entry: General Conditions

Facing Bare Life

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João Pina
March | April 2020
digital inkjet prints on cotton paper
James Wellford, Gail Fletcher, Eliza Capai, Pedro Letria, Marco Rocha, Marcelo Hein and to every resident of the Copan who opened their door to me in the midst of a pandemic.

In the midst of a critical period in the pandemic, João Pina lived in São Paulo, in the Copan building. Since the beginning of the current crisis, Brazil has been one of the countries most affected, not only with regard to the number of infections and deaths but also in terms of the economic and political consequences of the pandemic. The negligent and denialist attitude of its leader, President Jair Bolsonaro, has had a devastating impact on Brazilian society, increasing the gulf of inequalities and social tension.
The work carried out by João Pina in the symbolic Copan building therefore takes on multiple meanings. On the one hand, it observes and documents of the lives of some of its approximately 5000 residents, in isolation, from various social classes. On the other, life in the Copan also has a historical and social significance, as it is one of the most important buildings in São Paulo, built by Oscar Niemeyer between 1952 and 1966, at the peak of the city’s economic and urban expansion, and can be seen as a modernist symbol of the Brazilian progressive dream.
The outreach and documentary work carried out there by João Pina reveals to us the city that is the Copan within the megacity that is São Paulo. Familiar with the more violent aspects of the Brazilian reality, of which the work 46750, about violence in Rio de Janeiro, is an example, this time his gaze is the neighbour and accomplice of a state of exception which has affected the everyday lives of millions of people, across several continents.
The images produced by João Pina depict the life in isolation of Copan's tenants, in gestures, rituals and experiences in which we all recognise ourselves, in any part of the globe. However, the Copan, due to its symbology in the framework of a period of urban development and the proposal of new social models of living, can today provide an overview of the painful and violent construction of a more egalitarian Brazilian society.
It is clear that the pandemic has accelerated and deepened latent social inequalities, and that the exceptional measures imposed by isolation also have different speeds and repercussions. The question João Pina poses with this work is also about the social nature of exception caused by the pandemic, and how modernist examples of urbanism and social thought can today serve as resistance to a society in collapse in Brazil and elsewhere.   

 Emília Tavares

JOÃO PINA (Lisbon, Portugal 1980)

João Pina studied at the International Center of Photography in New York, specialising in photojournalism and documentary photography. He began working as a photographer at the age of 18 and has spent most of the past two decades working in Latin America.
He has published three books: Por Teu Livre Pensamento [For Your Free Thinking], in 2007, which tells the stories of 25 political prisoners in Portugal; Condor, in 2015, about memories of the military dictatorships in South America; and 46750, in 2018, about the endemic violence in Rio de Janeiro.

João Pina’s work has been published in several world-renowned media outlets, including: The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Stern, GEO, El País, D Magazine, Le Monde and Expresso. His photographs have been exhibited in New York (at the ICP, the Howard Greenberg Gallery and the Open Society Foundations), Tokyo (Canon Gallery), Lisbon (KGaleria and Casa Fernando Pessoa), Porto (Centro Português de Fotografia), Perpignan (Visa pour L’Image), Arles (Reencontres D'Arles), São Paulo (Paç̧o das Artes) and Rio de Janeiro (Museu de Arte Moderna and Museu de Arte do Rio).

Between 2003 and 2013, he was a member of the Kameraphoto photography collective, a platform promoting the language of photography. He is currently represented by the agency MAPS and has photographs in the Portuguese National Collection of Photography, the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro and the Joaquim Paiva Collection, among other private collections.

He is also a teacher at the International Center of Photography in New York.