random thoughts on architecture history theory and criticism

lygia clark: between spectator and participant

Lygia Clark, Abismal Mask (1967)

my research on lygia clark has been published in thresholds 39: inertia. follow the link to download the whole issue, or read it in issuu here.


Filed under: ., clark, cv, participation,

60’s introspection

walter pichler [via la periferia domestica], isolates the individual into a world where only media comes in. lygia clark, in contrast, was interested in self-awareness and the organic. her abyss masks blindfold the participant and have bags of air weighed with stones. while clark privileges the senses, pichler isolates the participant in a world of media. so, what is up with 1968 and the obsession with self enclosure and weird sci-fi masks? [the lygia clark link leads you to another 1968 example by stelarc, who is more into prosthetics and interfaces between body and machines].

clark was influenced by the work of french phenomenologist maurice merleau-ponty, widely read in the early 1960s—particularly after he was published in english in 1962—. however, external events might have had a bigger influence. in 1964, the brazilian military staged a coup and took over the government, starting a period of repressive military dictatorship. in 1968, the dictatorship instituted the institutional act 5 (ai-5), further reducing individual freedom and increasing the power of the military. that year, clark left brazil to present her work at the venice biennial and then moved to paris. clark’s most introspective projects, the nostalgia of the body series, were made between 1964 and 1968.

in contrast, pichler [born and educated in vienna] focused his research away from the self and into a world of media and technology. his speculative drawings remind me of the work of john hejduk, particularly in their premeditated narratives. his explorations into sci-fi seem very relevant in today’s world of ipods and ipads [there’s a smile for you in that link btw]. but the similarities to hedjuk make me skeptical to his project as a warning. after all, isn’t pichler enjoying his isolation a bit too much? [in the mid-1970s pichler retreated from public life and lives in isolation, only returning to the city to exhibit and sell].

we might say that clark found refuge from repression in introspection, until she finally decided to flee [in 1968, she writes of her domestication and sounds guilty about her lack of political activism]. perhaps an example of phenomenology’s inability to cope with outside forces. but was pichler really escaping from media, or finding refuge in it? there is a dual fascination and warning in his images, and i cannot help but think that he’s actually enjoying the seduction of media and the isolation it gives him.

Filed under: ., clark, pichler,

60’s tension

in her lecture last week on cedric price’s aviary, hadas steiner mentioned in passing the relation with the work of german-architect-turned-venezuelan-artist gego. comparing both works more closely, i’m interested in the autonomy of the aviary as an object: price described it as a spring, and indeed we sense snapping any member will dissolve the contained tension and everything will collapse. yet the work is designed to be inhabited, by birds, plants, and humans. in contrast, gego’s reticularea depends very much on the room it invades, but we are meant to walk around it, not inside it, not only in terms of its scale, but because we sense it is so delicate that it might quiver at the slightest touch. and what might the museum guards say then?

personally, gego’s work reminds me more of hungarian architect yona friedman’s spatial city drawings.

friedman, by the way, still alive [see here for a recent interview!] was an influence to price: both argued they were more focused on process than on objects. friedman’s spatial city meant to provide a framework for individual participation in building their own environment. in a way, this project has qualities of both price and gego- it is inhabited like the aviary but not autonomous, it depends on its surroundings for support like the reticularea but has a degree of intended rigidity that can stand for objects to populate it, hang on to it, inhabit it.

ps. how could i forget lygia clark’s mandala, 1969:

pps. and literally, “right after”—eva hesse, 1969:

Filed under: ., clark, friedman, gego, hesse, price,

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