YAYA KUI ARA NAIA

Images by Consuelo Bassanesi & Miguel Keerveld

His work is possessed by entities of the spider: naia as known in Brazil. In connecting with Ernesto Neto, I am taken away… No! I just fell in love; many times in that one conversation while at his studio in downtown Rio de Janeiro. This amazing Brazilian artist is internationally well known for his sculptures popping up on different altitudes of the earth. I guess, he surely is favorite by Mama Aisa (or Pacha Mama as Earth spirit is known in parts of Spanish speaking America). When Neto explains the entangling of the phrase yaya kui ara naia in one of his artworks, I could not else but think of our planet.

Weaving connects Neto with his grandmother, his mother and at least one aunty. Weaving also is the performance of anansi (naia’s spirit in Surinamese context). To my sense, a representation of cosmic knowledge. Neto’s child dream relates to astronomy; thus no wonder anansi’s spirit feels home in his practice. In one instance in conversation with Neto, I learn that the same object appears as feminine in one position and masculine in another. My harvest is that anansi not only connects, more fascinating is that its gender appears in multi-complex vibrations. As these vibrations dance on the gravity-material relation, they find other ways of performing biology. How Neto sees the world and interacts with gravity varies on how he uses technology and relates to several materials in constellations as well in his sculptures. Neto opens my eyes on the art of sculpting, transforming my vision of performance that it too can appear as almost completely static. In fact, in this stillness I sense a pursuit to decolonize and dehumanize contemporary art at its core.

I became aware: it’s the dehumanizing aspect in artwork that fascinates me. In different explorations on Brazilian art and artists since I first visited Brazil in 2012, the performance artist Berna Reale caught my attention instantly. Later on, I was left speachless by Neto’s work. While listening to his narration full of passion, memories of interaction with his sculptures in 2019 at Museum Pinacoteca, São Paulo, appeared as fresh on my mind.

It sure is magical. At the same time, Neto’s work is specific, easy to read and clear to get. However complex, no need for abstract languages that could divide his spectators into those that can read it as intellectuals and those who remain illiterate in the sense of contemporary art. Of course an inspiration to take on in my reflective time at Despina.

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