Humanism and ecology in the belly of a sculpture


The art of Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto aims to put humans and their interactions at the centre of the stage. Aspiring to restore the rights to spirituality into our materialistic society, Ernesto orientated his career towards the creation of artistic spaces that seem to live and breathe along with the public they host. A sense of humanity animates his environmental sculptures, producing a sensation of affinity that encourages the visitors to engage with each other and with the space


For his most recent public art project GaiaMotherTree, Ernesto created a monumental installation at the center of the hall of Zurich main train station. The gigantic site-specific installation, commissioned by the Beyeler Foundation in 2018, is an impressive demonstration of collective work, having been constructed entirely by hand, weaving brightly-coloured knotted cotton strips into the shape of a tree. Four years of collective contributions were necessary to erect the 20-metre-tall structure: a project that merged sculpture with architecture, radically transforming the public space into an immersive environment of soft-weaved, colourful, artificial nature. 


The concepts of shared experience and collective dialogue are the generative foundation of GaiaMotherTree, whose centre was designed as a community and meeting space: a private area in the train station passageway to encourage connections and meditation. This desire to create an environment for communal dialogue was inspired by the collaboration that Ernesto established with the Uni Kuin peoples, indigenous to Brazil, whose values and spirituality strongly focus on collective actions and symbiosis with the environment. Influenced by their spiritual connection with nature, Ernesto created a “sculpture with a belly”, inside which viewers can pause and reflect, but also engage collectively with themes such as the relationship between humans and nature, issues of sustainability, and the preservation and dissemination of knowledge from other cultures. 


Using art to create the perfect environment for reconnection, Ernesto allows us to rediscover the meaning of human relationships and to construct an alternative, more sustainable and responsible society. With the work of Ernesto, art becomes a way to envisage new possibilities to foster new ethics of common good and sociability in regenerating our nihilistic times. 

Photos © ArchDaily & Newlyswissed

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