Welcome to the TROPICAL TRAUMA MISERY TOUR. I invite you to take this tour through a roofless theatre called media, the stage representing the farce and media opportunism of the Brazilian president and far-right populist, Jair Messias Bolsonaro—The Myth.

In 2018, Bolsonaro was stabbed during a presidential rally campaign. Against a backdrop of polarization, micro-narratives, and misinformation, The Myth starred in an online political campaign where he had complete control over his narrative and self-presentation. This tour investigates how the ambiguity of the stabbing event exposes the network propaganda in the Brazilian political game. 

Through a speculative documentary photography practice, this piece overcomes the political illusions and dissemination of nonprogressive values of digital populists. The fictionalization of the real is a form of resistance toward such ideological shams and manipulations. It devolves into a meta-play, a farce within a farce.

TROPICAL TRAUMA MISERY TOUR photobook won Special Mention Prize at Hong Kong Photobook Festival 2023 and was a finalist for the Fiebre Dummy Award 2022, Kassel Dummy Award 2023, Images Vevey 2023, Beyra Festival 2023 and for Encontros da Imagem 2023 portfolio review. 

Tropical Trauma Misery Tour is a garish, shrill, gripping spectacle in three hundred pages.

In October 2018, Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil’s presidential election - a former parachutist with moderate rhetorical talent who promised to “clean out Brazil's pigsty” and in his subsequent four years in office managed to leave 700,000 covid deaths, drive Amazon deforestation to historic proportions and plunge the Brazilian population back into hunger.

How could it happen that this mediocre, misanthropic proto-fascist become president and manoeuvre his country to the brink of democracy?

Rafael Roncato, a Brazilian-born visual artist and editor living in the Netherlands, has dedicated his book Tropical Trauma Misery Tour to this question. The starting point is the knife attack by a mentally disturbed man on Bolsonaro during his campaign tour, which served as a welcome - and ultimately election-deciding - media event for the candidate. Subsequently, Bolsonaro's team and supporters unleashed an unprecedented social media frenzy, pulling out all the stops of populist manipulation and plunging the country into a digital orgy of madness.

The artist has chosen a clever framework for his message: that of parodic theatre. In the first act, he leads his audience through a kaleidoscope of printed documents, scraps of images and striking texts, to stage a fictional spectacle with digital media in the second act, the game of "copy, paste, alter, share" that follows the virus of lies and disinformation into the minds and souls of people until they are ready to submit to their despot.

Roncato's project is an anti-fiction, a meta-fiction firmly rooted in reality - and an inspiring example of a contemporary strategy of artistic enlightenment driven by sense and sensuality.

Andreas Müller-Pohle
Hong Kong Photobook Dummy Award 2023








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