Ernesto Neto

Isolation bound to the universe

Text: Sumiyoshi Chie
Portrait: Nagare Satoshi

A universe of elastic fabric stretched tight in every direction, unhampered by the laws of gravity. Relax your body and trust your instincts and you’ ll find there a Shangri-La abounding in flexibility. This is the kind of optimistic worldview we usually expect to see reflected in Neto’s work, but the pieces from 2001 reassembled for this latest exhibition, Melting Point, arouse introspective feelings, such as isolation and the unbridgeable distance between individuals. Gone also are the colorful, childlike hues of recent solo shows, replaced by indistinct colors like those of an overcast sky.

“The theme of these works is the relationship between the body and the environment around it. When you squeeze your body into a tube made of fabric, the difference between your body and the universe becomes ambiguous, and you experience a sensation like a vanishing point.”

The artist sprawls on the gallery floor drawing on paper laid out around him, occasionally getting up and talking frantically while gesticulating with his entire body. This passionate temperament is reminiscent of the carioca, a dance that relies on fleet footwork, and is uncha nged from six years ago when these works were first assembled, despite Neto having become the father of two children.

“I hadn’t noticed it myself, but now that you mention it, a lot of my work has been quite colorful of late. Whenever I hold an exhibition in Rio, it tends to take on the atmosphere of a squatted beach house party with all kinds of people turning up, from my neighborhood friends to children. We give it a nightclub feel by bringing in lots of neon and maybe a piano, and we party late into the night. I used to like that kind of wild atmosphere. Although recently I’ve come to realize that I need some time and space on my own, away from my family even, which is why I started playing the piano.”

Lots of things become clear when he’s absorbed in picking out tunes on the piano, eventually enabling him to produce harmonies.

“The same applies to the piece unveiled at Marugame based on an image of two people hugging. It’s like the feeling you get when the boundary between the mind and the body is lost, and all your energies are concentrated in a single point.”

One gets the feeling that in order to be able to carry on making strong, supple pieces that touch the physical senses directly, Neto needs to remain sensitive to his own feelings while at the same time pursuing a realism rooted in the act of physical construction. Perhaps this explains why Neto, who at first glance seems unsophisticated, but who in fact thrives on sublimating the perpetual motion of his selfconsciousness in his art, has an appeal that transcends the realm of the artist.

[This interview appears also in ART iT No. 17 Fall/Winter 2007]

Ernesto Neto
Born 1964 in Rio de Janeiro. Represented Brazil at the 2001 Venice Biennale. Visited Japan in July 2007 for the opening of his first large-scale solo show in Japan at the Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art and Melting Point at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery. He will also be showing at Space for Your Future (10.27 – 1.20.2007 Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo).

←Back to Index

Copyrighted Image