‘Aru Kuxipa | Sacred Secret’ is TBA21’s latest artist-centered initiative of commissioning interdisciplinary and unconventional projects devoted to social and environmental concerns. The collaborative journey that the Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto, the Huni Kuin, and TBA21 Neto’s collaboration with the Huni Kuin people unfolds as an pioneering experiment, establishing a zone of encounter with our “ancestral futures” and an investigation of the teachings of plants and the spiritual nature of objects. “By co-authoring this exhibition with them in their own territory geographically and conceptually, this exhibition is attempting to draw a consensus between different creative impulses, and sensitize an audience which is increasingly interested in work that is informed by other practices. Work that lies between a fine balance of conscience and meaning is the basis of truth. This new body of work transcends the conceptual framework laid down by previous generations, and allows the art to flow into a narrative that shares its concerns to a public yearning to be further sensitized about issues that affect us all, not just in remote localities in which they were born,” says Francesca von Habsburg, founder and chairwoman of TBA21.
‘Aru means secret, sacred. Kuxipa means like a god. Kuxipa is the creator. So kuxipa for us is nature: earth, water, forest, wind, sun, moon, paths. All that is nature; all these to us are kuxipa, sacred; sacred ancestors, the sacred ancestry. I see Aru Kuxipa as a request for permission from the sacred, from the gods of nature, in order to praise this great celebration of this union that is taking place here today.’ — Txana Bane
Aru Kuxipa expresses the vision and dream of the Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto and the Amazonian artists, plant masters, and pajés (shamans) of the thirty-seven Jordão Huni Kuin communities to co-create a place of transformation, a zone of encounter and expression, and a site of healing away from their ancestral lands. Sanctioned by a communal decision to come to Vienna and to perform and share within the space of art the Huni Kuin’s sacred forms of expression, art, ritual, and knowledge, the exhibition traces luminous trajectories into our ‘ancestral futures.’ This encounter forged under the sign of the Huni Kuin’s Novo Mundo / Novo Tempo calls for a renewed engagement with and contribution to the world at large, a time of exchange, and a striving for indigenous self-governance and sovereignty.
The exhibition opens into a zone of transition with Neto’s major work from the TBA21 collection—A Gente se encontra aqui hoje, amanhã em outro lugar. Enquanto isso Deus é Deusa. Santa gravidade (“We meet each other today, tomorrow in another place. In the meanwhile, God is Goddess. Saint Gravity, 2003”)—fashioned from weightless pink and greenish polyamide forms suspended from the ceiling and intertwined in a voluptuous “embrace.” Here and elsewhere, today and to- morrow, the male and female principles, human and divine: all systems of duality are erased and reunited through the principles of love and union. While removing their shoes, visitors are drawn into an inner space of ritual and healing with objects, maracas, feathers, kuripe (blowpipes), kené, weavings, jiboia (snakes), some hanging from the ceiling, others laid out on tables for their use. The spiritual center of the exhibition is demarcated by NixiForestKupiXawa (2015), a communal space of gathering, sheltering rituals, celebrations, and immersive contemplation.
Venerated Huni Kuin pajés and artists have participated in the preparation and initiation of the exhibition. They enter into dialogue with Neto’s artistic language through a diversity of experiences, expressions, and forms of knowledge: oral history, music, sounds, drawings, weavings, rituals, herbaria, and everyday objects.
Una Isĩ Kayawa, the “Book of Healing,” embedded diligently in the exhibition, compiles for the first time ever descriptions of the 109 plant species used by the Huni Kuin and their applications in various curative treatments. For the Huni Kuin, plant knowledge and the ontology in which it is imbedded are a mysterium tremendum, an awe-inspiring mystery that must be approached and revealed with the greatest respect and thoughtfulness.
The exhibition, conceived as Neto’s personal tribute to the Huni Kuin, unfolds as a subtle parcours, which transitions from a space of preparation and initiation to the sacred area of ritual, to a room of study and knowledge, culminating in the community’s multiple voices of myths and songs. Here Neto mobilizes a deep understanding of indigenous wisdom and tradition and the relational and perspectival nature of the Huni Kuin’s world vision. This shared journey marks a crucial extension of concerns that have been evident in his œuvre over the past twenty years: an appreciation of the sensuality of being, the unity of bodies and nature, the celebration of life, and a search for deeper forms of union and correspondence.
Unfolding in two institutional venues and over two continents, this collaborative exhibition engages with partners in both Austria and Brazil. While the Kunsthalle Krems focuses on a retrospective view of Neto’s nearly two decades of artistic production, TBA21 showcases the artist’s latest explorations and engagements.