Body without image: Ernesto Neto’s Anti-Leviathan

Dossier: Undoing the Aesthetic Image

RP 156 () / Article, Dossier, Undoing the Aesthetic Image

[T]he great Leviathan is that one creature in the world which must remain unpainted to the last.

– Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

The IMAGE-grip is dislocated and a more fundamental element emerges … in short, IMAGE is not the work’s supreme motive or unifying end.

– Hélio Oiticica, Block Experiments

In the immense emptiness and sepulchral chill of the Pantheon, it seems to emerge, suddenly, like a ballooning, billowy suspension of innumerable artificial columns veiled in a delicate white material (stretchable Lycra), whose distended bases, which bulge with faintly perfumed ballast, descend randomly to many levels or reach as far as the ground. This forest of sorts is attached to the vaulting of the Pantheon like some monstrous parasite, in a sort of reverse shot to the strict alignment of the building’s columns. High up, hanging liana-columns pass through holes in immense sheets of Lycra stretched out between the four branches of the Pantheon in an uneven sinuous network with long, undulating pockets that are constricted or bloated, and to which a number of shafts are also connected. Its capacities exceeded, the eye is led to contain, at a distance, this body that is radically heterogeneous both to the place that it invades and to any identifiable reality. It attempts to encompass it by means of an aesthetic metaphor – that of some giant, monstrously arborescent octopus-white whale whose entrails are distended and swollen from devouring the Pantheon.

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