Aru Kuxipa | Sacred Secret - Ernesto Neto and the Huni Kuin

TBA21–Augarten, Vienna, in collaboration with Kunsthalle Krems June 25–October 25, 2015

Opening symposium: “The Rise of the Phyto Age”

A symposium on healing, curing, traditional Amazonian medicine, and traditional European practices—on ethnobotany, cultivation, and the teaching of plants 

TBA21–Augarten, Vienna, June 26–27, 2015
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 have embarked on marks a crucial extension of the concerns that have been evident in Neto’s oeuvre over the past 20 years: a celebration of the sensuality of being, the unity of bodies and nature, and a longing for spiritual vision. 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. 

With this new collaborative engagement, Neto mobilizes a deep understanding of indigenous wisdom and tradition and the relational and perspectival nature of the Huni Kuin’s world vision. Aru Kuxipa will transform TBA21–Augarten into a space of secret ritual, participation, and activation, hosting spiritual and ceremonial gatherings. At the center of the exhibition, a kupixawa, an immersive space of celebration, gathering, and contemplation, will be designed by Neto. Members of the Huni Kuin will reside in Vienna for the preparation and initiation of the exhibition and enter into dialogue with Neto’s artistic language through a diversity of knowledge, expressions, and experiences: music, sounds, drawings, weavings, rituals, herbaria, use of medical and sacred plants, “teacher plants,” and everyday objects. Ritual and magic objects collected from the Huni Kuin and from other indigenous Amazonian tribes, some on loan from Vienna’s renowned Weltmuseum, will be presented in a display fabricated from Lycra and spiced with pepper and lavender. The planned intervention will both contextualize and seek to reverse the encyclopedic (re)presentation of indigenous artifacts and the objectification of knowledge in traditional museum settings. 

Neto’s new commission, combined with earlier major works by the artist from TBA21’s collection, demonstrate his long-standing dedication to divine forms and engage with an understanding of the body as part of the spiritual and material universe. Likewise, Aru Kuxipa engages with the larger political issues driving the recognition of the rights of indigenous communities today: the importance of preserving common lands and of opposing the injustice and criminalization that indigenous communities face with respect to violated land rights and the destruction of their biodiverse habitat.

« Today we are talking about Aru Kuxipá and today we are here together with txai Ernesto Neto, who is an artist, who is with the people Huni Kuin; he is bringing this art of the nature, this contemporary art; all this together turns into a beautiful picture, into a beautiful dance, into a beautiful melody of sounds, into beautiful poetry, which is nothing more than the art that exists in each of us; but it is the courage of txai Ernesto and the courage of the Huni Kuin people joining their forces to display the beauty of nature, the beauty of culture, the beauty of art, so that people can learn more, so that we can be singing together, healing together, celebrating - it is a time for celebration ». Txaná, member of the  Huni Kuin people.

In conjunction with the Livro da Cura (Book of Healing), published in Portuguese and the Hatxa Kui language in collaboration with Editora Dantes and „initiated“ in Vienna in an English version, Aru Kuxipa engages with the large universe of indigenous knowledge, which has been sidelined and exoticized for centuries but which opens multiple entry points into a rethinking of our present moment. The Livro da Cura contains descriptions of the 109 plant species used in the indigenous therapies of the Huni Kuin and their curative properties. This ancestral knowledge and sacred spiritual philosophy are at the core of the exhibition, the international symposium, and the rituals. 

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. 

The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of symposia and educational programs at TBA21–Augarten.

Curated by Daniela Zyman


Ernesto Neto and the Huni Kuin 
Aru Kuxipa | Sacred Secret
Curated by Daniela Zyman

TBA21–Augarten, Scherzergasse 1a, 1020 Vienna, Austria

Press Conference
Thursday, June 25, 2015, 4 p.m., TBA21–Augarten, Vienna

Thursday, June 25, 2015, 7 p.m., TBA21–Augarten

International symposium—“The Rise of the Phyto Age”
TBA21–Augarten, Vienna, June 26–27, 2015

Reception by the City of Vienna
A reception hosted by Vice Mayor Maria Vassilakou in honor of the Huni Kuin
City Hall, Vienna, June 24, 2015

Opening Hours
Wednesday–Thursday, 12–5 p.m.; Friday–Sunday, 12–7 p.m.
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Free admission

Visitor Information
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary–Augarten
T +43 1 513 98 56-24,,

Supported by 

As one of the leading insurance groups in Central and Eastern Europe, the Vienna Insurance Group and its main share holder clearly perceive its social responsibilities and have been reliable sponsoring partners for Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary and other cultural projects for many years. Numerous museums and galleries have insured their collections with Vienna Insurance Group. The main objective for cooperating with cultural institutions is to promote the international exchange in the field of arts and culture. Since June 2013, thanks to the main share holder of Vienna Insurance Group, admission to TBA21–Augarten has been free.


Livro da Cura 

Una Isi Kayawa (Livro da Cura, or “Book of Healing”), produced by the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden Research Institute (IJBRJ) and originally published by Editora Dantes in 2014 in a bilingual edition (Portuguese and Hatxa Kui languages) compiles descriptions of the 109 species used in indigenous therapies of the Huni Kuin people of the Jordão River in the state of Acre, Brazil, as well as information about the region of occurrence and forms of treatment. The work of researching and organizing the information took two and a half years and was coordinated by the botanist Alexandre Quinet of the IJBRJ. The book was conceived by the shaman Agostinho Manduca Mateus Ika Muru, who died shortly before the work was completed and produced (and drawn entirely) by the Huni Kuin people as a representation of their healing philosophies. In addition to presenting information about plants, the book uses stories and drawings to inform readers about the culture of the Huni Kuin people, such as their eating habits, their music, and their views regarding disease and spirituality. To represent the written content in Hatxa Kui, the book’s publisher, Anna Dantes, created a special typographic font inspired by the handwritten letters in indigenous notebooks. In conjunction with the exhibition, TBA21, together with Editora Dantes and Sternberg Press, is planning to publish the 260-page book in English and Hatxa Kui. 

Ernesto Neto 
Since the mid-1990s Ernesto Neto (b. 1964) has produced an influential body of work that explores constructions of social space and the natural world by inviting physical interaction and sensory experience. Drawing on biomorphism and minimalist sculpture, along with neoconcretism and other Brazilian vanguard movements of the 1960s and 1970s, the artist both references and incorporates organic shapes and materials—spices, sand, and shells among them—that engage all five senses, producing a new type of sensory perception that renegotiates boundaries between the artwork and the viewer, the organic and the man-made, as well as between the natural, spiritual, and social worlds. 

The Huni Kuin
The Huni Kuin live on the Brazilian-Peruvian border in Western Amazonia and belong to the Pano linguistic family that inhabits the tropical forest of eastern Peru, from the Andean foothills to western Brazil in the states of Acre and southern Amazonas, covering the areas of the Upper Jurug and Purus and the Javari Valley, respectively. Specifically the regions of the Jordão and  Tarauacá Rivers are the habitat of the members of the Huni Kuin who will be in residency at TBA21, Vienna.

With a population of approximately 5,964 people, they make up half of the indigenous population of Acre and are distributed for five cities corresponding to an area of 633.213 ha. Their language belongs to the linguistic family Pano, that they call Hatxa Kui (true language), whose abundance manifest also in their musical diversity.
The Huni Kuin society, traditionally, has a social organization that turns around groups of extensive families, with prominence on two figures: the leadership (cacique) and pajè (shaman). Although pajha have been one of the most persecuted figures of the indigenous societies during the process of settling of the Amazon, the Huni Kuin society still assign them a significant role in its culture in helping to maintain the connection with the spiritual realm to protect his people from harm that originates there.

The Brazilian Huni Kuin for years lived in more disperse form and became familiarized with rubber-tapper culture by working under exploitative conditions for rubber bosses over the space of two generations. Only ten-out-of-sixty tribal groups in that region survived this period. In 1951 the Huni Kuin suffered a genocide that exterminated 75-80% of the group. In the 1970s, the people began to break free from the yoke of the rubber industry. Much of their culture by that time had begun to disintegrate, but they began to organize and demand access to the land that had been set aside for them along with the right to live in traditional ways. Today the Huni Kuin are engaged in a profound process of recovering their traditions and practices of medicine, agriculture, hunting and fishing, or weaving, while having to face new pressures to protect their land rights due to ecological, political and economic pressures and land grabs. 

About TBA21 
Founded in 2002 by Francesca von Habsburg in Vienna, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) represents the fourth generation of the Thyssen family’s commitment to the arts. The foundation is dedicated primarily to the commissioning and dissemination of ambitious, experimental, and unconventional projects that defy traditional categorizations. This approach has gained the collection a pioneering reputation throughout the world. The foundation’s projects promote artistic practices that are architectural, context- and site-specific, performative, and often informed by an interest in social aesthetics and environmental concerns. Many of the projects reflect the shift to transdisciplinary practices embracing architecture, sound, music, and science.

Nessun commento: