Creatures Made by Us1: Encounters with Ernesto Neto’s TheAnimalSusPensiveOntheLandGenscape

The texts gathered here are written from inside an experience; not critically distant but rather deeply embodied reflections describing encounters with different publics exploring the artwork by artist Ernesto Neto, oBichoSusPensoNaPaisaGen [TheAnimalSusPensiveOntheLandGenscape]. As the title suggests, the sculpture–made of crocheted nets, colored threads and hundreds of small plastic balls–was suspended. From the September 11th to October 14th, 2012, the “creature” hung from the ceiling of the old Leopoldina railway station in Rio de Janeiro, inviting visitors to walk inside its giant web. The public encounters with Neto’s work were part of a project called “Laboratório de Tear Poético” [Poetic Weaving Lab]. Together with artist educators Anita Sobar, Bernardo Zabalaga and Bianca Bernardo as well as researcher Virginia Kastrup, Neto’s sculpture was explored as a loom — loom as structure and as verb (weaving conversations, multi-sensory perceptions etc.). The aim was to give greater attention and care to the actual experience of the artwork as a suspended relational territory of the senses and as a generator of meanings, perceptions and memories.

The idea for this laboratory, here nicknamed “creatures made by us,” began with an enthusiastic conversation between Ernesto Neto and manager of his studio Carmen Riquelme, provoking the artist to think about the invisible potential of the public life of his work as another time continuum, comprising multiple creative ebbs and flows, interactions and emotions. These creative and conversational “flows” in the work of Neto happened in the context of special encounters with three different groups from Rio de Janeiro-based organizations: young people from the art and technology school and NGO, Spectaculu, blind people from the Benjamin Constant Institute, and mental health patients from Philipe Pinel Institute. Together, they became a sculpture of voices and emotions — literally a “creature made by us”– created by the loom as a metaphoric structure that enabled an experience suspended from daily life via a shared process of weaving “knots” of experiences, words and feelings.

What was “evident” in the monumental form of the work, led to the idea of a “loom” of conversation and listening, incarnated as richly experienced moments within the active living organism of the creature – experiences made by the “knots” of the artwork and by the loom of sharing multiple voices.2 Since the beginning of conversations between “us,” (artist, organizers, artist educators, and participants) we emphasized the conceptual importance of recording these “encounters” and “responses,” seeking to make visible and evident what was experienced by these diverse publics as a vital and critical dimension of the life of the artwork. The reflections of the researchers and artists that follow profoundly witness this critical engagement with the public meaning of art.

– The editors

1Translator’s note: In Portuguese “nós” means “us” but also “knots”–in this sense the “us” suggests both those proposing and those brought together through the encounter as a kind of encounter-human being-knot that also reflects the “knots” (nós) of the crocheted nets of Ernesto Neto’s installation oBichoSusPensoNaPaisaGen [TheAnimalSusPensiveOntheLandGenscape]. The use of “creatures” both refers to the title of Neto’s work and the living and organic nature of the experiences with the work – bicho is translated in the title as animal but can also mean creature, critter or bug.
2Translator’s note: The Portuguese text here plays with the terms “e-vidente” and “e-vivente,” meaning evident and experienced. “Vivente” is understood as both seen and lived in a full way. “Vivencia,” while translated here as “experience” from the Portuguese, actually conveys a more vital sense of a fully lived moment than the English word “experience” suggests.