New-York based artist, writer, and filmmaker Pedro Neves Marques, in his first UK solo exhibition at Gasworks, is interrogating the biopolitics at play in a nation battling the threat of mosquito-transmitted diseases. Entitled It Bites Back, the Gasworks exhibition brings together a series of works made in the context of Brazil’s ongoing war against the Zika and dengue virus-transmitting Aedes aegypti female mosquito.
Projected between two dimly lit adjoining rooms, Pedro’s two-part film A Mordida (The Bite), divided into The Gender of the Lab and Sex as Care, combines documentary filmmaking and interview-based reporting with staged narratives. Paying acute attention to the body, both in terms of individual embodied ontology and the concept of a nation as a body, Pedro uses the mosquito to conduct an ethnographic investigation into gender politics and sexual hierarchies. In The Gender of the Lab, this functions on a molecular level. The film is based on the work of Oxitec, a British biotechnology company that has developed a method for breeding transgenic male mosquitoes carrying a “lethal gene” to reduce the population of the biting insects and combat the Zika virus epidemic. When the genetically-modified male insects mate with the biting females, they pass on this “lethal gene” and the offspring die before reaching the mature stage at which they become capable of viral transmission. With the female Aedes aegypti typified as a blood-sucking enemy of the nation, the male insect becomes a biological weapon used to cull his own population, his sex organs employed as a tool of the state against his female counterpart.
In Sex as Care, Pedro situates this biological warfare alongside slow-moving imagery of languorous bodies, a cis man, a cis woman and a transgender woman, tangled together on a bed in a shadowy room. Pedro’s pairing of these films serves to draw out the ways in which the highly sexed biotechnological procedures conducted in the laboratory coincide with binary, hierarchical conceptions of gender and sexual politics on a societal level.