“Circleprototemple....!“. Plywood, polyamide tulle, foam, cotton corduroy, elastic cord, samba drum, drumstick, 285 x 310ø Installation view at The Edges of the World Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, 19 June-5 September 2010. © Ernesto Neto 2010. Photo by Stephen White.
Arabella Natalini: Your works are always striking, for their beauty but also for the many suggestions they open to. Beauty is nowadays a controversial word, but I hope you don’t have any problems with it... Going back to the suggestions, I find peculiar how your abstract forms recall so many different things: it has been said that your work is strongly recollection of some familiar and unfamiliar aspects at the same time. Is there a particular source of inspiration that you would like to mention?
Ernesto Neto: I’d like to see the world divide between beauty and sadness, of course everything else is in between but, the opposite of beauty is sadness and the other way around, beauty it’s a moment that could be something like Zen that comes and disappear, a flash, we can have pain on the beauty but sadness it’s pain all the time without transcendence, sadness is not a flash, it hurt us deeply turns our face and unfortunately the world it’s full of it, and many times in the back of a place people call beauty my work is not abstract or figurative, it’s something in between, in between the mind and the body that’s why.
A.N.: In the last 10 years you have created many important site-specific works, from the ones of for the Biennale di Venezia (2001 and 2003) to the installation at the Macro in Rome (2008), where the interaction with the space and with the public is always a constitutive part of the work. Your solo exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London, held in 2010, involved the entire space of the gallery and underlined once more this strong sense of relationship. The physical interaction in your works is quite immediate and it totally involves all the senses. Once you are immersed in your works other relationships also arise, more intimate or psychological. Could you tell us something about these latter?
E.N.: “É o bicho“ from Venice 2001 and “While nothing happens“ from Macro, I don’t really consider as a site specific. In fact, I don’t like very much this expression seams like very technical for me, they can be installed in different places and it had happens with both, but for sure they have been made in a relation to the spirit of the space they born, it’s not just about the architecture but the whole context. Both pieces had created sutile diferente meanings when they were showed in another place, they get read of their birth shell, they get more independent. At the Hayward, we begin to deal with an extreme of a new situation, it’s not the white cube anymore (even though Arsenalle and Macro Foyer are not exactly a white cube) but by the complexity of the Hayward context, and with the high interactive works, what I begin to find is that, we are working with a “white institution” (I hate this term also!) a situation that the includes institutions, architecture, curators, public, marketing, health and safe, parameters that becomes part of the material to deal with. All my work is about relationship, from the structural tension dance between the sculpture materials, from weight, texture, smell and etc. to the relation with the public and the complexity of it to the institution, it’s like if we propose some intimacy on a public ambience.
A.N.: Many of your works also have a playful aspect, and one that deals with the possibility to relax. Do you believe that playing and relaxing should be considered important parts of our contemporary lives?
E.N.: Pleasure is extremely important in our life and one of my missions is to show this importance and give space for it. But on my work the playful aspect sometimes is a contradictions to the relax aspect, one is related to activity and the other passivity, so there is many times a paradoxal situation, the same piece can be interpretated for some people in one way and for others in the other, what can generate a crash, but both tends to the acquire of pleasure. We just learn when we find pleasure on the process, even when is painful, the moment we get the knowledge pleasure comes together. We need time to play and to breath, every ones works seriously to have some minutes of fun, we should learn how to play on daily life, we should work with more space to play, and more time to relax, life is about joy! If not, why to live?
A.N.: Together with Lorenzo Giusti, I just have curated Suspense. Suspended Sculpture, a group show held at EX. Contemporary Art Centre in Florence, an exhibition that aims to explore the concept of “suspension” as it relates to the production of contemporary sculpture. Your have created many “suspended works (at present your work, “While Nothing Happens Baby“, is suspended from the high ceiling of our space) where lightness and heaviness concurred in creating a magical sculptural balance. Could you tell us what is the relation between sculpture and suspension in your artistic practice?
E.N.: It’s all about the gravity, I like to give meaning to the sculpture and to life, so on gravity field we can show the interaction of the elements, it’s structural, and invisible part of the work that generate everything. The works are happening in that moment all the time, if we lose the gravity or if it is on the floor there is no sculpture, no art any more, it needs some activation and constant energy, just to be, it happens over the time on the top of it, with it! It’s about been dead or alive, and there is always the possibility of the catastrophe. Every thing is falling, falling all the time.
Since the mid-1990s, Ernesto Neto (1964), who lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, has developed among the most widely exhibited and influential bodies of work in contemporary sculpture and installation. Neto draws influence not only from the biomorphism and Modernist abstraction of Calder and Brancusi, but equally, from the conceptual, social and performative installations of his Brazilian predecessors, Lygia Clark and Helio Oiticica. Incorporating a combination of commonplace and organic materials—stockings, spices, sand and shells among them—Neto’s works engage all five senses, inviting the visitors to interact with the artwork itself and with each other.