Matheus Rocha Pitta: For the winners the potatoes

Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany
03 Mar 2017 - 26 Mar 2017

Matheus Rocha Pitta: For the winners the potatoes

Matheus Rocha Pitta, Column #1 (potato trophy) (detail), 2016/2017. Concrete, paper, plastic, removed potatoes. Courtesy of the artist.


If the prize is potatoes what does it mean to win?

In March 2017, Matheus Rocha Pitta will present his current project For the winners the potatoes in Berlin. The expression « For the winners the potatoes » is taken from Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis’ Quincas Borba, a highly influential Brazilian novel, written in 1891, which has remained almost unknown in Europe (translated into English as Philosopher or dog? by Gregory Rabassa and published in 1954).

At Künstlerhaus Bethanien as well as in two underground stations (Hermannplatz and Gesundbrunnen), an installation and a sculpture respectively announce and offer a prize to the public. Matheus Rocha Pitta presents a precarious gallery of trophies made of plastic bags, concrete and potatoes and engages personally with the public day-to-day. An archaeological-like path frames the performative piece conceptually, questioning the meaning of holding a « trophy. »

The word is derived from the Greek « tropein, » which describes the twist movement made by an army that has defeated its enemy. Trophies were first and foremost monuments erected by the winners from their booty. In the Greek city-states of the archaic period, the “tropaion” would be set up directly on the battlefield, usually at the site of the « turning point » (tropê) where the enemy’s phalanx broke, turned and fled. “Trophy” describes a turning point; in the same way that offering potatoes as a prize is a turning point, an inversion. By replacing glory with potatoes, Rocha Pitta aims to perform a “twisted” gesture on the hierarchy of winners and losers. Not without a mocking sense of humour, the winners’ cups are exchanged for potatoes. Newspaper clips of athletes lifting and kissing potatoes are encapsulated in concrete. These odd frozen gestures seem to invite us to unearth another value for loss and victory.

Matheus Rocha Pitta (born 1980 in Tiradentes, Minas Gerais, Brazil, lives and works in Rio de Janeiro) is a grant holder of KfW Stiftung. He is currently taking part in the International Studio Programme at Künstlerhaus Bethanien and will be finishing his residency by showcasing his current project For the winners the potatoes.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue, published by Verlag Kettler (Dortmund). The series of publications is edited by Nicola Müllerschön, KfW Stiftung, and Christoph Tannert, Künstlerhaus Bethanien.

Promoting cultural diversity is one of the primary goals of KfW Stiftung. Together with Künstlerhaus Bethanien, it has set up an artist-in-residence programme that seeks to stimulate intercultural dialogue by providing up-and-coming artists from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East with the opportunity to spend 12 months in Berlin. Encouraging artistic production and critical reflection, the programme also facilitates encounters between professionals working in arts and culture. The infrastructure and the international environment of Künstlerhaus Bethanien offer a suitable setting, allowing participants to try out new ideas, engage in debates, and carry out projects.


Opening: March 2, 7pm

Künstlerhaus Bethanien
Kottbusser Strasse 10
10999 Berlin