of connections that place the mosquito in relation to ecological, social and political catastrophes in both historical and contemporary cultures. Caccuri creates a semi-fictional story based on scientific studies and medical records of diseases in the Western Hemisphere and their distribution through colonial trade, picturing the insect as an agent of fear and diseases and a symbol of otherness.

In the video installation New World Syrup & The Fever Hand, originally conceived as a performance lecture commissioned by the Serpentine Gallery (London, 2019), Vivian Caccuri builds a narrative inspired by the return of yellow fever to South America. “It’s ironic that yellow fever ‘chose’ to come back during such political turmoil in Brazil…This is why the main form for the performance is that of a historical hallucination,” says the artist, highlighting some connections between yellow fever, sugar cane, evangelization and the way in which music reflected colonial interactions and its consequences. This old disease is deeply connected to the colonial sugar plantations in the Americas: it thrived in the sugar production regions, where plantations created the perfect environment for Aedes aegypti, the carrier mosquito imported from the African continent by European slave ships to the Americas. At the same time Caccuri – drawing on a tradition of psychedelia – highlights historical moments of madness caused by the disease during the first yellow fever epidemics. In the video, the artist draws a parallel to the hallucinatory stage in her country´s current right-wing government which adopts the colour yellow of the Brazilian football team as their nationalistic symbol.

Mosquito Shrine is a series of large embroideries on mosquito nets depicting fictional encounters between mosquitoes and humans. The sceneries reinforce the narrative from New World Syrup & The Fever Hand. We see Sabaeths mosquitoes – a rare colorful blue genus that has kept the yellow fever virus alive, sugar plantations, music instruments typical of the Amazonas area, mutant beings in the grip of  hallucinatory visions and many other elements.

Caccuri uses sound to address the body by the immediacy with which sound frequencies reach our senses, our skinn, internal organs and entire psychology. The work Tropical Envolvente, which was specially commissioned for this exhibition, is a good example of Caccuri´s use of sound physically and spatially. Here the artist has created an installation composed of an 8-channels sound piece, insect attracting UV fluorescent lights and energy cable turf known in Brazil as “gatonet” – a popular solution originating from Rio de Janeiro´s favela areas which provide illegal energy and access to cable tv. The work is a parody of the Middle Ages folkloric story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. In this story the rat catcher Piper lures away rats with his magic pipe. In Tropical Envolvente the artist creates an environment to attract local insects. The composition created by Estúdio Osso, a collaboration between Caccuri and Thiago Lanis, is based on human imitation of sounds encountered in the island of Møn.

Vivian Caccuri (b. 1986, São Paulo) lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She has participated in several group exhibitions in Brazil and abroad, among which stand out: in 2013, the 33rd Panorama of Brazilian Art at the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo (MAM-SP); in 2016, at the 32nd São Paulo Biennial – Living Uncertainty; in 2017, Future Generation Art Prize 2017, Victor Pinchuk Foundation, Kiev, Ukraine; in 2018, she participated in the 11th Mercosul Biennale and in the People’s Biennale – Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018, Kochi & Kerala, India; in 2019, Somos muit+s, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo; The Shape of a Circle in the Mind of a Fish with Plants (General Ecologies Project), in which she presented commissioned work at Serpentine Galleries, London; La Biennale di Venezia – May you Live in Interesting Times, Venice, Italy; TabomBass, FAENA Art, Miami, USA, and As If: Alternative Stories from Then to Now, at The Drawing  Center, New York, USA. In 2020, the artist participated in Freedom is outside the skin, Kunsthal 44Møen, Møen, Denmark and The Musical Brain, at High Line Arte, New York, USA. Caccuri has also held solo shows in galleries and institutions, such as; in 2018, Água Parada, MAC Niterói; in 2019, A Soul Transplant, Röda Sten Konsthall, Gothenburg, Switzerland.

The exhibition is generously supported by 15. Juni Fonden, Augustinusfonden, Knud Højgaards Fond, Louis-Hansens Fond, SNYK, Galeria Millan, A Gentil Carioca and Danish Arts Council.

By curator Julia Rodrigues