Fillip

Fillip 11 — Spring 2004

Interdisciplinarity 
& Participation 
in Contemporary Brazilian Art
Renato Rodrigues da Silva

In 1959, Brazilian poet and critic Ferreira 
Gullar published the “Neoconcrete Manifesto” 
in Jornal do Brasil, articulating and giving voice to a five-year-old dissidence against Concretism.1 
The document was co-signed by artists Amílcar de Castro, Franz Weissmann, Lygia Clark, and Lygia Pape as well as poets Reynaldo Jardim and Theon Spanudis. Soon after its publication, Aluísio Carvão, Décio Vieira, Hélio Oiticica, Hércules Barsotti, Willys de Castro, and others joined the movement. Until the mid 1960s, they systematically transformed contemporary Brazilian art, producing a formidable number of new formulations that continue to resonate in contemporary practices, perhaps as a result of their original radicalism and innovation.

If Neoconcretism had begun as a critique of concrete rationality—in an attempt to ground art in phenomenology—its last phase was characterized by free experimentation in the expanded field of culture. Thanks to this movement, interdisciplinarity and the participation of the observer were introduced into Brazilian art and ultimately became accepted practices, which engendered revolutionary experiments exemplified in early iterations of environmental art, institutional critique, body art, and performance, sometimes years before their appearance in American and European contexts. Neoconcretism’s contribution is thus significant within the history of contemporary art and should also be addressed in postcolonial studies.2

We now celebrating over fifty years of Neoconcretism, but rather than look back at the movement with the paralyzing eyes of a neophyte, let us approach this legacy with the purpose of creating new and unexpected formulations—the task is one of appropriation. However, the reception of Neoconcretism today still echoes ideas first developed by Gullar in the late 1950s—ideas that were essentially formalist in nature, which, 
as a consequence, overlooked the interdisciplinarity developed by this movement and disregarded its social context. In this article, I would like to more fully examine Neoconcretism, arguing that it cannot be understood on formal terms alone as it sheltered many different kinds of projects that eventually came to define the mainstream of contemporary Brazilian art.

Lygia Clark’s Organic Line Abstractionism was introduced in Brazil in the late 1940s, but its introduction differed from that of other countries. American Abstract Expressionism did not dominate the local art circuit at that time because the critic Mario Pedrosa exerted perhaps the most significant influence on young artists through various activities, such as promoting constructivism through the São Paulo Biennial, facilitating an exchange with European and Argentinean avant-gardes, and organizing international exhibitions. Led by Waldemar Cordeiro, these emerging artists founded the Rupture Group in São Paulo, in 1952, wholeheartedly subscribing to Max Bill’s version of Concretism.3 Eventually, the association of Brazilian culture with the Superior School of Form at Ulm (Germany) was not improbable: whereas the former was implementing an ambitious program of economic development, the latter was participating in the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. Both countries were developing their economies as a way of overcoming historical difficulties.

The Rupture Group gave a new direction to Brazilian art: instead of emphasizing national identity, its artists tried to bridge the gap between art and industry, so that the work could be adjusted to the requirements of rapid industrialization. To achieve this goal, they employed primary colours and geometric elements, which were visually organized according to Gestalt psychology. By 1948, Pedrosa had already adapted this theory to the study of art—perhaps for the first time worldwide, launching a trend in the field of art history.4 Concrete artists were, thus, well prepared to create new visual parameters for an emerging industrial society, but their works were ultimately characterized by an extreme visual rationalization in an attempt to illustrate the laws of form (the pregnancy of form, figure, and ground opposition, etc).

Despite the widespread influence of this approach, Lygia Clark developed a different investigation. Living in Rio de Janeiro City, she was not influenced by Rupture Group activities as other artists were, and her participation in this movement became secondary to her concept of the “organic line,” which she created in 1954, affirming that “the artist could also research in function of the lines that I will name ‘organic,’ functional lines of doors, mends of cloths, etc., to modulate an entire surface,” since “the plastic problem is simply to value or devalue this line”.5 Clark based this concept on functional elements, realizing that the connection between a closed door and its architectural frame produces a subtle spatial line—but when the door is open, this line disappears in the context of contrasting elements. She then noticed that the weak visuality of the organic line hides a material reality that could be used for expressive purposes.

Clark’s discovery played a major role in the development of contemporary Brazilian art. The organic line refused the pure visual parameters of Concretism, advocating a new artistic approach—indeed it could not perform a projective function, displaying instead the material characteristics of the real. After reflecting on this concept, the artist produced an astonishing series of experiments: Discovery of the Organic Line (1954), Destruction of the Frame (1954), Maquette for Interior Design (1955), Modulated Surface (1955–56), Plans in Modulated Surface (1956–57), Modulated Space (1958–59), Unity (1959), Counter-Relief (1959), 
_Cocoon_ (1959), Beast (1960), and Trailing (1963).

This was perhaps Clark’s most creative phase, which followed in a sequence of achievements. After incorporating the frame into her work (Discovery of the Organic Line and Destruction of the Frame), she explored the expressive possibilities of the organic line (Maquette for Interior Design, Modulated Surface, Plans in Modulated Surface, Modulate Space, and Unity), extending its influence beyond the object to include the gallery wall as a meaningful element. During this beginning stage of Neoconcretism, however, the artist still aimed at producing an autonomous work. The palpable paradox for Clark could be explained through the notion of organic expression. For her, “the expressive reality of our epoch is sculpture taking this total expressive signification and the surface expressing itself in this living totality”.6 Consequently, a material surface and space expanded the possibility of expression in painting and sculpture, respectively.

In Counter Relief and Cocoon, Clark developed new parameters. According to her, the plane of the painting was now dead, since it served to accommodate traditional compositions. Nonetheless, the same did not happen to pictorial surface, if it were declared flat. The artist soon noticed that the back of the surface should also be activated. But this activation belonged to the realm of sculpture, which she believed should produce a total expressive space. Thus, Clark understood sculpture through the means of painting—a contradiction that remained at the core of her work. She eventually connected both media in Counter Relief and Cocoon, and the organic line allowed the reversible transformation of two into three-dimensional elements. Therefore, her practice became interdisciplinary, defined by her steady efforts at expressing real space through the activation of the surface.

Inspired by Gullar’s Book-Poems (1959), Clark achieved this goal in Beast. Based on a system of hinged metal plates (which derived from organic line), the sculpture presents a set of variable forms that the observer ultimately defines—such that each time he or she moves these plates, the piece acquires a different form. For the artist: “each Beast has its own circuit of movements that reacts to the subject’s stimuli. It is not composed of independent and static forms, which may be handled at will and indefinitely as in a game. On the contrary: its parts are functionally connected as in a true organism and the movement of these parts is interdependent”.7 In this way, the spectator abandons any passive attitude, participating in the work directly, and this characteristic would become fundamental to the development of Neoconcretism.

In Beast, however, there are various contradictions: the first is established between its surface and real space; the second, between its moving plates and the static forms of the sculpture; and the third, between the object and the subject, which alternate between moments of activity and aesthetic contemplation. These contradictions were solved in Clark’s proposition Trailing, which is based on the form of a Möbius strip; its topological surface having one continuous side formed by linking the ends of a rectangular band, which is twisted at an angle of 180 degrees at one end—and the imaginary movement that goes along one side of the strip soon reaches its back to finally return to the original position. The proposition of the work takes shape in the artist’s instructions to intervene; “take a pair of scissors, stick one point into the surface and cut continuously along the length of the strip. Take care not to converge with the pre-existing cut—which will cause the band to separate into two pieces”.8

In Trailing, Clark solved the “dualistic relation of man and Beast,” since participation became essential. The continuous, yet indistinct, organic line produced by the pair of scissors also blurred the differences between the movement of the plates and the static work, stressing the gesture of cutting itself. Moreover, this gesture nullified the circumstantial opposition between the sides of the strip, and what was the result of a progression became “a single type of duration: the act. The act is what produces Trailing. There is nothing before, nothing after”.9 Therefore, the artist activated the surface and its back simultaneously, incorporating the characteristics of painting and sculpture into a totally expressive object, which required the involvement of the observer. In truth, she consummated the specific nature of both media at the same time that her gesture collapsed their distinctions into the supporting material, projecting Trailing as the quintessential modernist work—one that signifies not only the synthesis of previous art, but also the beginning of something completely new in Western art.

Thus, Clark’s materialization of this modernist work also meant its dissolution in the creative experience. Because the Möbius strip “breaks with our spatial habits: right/left, front/back, etc.,”“10”:#note10 it suggests that the differentiation between painting and sculpture is simply irrelevant as regards to this proposition. In fact, the line produced in the act of cutting the strip is “a totality in the process of forming,”“11”:#note11 meaning that the work disappears as soon as the experience finishes, leaving nothing but indexical marks behind—effectively, Trailing is just the material experience of its making. Years before the post-minimalists began using soft materials, Clark was already addressing the formless. From this moment on, her interdisciplinary approach acquired an anarchic tone, as she combined art with other social practices.

Ferreira Gullar and Neoconcretism

Clark’s works were so revolutionary at the 
time that they might have gone unnoticed, even despite the fact that the Rio de Janeiro avant-garde did not strictly follow the parameters laid out by the Rupture Group. The difference between the two groups, the Rupture Group and Neoconcretism, finally surfaced during the First National Exhibition of Concrete Art, which was initially held at the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo in 1956. Outraged by Ivan Serpa’s scandalous use of brown in his paintings, Waldemar Cordeiro, from the Rupture Group, wrote a newspaper article about the divergences regarding concrete postulates: “the difference [between the two groups] is deeper than it seems at first sight. 
It deals, in effect, not only with distinct ways of materializing the artwork, but also of conceiving art and its relationships”.12

Ferreira Gullar’s definitive answer response to Cordeiro came in 1958, when he analyzed Clark’s early work, separating it from Concretism. The article, “Lygia Clark: A Radical Experience (1954–1958),” was originally written as a review of her exhibition at Folhas Art Gallery, São Paulo, becoming an important element in the construction of the new group’s identity. In this article, Gullar articulates Clark’s notions of surface and organic line—with its variations conveying senses of time and space—understood as central points of the artist’s investigation since they incorporated all plastic elements into a meaningful totality. Based on these characteristics, the critic reviewed Clark’s output, underlining the phases through which she incorporated the frame into the painting and stressed its bi-dimensionality. According to Gullar, the artist aimed at the materialization of an immanent painting.

This analysis of Clark’s works, however, was largely formalist. In effect, Gullar understood modern art through the idea that painting had reached a stage of radical autonomy, clarifying that its “semantic isolation” could be either linked to the “vast context of the signs and archaic, primitive, or oriental scriptures,” or materially incorporated into other spheres of life. For Gullar, Clark’s work should “confer meaning upon a new space—the space that the canvas, the surface, now isolated semantically and materially, revealed”.13 In this perspective, Clark’s interdisciplinary practice (with its paradoxical attachment to artistic media) was neglected in favour of an “evolutive overview.” This would become a point of contention between Gullar and Clark in the near future—one that would determine the end of their close association.

At that moment, nonetheless, they were both very busy gathering future participants for Neoconcretism. In the beginning of 1959, Gullar organized the First Exhibition of Neoconcrete Art, held at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro—an exhibition that traveled to Salvador City (in Northeast Brazil) later on that year. In the well thought-out Neoconcrete Manifesto, the critic founded a new movement, specifying its constructivist origins, outlining the critical differences between Neoconcretism and Concretism, and providing the theoretical bases of a new art. For him, Concretism “has succumbed to a dangerous hypertrophy of rationalism,” but if the work “transcends its mechanical relations (such as Gestalt psychology objectifies them), it’s through the creation of an implicit meaning (Merleau-Ponty), which emerged by itself for the first time”.14

Although Gullar grounded this manifesto in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, he reinterpreted the movement’s most important elements after Clark’s practice. Therefore, he gave a theoretical treatment to the notions of expression and organicism, implicitly promoting the artist’s work as a model for other neoconcrete artists. The critic understood that the constructivists—such as Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich, Josef Albers, and Pevsner, among others—overcame those “mechanical relations” to affirm expression as the meaning of their works. The emphasis on expression as an aesthetic element pointed out the radical treatment given to the autonomy of the work, which was grasped as a “living organism.” This notion also became crucial to the movement, but what seemed a return to an old aesthetics developed into an unforeseen experimentalism.

In 1959, Gullar launched another manifesto in Jornal do Brasil_—this newspaper became the mouthpiece of the movement—introducing important theoretical and ideological variations. Published as a separate booklet, the _Theory of the Non-Object is a personal and provocative statement, dealing with the possibilities of artistic expression after the exhaustion of traditional categories. He wrote: “what the artist seeks in painting and sculpture is primary experience of the world, but painting (or sculpture) is already a preconceived world that needs to be surpassed.” At this time, the critic grasped the crisis of modern art as a formal impasse that could only be dismissed through a new type of object, the non-object, that is, “a body that is transparent to the phenomenological knowledge, integrally perceptible, which gives itself to perception without trace. It is a pure appearance”.15

According to Gullar, the artist should abandon traditional artistic media, aiming at a pure, disembodied expression, something that would come before all cultural formations, and that would eventually make them possible. In practical terms, however, the non-object responded not only to the crisis of modern art, but also to the crisis of his poetic production, which was reaching a similar impasse. In keeping with Clark’s account, he said that the poetic “construction does not have any sense since it was only the condition created so that the word could reveal itself as pure poetic expression”.16 With this interpretation of phenomenology, Gullar’s Theory of the Non-Object was not received so unanimously as his previous manifesto.

The debates around the concept of the non-object provoked different reactions, which varied from partisanship to strategic indifference. Despite any political polarization, Clark defended her interdisciplinary investigation clearly: “other categories might appear, as it happened with collage, but it does not mean that this [the non-object] is the end of the existing categories.” Besides dismissing Gullar’s historical determinism, the artist also concluded: “I have contributed a proper dynamic to the expression [of sculpture], introducing a sense of our epoch, which is new without any doubt”.17 Thus, the non-object did not necessarily signal the complete transformation of visual art, but rather offered it a new artistic category.

Despite intense debate, Gullar produced various experimental propositions during this time. He also took part in the organization of the Second Exhibition of Neoconcrete Art, which was held at the Ministry of Education headquarters, Rio de Janeiro, in 1960. Along with former participants, the show included other artists from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, revealing the extraordinary development of Brazilian art. The following year, the São Paulo Biennial organized the Neoconcrete Exhibition—the last collective manifestation of the movement, which would continue only through individual contributions until the mid-1960s.

Experimentalism

During its short existence, Neoconcretism engendered different experimentations. In fact, it revealed a diversity of approaches that still needs to be properly addressed in critical terms. Along with artworks derived from traditional media—which were completely renewed—neoconcrete artists formulated interdisciplinary propositions, incorporating dance, book making, graphic design, poetry, spatial installations, appropriations, public interventions, and performances into visual art. In addition, they also elaborated new concepts and practical notions to deal with their output, and, ultimately, their discussions inaugurated contemporary art in Brazil.

In 1985, critic Ronaldo Brito published an important essay on Neoconcretism, emphasizing the existence of two trends: that the movement’s first group of artists valued the basic parameters of constructivism, working to maintain both the specificity and autonomy of the work, as a way of furnishing qualitative information to Brazil’s growing industry. For him, Willys de Castro, Franz Weissmann, Hércules Barsotti, Aluísio Carvão, and Amilcar de Castro (at least partially) shared these concerns. However, the second trend of 
this movement, “consciously or not, operated in a way of dismissing the constructivist postulates (Oiticica, Clark, Pape), producing, above all, a dramatization of the work of art, an action 
in the sense of transforming its functions, its reasons for being, which questioned the current status of art”.18

Brito’s essay represents a breakthrough, since he first studied Neoconcretism in critical and historical terms. However, some aspects of his analysis are questionable. Even after mentioning that some neoconcrete artists worked to “transform the functions of the work of art,” he concluded that both trends “were specially afraid to lose the specificity (and the ‘aura’) of the work”.19 Looking back, it is rather difficult to concur with this affirmation and, suffice it to say, a great part of the neoconcrete effort was based on an attempt to overcome the requirements and restraints of specific media—Oiticica’s and Clark’s works are exemplary in this regard. Thus, the critic evaluated this movement through a disguised yet efficient formalism—a formalism that managed to absorb the critique of the institution made by conceptual art of the 1970s.

As regards the first trend, it is also rather difficult to agree with the classification of Willys de Castro’s works. Effectively, a typical Active Object (1959–65) comprises a wooden structure (covered with painted canvas) that is hung on the wall like any regular painting: its evident tri-dimensionality, thus, contrasts with the flatness of the frontal surface. Based on this arrangement, the observer perceives the alternation of visual and tactile registers, understanding that the object (critically) deconstructs its complex regime of signification. As a consequence, these works activate painting and sculpture, materializing another interdisciplinary experiment.

A last comment should be made: Brito did not consider the artistic collaborations of the movement as a sign that a deep transformation was taking place. Not only did the poets create visual propositions themselves, but also worked together with artists, hybridizing categories to establish new operational unities. For instance, Gullar created a series of Spatial Poems (1959), connecting poetry to the visual arts. His poem Remember (1959) is composed of this single word placed under a small wooden block painted blue—the observer is then invited to raise the block to read the poem. Afterwards, he designed the Buried Poem (1959), which was eventually installed in Oiticica’s home. It consisted of an underground chamber that exhibited a red open-bottomed cube. Inside it, there was a smaller green cube that accommodated a third one, this one white and solid. After lifting them, the observer read the word “rejuvenate,” which was printed over a mirrored surface placed on the floor. Thus, Gullar created the first installation of Brazilian art.

After this installation, however, their collaboration ended in disagreement, which sheds some light on another aspect of the non-object. In the early 1960s, Gullar did not support the production of experimental artworks anymore because they would have supposedly become too restrictive—his was a position of no return. He then invited Oiticica to install explosives in their artworks aiming at their destruction one hour after the opening of an upcoming exhibition. Of course, the artist dismissed this gesture, perhaps because he was attached to the manufacture of objects. Yet, the anecdote reveals Gullar’s belief that the work was an anachronism and that the perceptual circuit was almost a hindrance.

The last phase of Neoconcretism prioritized the involvement of the observer, which led to the development of participatory strategies. As we have seen, Clark, for instance, proposed Beast and Trailing, which required the direct manipulation of the work. Lygia Pape also created collective experiments that were essentially participatory. Her Neoconcrete Ballet (1959) became revolutionary, as she indirectly focussed on the body of the observer for the first time in Brazilian art. The artist enacted a play about the integration/disintegration of abstract forms, placing the participants behind geometric planes that moved according to sounds and beams of coloured lights. (It is worth noting here that Robert Morris also formulated a similar performance in the early 1960s.)

Oiticica’s famous Parangolé (1964–79) took the concept of participation to a new level. Although it presented different forms, the most important version was based on a cloak or cape, which he invited the participant to wear. During the mid 1960s, Oiticica made a series of Parangolé interventions at Favela da Mangueira (which was a slum located in Rio de Janeiro’s periphery) and at the Museum of Modern Art. In these collective performances, he systematically changed places with the other participants, becoming a samba dancer of that community, whereas his friends—who were originally samba dancers—became artists themselves. As a result, his initial invitation to participate in an experimental proposition acquired psychological, social, and semiotic connotations.20

Interdisciplinarity, Participation, & Politics

The practices of interdisciplinarity and participation are the most important legacies of Neoconcretism to contemporary Brazilian art, which is known in the international art circuit because of its relentless experimentalism. During the 1970s and 1980s, Antônio Dias, Rubens Gerchman, Carlos Vergara, Cildo Meireles, Artur Barrio, and Antonio Manuel, among others, followed the movement, but transformed these practices as a response to the military dictatorship that dominated Brazil for more than twenty years, closing the national congress, persecuting politicians, and killing important leftist activists. Although these artists were influenced by conceptual art, they frequently addressed the political, cultural, and social contexts of their country, and their achievements materialized a unique combination of experimentalism and social critique, which unfortunately is still not recognized as such by Brazilian critics.

A famous example of this political engage-ment is Cildo Meireles’s Red Shift (1967–84): 
an installation produced during the dictatorship that places a disturbing critique of the worst of this situation.21 Through the architectural space and the involvement of the spectator (who was invited to walk through a succession of three rooms just to meet a cul-de-sac, a dark area where a skewed sink constantly spilled a red liquid), the artist created a metaphor for blood and crime. Despite the unequivocal meaning of this metaphor, which commented on the tragic disappearance of a well-known political prisoner, the protest was never recognized as such by local art criticism. It is not that Brazilians critics were politically reactionary, but they could not see the content of this artistic statement—ultimately, they could not see that Meireles joined art and life, abstractionism and representation, and experimentalism and politics, in a way that is still disturbing today, even if the country has experienced an unfolding democratization for years.

More recently, artist Ricardo Basbaum’s work shows evidence of Oiticica and Clark’s deep influence, activating a political project that differs from those of the previous generation. In the late 1980s, he organized the project New Bases for Personality—or NBP project—which is a set of procedures that involve the construction of installations (based on penetrable unities), the enactment of performances, the organization of interventions, the shooting and editing of videos, the composition of diagrams, and the invitation to participate in experimental propositions (with the NBP object). Additionally, the artist writes critical essays and plans exhibitions. In this truly interdisciplinary program, art and life are not separated, since his experimentation is based on several activities as a way of producing corrosive critical contents.

Since the late 1990s, Basbaum has developed a series of performances entitled You & Me as part of the NBP project.22 In this work, the artist usually establishes the rules of a hypothetical game and invites a group of people to wear two sets of sport jerseys displaying the personal pronouns “you” and “me.” Although these participants follow his instructions (including the pronunciation of specific words, playing with soccer balls, or moving along marks on the ground), they also enjoy some freedom of action and their gestures are programmatically opened to contextual interferences. Whereas Oiticica’s Parangolé implicitly produced an exchange of identities, the same outcome now surfaces in Basbaum’s proposition, because the reversibility of gestures unveils the fact that the subject (“me”) is always shifting positions with other participants (“you”). In this sense, Basbaum shows that the transformation of neoconcrete parameters is the best way to keep the movement alive.

Today, the continuation of the neoconcrete project (which is currently modified by new social and cultural requirements) reveals an experimentalism that is still based on interdisciplinarity and participation. Although this experimentalism is surviving truly adverse conditions,“23”:#note23 it is the greatest contribution of Brazil to Western art. We should make all efforts to preserve its inherent complexities, stressing its paradoxical origins in a constructivist movement—perhaps, the history of Neoconcretism should be rewritten. But if the space of contemporary art is one of alterity, the affirmation of the aesthetic idiosyncrasies of this movement beyond any formalist misreading is a political gesture that deserves our commitment.

Notes
  1. See Ferreira Gullar, “Neoconcrete Manifesto,” Jornal do Brasil, March 22, 1959. An English translation of this document was published under the title “1959: Neo-concretist Manifesto,” October 69 (Summer 1994), 91–95.
  2. The contribution of Neoconcretism to contemporary art shows that critical discourses based on traditional divisions between centre and periphery, metropolis and hinterland, first and third worlds are no longer valid. Thus, this contribution should be addressed by a new theoretical approach to the problem of culture, one that is proposed in postcolonial studies.
  3. In this article, the term “constructivism” means the general trend of geometric abstractionism that was born in Europe in the beginning of the twentieth century and spread throughout the world, reaching Latin America in the late 1940s. In Brazil, this international trend was represented by Max Bill’s Concretism, which was characterized by an extreme concern about the formal elements of the artwork. On Brazilian constructivism, see Aracy Amaral, Projeto Construtivo Brasileiro na Arte, 1950–62, exh. cat. (Rio de Janeiro/ São Paulo: Museu de Arte Moderna of Rio de Janeiro/Pinacoteca do Estado 
de São Paulo, 1977).
  4. Then, the critic wrote the essay “On the Affective Nature of the Work of Art,” which became extremely important for Brazilian abstractionism. On this article, see Mário Pedrosa, Arte/ Forma e Personalidade (São Paulo: Editora Kairós, 1979).
  5. Lygia Clark, Lygia Clark, exh cat (Barcelona/ Marseille/ Porto/ Brussels/ Rio de Janeiro: Antoni Tàpies Foundation/ MAC Contemporary Galleries/ Serralves Foundation/ Pallais de Beaux Arts Society/ Paço Imperial: 1997), 72.
  6. Ibid., 140.
  7. Ibid., 121.
  8. Lygia Clark, “Nostalgia of the Body,” October, no. 69 (Summer 1994), 99. The full instructions are as follows: Make yourself a Trailing: you take the band of paper wrapped arround a book, you cut it open, you twist it, and you glue it back together so as to produce a Möbius strip. Take a pair of scissors, stick one point into the surface and cut continuously along the length of the strip. Take care not to converge with the preexisting cut—which will cause the band to separate into two pieces. When you have gone the circuit of the strip, it’s up to you whether to cut to the left or to the right of the cut you’ve already made. The idea of choice is capital. The unique meaning of this experience is in the act of doing it. The work is your act alone. To the extent that you cut the strip, it refines and redoubles itself into interlacings. At the end the path is so narrow that you can’t open it further. It’s the end of the trail.
  9. Ibid., 99.
  10. Ibid., 99.
  11. Ibid., 100.
  12. Waldemar Cordeiro, “Teoria e Prática do Concretismo Carioca,” Amaral, Projeto Construtivo Brasileiro na Arte, 1950–1962, 134.
    13. Ferreira Gullar, “Lygia Clark: A Radical Experience (1954–1958),” The Neoconcrete Experiment—A Watershed in Art (São Paulo: Cosac Naify Edições, 2007), 140 and 141, respectively.
    14. Ferreira Gullar, “Neoconcrete Manifesto,” October, 91 and 93, respectively.
    15. Ferreira Gullar, “The Theory of the Non-Object,” The Neoconcrete Experiment—A Watershed in Art, 148 and 142, respectively.
    16. Lygia Clark, Lygia Clark, 141.
    17 Ibid., 140.
    18. Ronaldo Brito, Neoconcretismo: Vértice e Ruptura do Projeto Construtivo Brasileiro (Rio de Janeiro: FUNARTE, 1985), 51.
    19. Ibid.
    20. On the Parangolé, see Renato Rodrigues da Silva, “Hélio Oiticica’s Parangolés or the Art of Transgression,” Third Text 19 (May 2005), 213–31.
    21. On the installation Red Shift, see Dan Cameron, “Desvio para o Vermelho,” Cildo Meireles, Cildo Meireles, exh. cat. (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1999), 82–93.
    22. On the NBP project, see Renato Rodrigues da Silva, “Ricardo Basbaum, the NBP Object, and Four Verbs,” Border Crossings 109 (February 2009), 56–63.
    23. On October 16, 2009, Hélio Oiticica’s works were destroyed as fire ravaged a storage facility in the home of the artist’s brother in Rio de Janeiro. Although the destruction of this collection was not as severe as the media initially represented, the incident reveals the difficulties of preservation of this artistic tradition.
About the Author

Renato Rodrigues da Silva holds a PhD in art history from the University of Texas at Austin. He has written largely on contemporary Brazilian art, publishing articles in Third Text, Leonardo Journal, Word & Image, and Border Crossings, among others. He is currently writing a book on neoconcretism for the University of Texas Press. He is also a curator and recently organized the 10th Northwest Biennial for the Tacoma Art Museum.

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