Ernesto neto weaves one of his largest installations yet for expansive MAAT show

Designboom_ From May 2nd to October 7th, 2024, Brazilian contemporary artist Ernesto Neto unveils his most expansive exhibition in Portugal at the Museum of Art and Technology (MAAT), Lisbon. At the heart of the show lies an immersive installation, representing one of Neto’s largest sculptures to date. Drawing inspiration from the caravels that set sail for what would come to be known as the Americas, Neto intricately weaves together images of sails and materials such as canvas and ropes. A selection Neto’s woven works populate the space, imbuing the exhibition with a tapestry of history and symbolism. Curated by Jacopo Crivelli Visconti, Nosso Barco Tambor Terra [Our Boat Drum Earth], the exhibition’s form emerges from months of meticulous dialogue with MAAT’s architectural space and the museum’s surroundings.

Employing imagery reminiscent of sails and materials evocative of transatlantic voyages, such as canvas and ropes, Ernesto Neto crafts a series of installations encompassing the various dimensions of the space at MAAT. Primarily utilizing chintz, a cost-effective cotton fabric prevalent in Brazil and often adorned with vibrant floral motifs, Neto intricately cuts and crochets the material’s strips with various collaborators’ assistance. This technique, honed over years in the artist’s studio in Rio de Janeiro known as atelienave, forms the basis of the sculpture, composed of interconnected cells. Guided by a freehand approach, the overall design of the work evolves through experimentation and adjustments facilitated by specialized software, ensuring both precision and adaptability to the unique characteristics of the space during installation.

‘For his first exhibition at MAAT, those references materialize in a large-scale sculpture entitled Nosso Barco Tambor Terra [our boat drum land], whose shape and name can simultaneously suggest a ship, a primordial beast, a forest, or even, and more likely, all of those things and infinite others at the same time, because the artist portrays the world as a whole, that ‘Gaia world’, as he defines it: ancestral, pre-colonial and even pre-human – a planet obviously shaped by violent events and occurrences, such as the enforced displacement of millions of enslaved people during the colonial processes that marked history and the relationship between Portugal and Brazil, among many other countries; but also a planet where, from the mix of races, populations, and peoples emerge surprising cultures and worldviews whose strength and beauty one must recognize, reaffirm and celebrate,’ says curator Jacopo Crivelli Visconti.

In recent years, alongside his artistic pursuits, Neto has delved into percussion. Throughout the exhibition, the sculpture, incorporating a series of instruments, will intermittently come to life through a musical program orchestrated by musicians and groups from diverse corners of the globe, with a particular focus on the rhythmic traditions of African and Asian diasporas. Symbolically, the fusion of rhythms and beats within Nosso Barco Tambor Terra [our boat drum earth] serves as a counterbalance to the myriad languages spoken worldwide, hinting at the potential for shared languages to transcend verbal communication and foster genuine and profound connections in specific moments and contexts. In line with the artist’s aspiration to craft a truly inclusive and varied experience, visitors to the exhibition can also engage with various drums sourced from different origins scattered throughout the installation.