at Park Avenue Armory
in the Upper East Side area
This event has ended - (2009-05-14 - 2009-06-14)
When you first enter the drill hall of the Park Avenue Armory to see Ernesto Neto’s “anthropodino,” it seems as though you have come across an enormous insect lair. Creeping along the floor are cavernous caterpillar-like forms. They are made of translucent fabric in powdery shades stretched tightly over skeletal wood ribs. These arch overhead, creating a membranous arcade that soars into a large dome and finally touches down again, dividing into yet more wormlike bodies. All these appear to have been birthed from the white canopy above that drips with stalactites of tulle. Both primal and precise in design, “anthropodino” evokes a house built of mammoth bones, and is therefore a creature and a body, inside and out.
A short film by the artist plays in a room adjoining the grand foyer entrance. It is titled O Sopro Criando (2009) and stars the artist himself. Neto is shown inside a room lit by a strong source of light. At the beginning of the film, the light skims across what appears to be a craggy and powdery white lunar landscape. It is not the moon however, but a large, metal oval table covered in something like talc. With his face hovering just above, and silhouetted by what is effectively a light on the horizon, Neto blows the talc from the table in fits and starts creating drips, squiggles and splotches. Sometimes, electronic sounds emphasize the staccato of his breath. In these moments it becomes easy to imagine the large installation in the drill hall as a reference to Paleolithic caves, calling attention to the relationship between the body and the experience of art as a constructive opportunity for play, rather than something instinctive. The forms of the work are there, but the rules are not, and you can thus make of it what you will.
Nesting among the arms of the caterpillar lair are a few sensorial islands. One is a high tented space with a single fat stalactite hanging down. Another is a biomorphically-shaped shag carpet that rises in little mounds that you can nestle among. There is also an open-air pool filled with plastic balls, and nearby, a pink cocoon with a padded ground. If you lie down inside it, you can put on a pillowy mask that is filled with chamomile flowers, lavender, or both. Of course, this aromatic concoction soon overwhelms and casts everything in a haze. But the haze is also conducive to allowing the notion of loosened boundaries, the idea of being a body within, through and without, to permeate the senses and let go of a more categorical sense of knowing.