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Ernesto Neto weaves a tribute to the Huni Kuin people of Brazil in Helsinki

Artist Ernesto Neto is paying tribute to the indigenous Huni Kuin people of Brazil’s Acre state some 11,000 km away from their home. For his first solo show in Finland – at Helsinki’s Kiasma contemporary art museum – he has constructed new works inspired by his ongoing collaboration with the Huni Kuin and his commitment to spreading awareness of their culture.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is the 18-metre-long ‘Yubẽ bushka’ (2016) – a suspended fabric environment stretched into a form derived from the head end of a boa constrictor and strung together from a vast interlaced web of knotted cotton threads.

Detail of Neto's 'Yubẽ bushka', 2016. Photography: Petri Virtanen, Kansallisgalleria / Finnish National Gallery
Detail of Neto’s ‘Yubẽ bushka’, 2016. Photography: Petri Virtanen, Kansallisgalleria / Finnish National Gallery

Net-covered seating elements and a marble slab are arranged on the knotted cotton rug floor within, as if laid out for a ritual.

Other works created for the show – ‘Casa de Cura (Healing House)’ and ‘Every Tree Is a Civilising Entity’ – incorporate the aromatic elements that have long been a part of Neto’s work: lavender and basil in one, cloves in the other.

Ernesto Neto’s 'Casa de cura (Healing House)’, 2016. Photography: Petri Virtanen, Kansallisgalleria / Finnish National Gallery
Ernesto Neto’s ‘Casa de cura (Healing House)’, 2016. Photography: Petri Virtanen, Kansallisgalleria / Finnish National Gallery

Neto’s colourful environments are enveloping installations in which a combination of light, space and smell present a dramatic separation from the every day. In some cases these micro-environments bring with them an invitation to childish play: others are more overtly sensual. With the Huni Kuin works, this otherworldliness takes on shamanic overtones.

The multi-coloured gathering space of ‘Yubẽ bushka’ is not so much an environment in which to stop and think, as one in which to stop thinking entirely and instead attempt the ‘at-one-ness’ at the root of the Huin Kuin’s relationship with the natural world.

‘For western people there is a disconnection between the one who is thinking and the object,’ Neto explains. ‘From the indigenous perspective this is not possible: there is no separation between us and the nature, the subject and the object.’

Ernesto Neto runs until 4 September at Kiasma in Helsinki

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