A tactile collaboration from Brazil ✿ Ernesto Neto and Ibã Sales


20 February 2019

We hear grim news from Brazil with the election of its right-wing politician Bolsenero and new policies that reduce rights for Indigenous peoples and open up more of the Amazon to development. So it’s refreshing to share a story of an artistic collaboration between a Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto and Huni Kuin artist Ibã Sales.

Ernesto Neto has been working with shamans since a show at Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, in 2014. In 2015, he built a Huni Kuin meeting house for the exhibition “Aru Kuxipa | Secret Sacred” at Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA 21). His work includes a suspended installation for visitors to walk through which takes the form of a serpent, evoking the boa constrictor and ayahuasca in Huni Kuin cosmology. 

In a recent chapter, Goldstein and Labate describe the scene:

This penetrable space, filled with light colors, with seating on the floor, and the smell of carnations, provided a rich sensory and bodily experience. The gallery took the form of a boa constrictor, with the entrance through its mouth. The fabric hem surrounding the boa was lined with colored bottle tops that made a sound like a seed rattle as people brushed past, like the one suspended in the center of the boa-tent. Colored bottle tops also formed a maraca gourd rattle on a curved marble table on which a bottle of ayahuasca was placed. 

Ilana Seltzer Goldstein & Beatriz Caiuby Labate. 2018. “From the Forest to the Museum: Notes on the Artistic and Spiritual Collaboration between Ernesto Neto and the Huni Kuin.” In The Expanding World. Ayahuasca Diaspora, edited by Labate Cavnar. London: Routledge.

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