I don’t know if Tunga –who was apparently at the inception of Inhotim, having advised Bernardo Paz to create a museum– is “the best” artist here, and this kind of rankings are never very interesting: nevertheless, I felt that his two pavilions stand above the rest. The main one is a large structure, open on the forest, with a dozen oversized red hammocks connecting the building with the trees. In a central vault, one of Tunga’s films is on view; everything else is bathed by daylight, animated by a soft breeze, or entertained by a few raindrops. The superb installation that I saw at the Louvre eleven years ago is here, staging a confrontation of two worlds, accompanied by several works inspired by organic fluids (sometimes reminiscent of Chen Zhen’s artworks), such as Frascos expandidos from 2009 (featured below).
Tunga’s other pavilion, True Rouge, is a glazed structure on the shore of a small lake. Red jellyfishes filled with some viscous liquid are suspended inside of it like marionettes: a very convincing piece, organic and symbolic, mysterious and unsettling, dark though bathed in light.
Erected on a hilltop, Doug Aitken’s cylindrical pavilion is similarly aerial and bright. The artist had a 200m-deep hole dug in the ground, with microphones at the bottom of it picking up the sounds of the earth: telluric sounds, chthonian noises, echoes from the nearby mines… In such a pure and straightforward pavilion, we can linger and wait for the sun to set on the surrounding mountains, meditating, listening to these unfamiliar sounds that resonate in us uncannily, like our own heartbeat, or our soon-to-be-born child’s –a one-of-a-kind experience. Less surprising, but equally captivating, Dan Graham’s small structure sits on the shore: a circle within a triangle, which challenges our eyes in distinguishing what’s inside from what’s outside.
This is where transparency ends, however. The rest is nothing but concrete and obscurity: at worst, ordinary museum rooms; at best, dark caves untouched by daylight. Luckily, interesting artworks abound in such somber bunkers. In the darkness of a white diamond-shaped building seemingly hermetic, Lygia Pape presents oblique columns made of air, barely delineated by circular iron wires, intersected by columns made of light: a silent and fragile artwork of uncertain yet rigorous lightness, and whose appearance changes as we move. In a similarly hermetic pavilion, Hélio Oiticica and Neville d’Almeida have designed five dark corridors made of slate and dark velvet, each leading to a room dedicated to a (presumed) cocaine user. Yoko Ono’s room includes a foam mattress to jump on; Marilyn Monroe’s displays balls and sand under a plastic sheet; Jimmy Hendrix’s has hammocks to lounge in comfortably while watching his live performances; John Cage’s features a swimming pool (open to the visitors) and a prepared piano; as for the fifth room, Trashiscapes, it was closed. Evidently, what matters here are the spectator’s involvement, the interaction between the visitor and the artwork, and the abolition of all that separates life from art., But, for me, such ambitions are more or less contradicted by the closed-off architecture and the scenography, reminiscent of a Holy-of-Holies here as well.
Adriana Varejâo –a muse of sorts for Inhotim– has replicated some of her installations in another apparently airtight pavilion: cutting open some inner walls and having bloody guts pour out, putting up strictly geometrical sauna walls, and creating tiles featuring hallucinogenic plants and exotic birds. But her most striking artwork is the “tsunami-provoking cœlacanth,” made of 184 tiles (that actually are painted canvasses). Assembled in random order, they are supposed to represent a tsunami with undulating curves and unfurling waves, and mulatto cherubs pop up here and there, struck down by the wave (bringing to mind this church in Olinda where Portuguese azulejos were put together randomly), creating an absurd and surreal collage.
Photos by Lunettes rouges except Lygia Pape’s.
Original publication date by Lunettes rouges: October 4, 2016.
Translation by Lucas Faugère