Ernesto Neto & the Huni Kuin, Aru Kuxipa, Sacred Secret, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary – Augarten, Vienna

Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary –Augarten (TBA21)’s latest artist centred initiative, Aru Kuxipa, Sacred Secret, features the commissioning of interdisciplinary and unconventional projects devoted to social and environmental concerns. The immersive journey that Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto, TBA21 and the Huni Kuin people have embarked on marks a crucial extension of the themes that have been evident in Neto’s oeuvre over the past 20 years. The unique collaboration with the Huni Kuin unfolds as a pioneering experiment, establishing a zone of encounter with our “ancestral futures” and an investigation of the teachings of plants and the spiritual nature of objects.

In this new inter-disciplinary engagement, Neto utilises a deep understanding of indigenous wisdom and tradition and the relational and perspective nature of the Huni Kuin’s world vision. Aru Kuxipa transforms TBA21-Augarten into a space of secret ritual and participation alongside spiritual and ceremonial gatherings. At the centre of the exhibition, a kupixawa, an immersive space of celebration and contemplation has been designed by Neto. Members of the Huni Kuin resided in Vienna for the preparation and initiation of the exhibition and now enter into a dialogue with Neto’s artistic language through a diversity of knowledge, expressions and experiences including music.

Ritual and magic objects collected from the Huni Kuin and other indigenous Amazonian tribes, some on loan from Vienna’s renowned Weltmuseum, are presented in a display fabricated from Lycra and spiced with pepper and lavender. Neto’s new commission, combined with earlier major works by the artist from TBA21’s collection, demonstrate his long standing dedication to divine forms and engagement with an understanding of the body as part of the spiritual and material universe. Also, the artist engages with the larger political issue surrounding the recognition of the rights of the indigenous communities left in existence and the destruction of their biodiverse habitat.

In conjunction with the Livro da Cura (Book of Healing), published in Portuguese and the Hatxa Kui language in collaboration with Editora Dantes and initiated in Vienna in an English version, Aru Kuxipa engages with the large universe of indigenous knowledge which has been sidelined and exoticised for centuries, but which opens multiple entry points into a rethinking of our present moment. The Livro da Cura contains descriptions of the 109 plant species used in the therapies of the Huni Kuin and their curative properties: this ancestral knowledge and sacred spiritual philosophy are at the core of the exhibition.

Aru Kuxipa, Sacred Secret, until 25 October, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, TBA21–Augarten, Scherzergasse 1A, 1020 Vienna.

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1. Aru Kuxipa installation shot. Copyright Jens Ziehe, Vienna 2015. Courtesy of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary.