Ernesto Neto: The Edges of the World


I was shamefully too late in noticing this show in order to recommend that you visit it (it closed on Sunday), so let this be a lesson, now that I know Ernesto Neto, that you should never miss out on an opportunity to follow his work: he is a truly surprising find!

The photo above evinced the odd feeling I possessed throughout: my father, a fair art fiend like myself reading the published literature, and in the background a child jumping around. There were times where I did not feel like I really belonged at this exhibition, not that I wasn’t welcomed…It was like being welcomed into a home with unquestionable hospitality to find the family are all Earl Grey drinkers and you are not and suddenly you don’t feel so comfortable. It was the weirdest exhibition I’ve been to, but it wasn’t disturbing like Dali – It was the one of the few shows I’ve been to when I’ve felt: art more than for all cultures, is for all ages. But let me correct you now – this was no playground. Ernesto Neto is in the discussion of intellectual and imaginative art. You only have to read the literature to know how deep his considerations go.

So let me explain, if I can. Your place is this world Ernesto Neto has created – in his five-room-spreading-instillation in the upper gallery (indoor and terraces) of The Hayward – is some fusion of alien, animal and amoeba. It is the most effective transformation of space I have seen done in the art world. When you go to the latest Turbine Hall instillation, you still know you are in the turbine hall. Neto’s earth is a world of its own: and he calls his show The Edges of the World and comments, ‘The idea of a boundary, a limit, is very important in my works as they are always in every sense, on the verge of something.’ There are parts that resemble our world, but not obviously enough for it to not engage your brain into the intrigue of its mystery. His point is that his world itself is like a body. There’s bone-like structures; a strawberry-shaped net pavilion that is the heart fitted with drum inside for its beat of life; and a womb-like tepee of which it is written, ‘it is here, perhaps, that we come closest to the sensation of being inside our own selves.’ There is also water, of which our bodies is made two thirds of (so maybe in this world we’re not aliens, animals of amoebas, but human); and blood – again in no sinister way, but in a matter-of-fact science museum style.

So what does this exhibition actually look like? Depending on the scale of your imagination: either we are roaming around inside our own regenerated magnified bodies; or we are exploring a varying and unfamiliar landscape. Neto said he sees the body: ‘more like a city than an emotional and psychological representation of a person.’ So his garden city is made of ‘large-scale sculptures of biomorphic forms and participatory, immersive environments.’ Sculptures, such as wooden look-out points that are plagued with large Dalmatian shaped holes that could also be like leaves woven around trees. When you step up onto these tree houses you emerge from within the layer below. This is perhaps my favourite feature about the show: the utilising of vertical space. Through netting, he has divided the areas; so that to below your head appears above the mist or clouds, but from above you overlook a canopy of new foliage. (The Rainforest feel is no doubt related to Neto’s Brazilian birthing.) From the first room to the second room, this scenery turns from open, white-netted coves, and collections of pebbles; to shoots of green tight life – ‘his work is characterised by the use of stretchy, transparent fabric.’ Coves turn to enclosed brightly colours tunnels, structured by skeletal wooden slacks, and scented like spices. Across the outdoor areas there are plant-like sculptures, and actual organic forms (that don’t appear half as fun and interesting anymore), and a swimming pool like no other!

As proved by this exhibition, Ernesto is truly in touch with his senses holistically, which wholly shapes the outcome of the art he forms. He recommends, ‘breath through [y]our pores, close [y]our eyes to see, smell to listen, dance to levitate.’ If you really fancy educating yourself, as the booklet exemplifies, I assume the catalogue will prove also, that reading into Neto’s thoughts will open your eyes to your world and his.

This show, part of Festival Brazil [19th June – 5th September] has now finished.





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