Photo essay shot at the opening of the latest TBA21-Augarten exhibition in Vienna and the spiritual ritual in Prigglitz (Lower Austria) with Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto, the Amazonian artists, plant masters, and pajés (shamans) of the thirty-seven Jordão Huni Kuin communities.
What I personally love about projects at TBA21 is that it is never just an exhibition. This time they made it possible to feel another culture from a very remote area, that you probably will never visit. After a couple of days I spent with artists I had the feeling that I’ve been to Brazil. This experience is priceless…
With special thanks to Alexander Ehrmann.
Ernesto Neto and the Huni Kuin
Aru Kuxipa | Sacred Secret
June 25–October 25, 2015
curated by: Daniela Zyman
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary
TBA21–Augarten, Scherzergasse 1A, 1020 Vienna, Austria
Wednesday and Thursday 12—5 pm,
Friday to Sunday 12—7 pm
Open on all holidays
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Aru Kuxipa expresses the vision and dream of the Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto and the Amazonian artists, plant masters, and pajés (shamans) of the thirty-seven Jordão Huni Kuin communities to co-create a place of transformation, a zone of encounter and expression, and a site of healing away from their ancestral lands. Sanctioned by a communal decision to come to Vienna and to perform and share within the space of art the Huni Kuin’s sacred forms of expression, art, ritual, and knowledge, the exhibition traces luminous trajectories into our ‘ancestral futures.’ This encounter forged under the sign of the Huni Kuin’s Novo Mundo / Novo Tempocalls for a renewed engagement with and contribution to the world at large, a time of exchange, and a striving for indigenous self-governance and sovereignty.
The exhibition opens with Neto’s major work of 2003 from the TBA21 collection—A Gente se encontra aqui hoje, amanhã em outro lugar. Enquanto isso Deus é Deusa. Santa gravidade (We meet each other today, tomorrow in another place. In the meanwhile, God is Goddess. Saint Gravity)—fashioned from weightless pink and greenish polyamide forms suspended from the ceiling and intertwined in a voluptuous “embrace.” Here and elsewhere, today and tomorrow, the male and female principles, human and divine: all systems of duality are erased and reunited through the principles of love and union. While removing their shoes, visitors are drawn into an inner space of ritual and healing with objects, maracas, feathers, kuripe (blowpipes), kené, weavings, jiboia (snakes), some hanging from the ceiling, others laid out on tables for their use. The spiritual center of the exhibition is demarcated by KupiForesUniXawa (2015), a communal space of gathering, sheltering rituals, celebrations, and immersive contemplation.
Venerated Huni Kuin pajés and artists have participated in the preparation and initiation of the exhibition. They enter into dialogue with Neto’s artistic language through a diversity of experiences, expressions, and forms of knowledge: oral history, music, sounds, drawings, weavings, rituals, herbaria, and everyday objects.
Una Isĩ Kayawa, the “Book of Healing,” embedded diligently in the exhibition, compiles for the first time ever descriptions of the 109 plant species used by the Huni Kuin and their applications in various curative treatments. For the Huni Kuin, plant knowledge and the ontology in which it is imbedded are a mysterium tremendum, an awe-inspiring mystery that must be approached and revealed with the greatest respect and thoughtfulness.
Aru Kuxipa, conceived as Neto’s personal tribute to the Huni Kuin, unfolds as a subtle parcours, which transitions from a space of preparation and initiation to the sacred area of ritual, to a room of study and knowledge, culminating in the community’s multiple voices of myths and songs. Here Neto mobilizes a deep understanding of indigenous wisdom and tradition and the relational and perspectival nature of the Huni Kuin’s world vision. This shared journey marks a crucial extension of concerns that have been evident in his oeuvre over the past twenty years: an appreciation of the sensuality of being, the unity of bodies and nature, the celebration of life, and a search for deeper forms of union and correspondence.