Performance Artist – Lygia Clark

Lygia Clark

Brazilian Artist- Installation Art, Visual Art, NeoConcrete, Sculpture, durational art

“We do not conceive of the work of art either as a ‘machine’ or as an ‘object’ but as a quasi-corpus,” wrote critic Feirrera Gullar in the “Manifesto Neoconcreto,” published in 1959.1 The notion that the work of art was more like a body than a discrete object was a radical idea that led many Brazilian artists to embrace the viewer’s subjective experience as the main criterion in art making. Brazilian artist Lygia Clark, a co-signer of the manifesto, alongside other Brazilian artists such as Lygia Pape and Willys de Castro, wanted to transform art making in a way that emphasized how an artwork is experienced in space and time. Though Clark’s official membership in the Neo-concrete group only lasted several months, she spent the rest of her career exploring the possibilities of how viewers relate to art.

Clark began her career painting in a geometric abstract style of Concretismo, as evident in her work Planes in a Modulated Surface (1956). In officially breaking with this earlier style by signing the “Manifesto Neoconcreto,” Clark shifted her practice to consider the artwork as an experience or body that interacts with the viewer. Cocoon no. 2 (1959) abandons the rectangular, two-dimensional canvas support, instead offering a three-dimensional arrangement of black and white planes in space. In “The Death of the Plane,” Clark writes, “that shattered rectangle, we swallowed it, we absorbed it…. Demolishing the plane as support of expression is to gain awareness of unity as a living and organic whole.”2 She took this idea further with a sculptural series that she called bichos (critters). These movable metal sculptures have no fixed orientation; they are experienced through handling from three-dimensional planes to flat reliefs, as in Sundial (1960). Clark thought of works like Poetic Shelter (1964) as animal-like or organic entities that shared space with spectators through metamorphosis.

Clark’s practice transformed again in 1963, when she staged one of her first proposições (propositions), called Caminhando (Walking), wherein she demonstrated cutting a Möbius strip out of paper. She invited others to participate, turning the artwork into the action of transforming the paper. “Caminhando is only a potential,” Clark wrote in 1964. “You and it will form a reality that will be unique, total, existential. No separation between subject-object.”3 After Caminhando, Clark created the Nostalgia do Corpo (Nostalgia of the Body)—a series of soft sculptures and sensorial objects that activated participants’ bodily awareness. In 1964, as Brazil was overtaken by a military dictatorship and entered a period of severe censorship, Clark’s propositions blurred the boundaries between art and experience, viewer and artist, the body and its environment. “We are the proposers: we bury ’the work of art’ as such,” Clark declared in 1968. (MoMa)

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