Ernesto Neto has long been playing with us. He invites us to play with him and makes his work so that we can enter, interact with and be challenged by it. It is not an over-statement to say that he has done more with Lycra than any other artist. This may not sound like a compliment, but it surely is. Entering his piece The Wisdom of the Parts one feels the joy of walking into a model of the human rib cage, or in fact any mammalian ribcage. The only weakness we might feel is the adult’s aversion to childishness: by the time we near the halfway point we are forced to get low to the ground and if we finish walking through the tunnel-like form, we would be crawling on our belly to get to the end. It is a challenge that has lively metaphorical possibilities (how many times have you begun something only to realize that you have backed yourself into a corner and without full willingness for the required ‘exit strategy’?) Made out of interlocking and interchangeable plywood forms and held taut by Lycra, the outer skin is given breath by the small corpuscle-like holes and tubes Neto has sewn within it. This breath is similar to the openness in the other works (upstairs) in which Neto invites the visitors to participate and play - an invitation hindered only by maturity and our own willingness to bring along the child within us.
Images: Installation views from The Wisdom of the Parts (2008). Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.