The jury unanimously wished to recognize Juan Brenner for his commitment to exploring new documentary practice, tackling the complex history of his native Guatemala. Marvelous Phenomena is the final chapter of Brenner’s trilogy of work presenting an important contemporary reframing and critique of the colonial invasion and conquest of the Americas.
“His current project seeks to reveal the traces and ongoing impact of an important historical event: retracing the exact path of Pedro de Alvarado’s failed expedition from Guatemala to Ecuador in 1534. Alvarado attempted to appropriate the gold Francisco Pizarro had looted from the Inca empire, and in the process he abandoned thousands of Guatemalan warriors to their death in the Andean winter. That historical cataclysm has an ongoing sociopolitical legacy, the traces of which are still present, and made newly visible in Brenner’s work.”
The Guatemalan photographer focused on his origins to look back on a major event which took place in 1534. After lengthy research, he retraced the exact path the legendary Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado took with an army of thousands of Guatemalan soldiers on an expedition in Ecuador. Trapped in the heart of the Andes, the expedition turned into a nightmare. Juan Brenner explored the places these men passed through almost 500 years ago, with a particular interest in the progeny they left behind. He reveals the impact of this forced relocation of Guatemalan citizens to Ecuador and describes its legacy in today’s world.