Skip to content
Carlos Motta featured in the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia

P·P·O·W is delighted to announce that Carlos Motta’s Corpo Fechado: The Devil’s Work (2018) is included in Marco Scotini’s Disobedience Archive at the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, curated by Adriano Pedrosa. Since 2005, Scotini’s Disobedience Archive has organized exhibitions around the world focused on artistic practices and activism. This section of Biennale Arte 2024 is divided into two main parts, Diaspora activism and Gender Disobedience, and includes works by 39 artists and collectives made between 1975 and 2023.

Motta’s multilayered 24-minute video Corpo Fechado: The Devil’s Work relates the true story of Francisco José Pereira, an 18th century man who was kidnapped from West Africa and sold into slavery in Brazil. As a means of survival, Pereira, along with others in enslaved communities, developed syncretic spiritual practices that mixed African with Christian tradition, notably in the form of bolsas de mandinga — amulets to protect fellow enslaved persons from injury. In 1731, after Pereira was sold to a slaveholder in Portugal, the Lisbon Inquisition tried him for sorcery. He was also charged with sodomy, since he confessed to copulating with male demons in the course of making the amulets. He was exiled from Lisbon, condemned to end his days enslaved in a galley.

Corpo Fechado imagines Pereira as the agent of his own narrative, reclaiming the terms of representation from the account of his own destruction. Pereira is played movingly by the actor Paulo Pascoal. Well-known in his home country of Angola, Pascoal worked for years in New York before moving back across the Atlantic. When he came out as gay in a 2014 TEDxLuanda talk, Pascoal received death threats and was forced to relocate once again. He now resides in Lisbon where he is trapped in a sort of immigration limbo, unable to re-enter Portugal should he ever leave. With uncanny fidelity, the biography of the actor therefore resonates with the life of his character, mutatis mutandis, crisscrossing oceans of both water and time.

Carlos Motta (b. 1978, Bogotá, Colombia) has an upcoming mid-career survey exhibition at Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) in 2024. He has presented survey exhibitions at Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá (MAMBO), Colombia (2023) and the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2022). His work was included in Signals: How Video Transformed the World at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY (2023); the 58th Carnegie International, Pittsburg, PA (2022); Film at Lincoln Center’s Art of the Real, New York, NY (2021); and the 11th Berlin Biennale, Berlin, Germany (2020). His work is in the permanent collections of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and Guggenheim Museum, as well as Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain, among many others. He was a Penn Mellon Just Futures Initiative Grant grantee (2023), a Rockefeller Brothers Fund Grant grantee (2019), and has been awarded The Vilcek Foundation Prize for Creative Promise (2017), The PinchukArtCentre’s Future Generation Art Prize (2014), and a Guggenheim fellowship (2008). He is an associate professor of Interdisciplinary Practice in Fine Arts at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.