On Lygia Clark's Structuring the Self

Lars Bang Larsen, Suely Rolnik

Reviews / 01.05.2009

In a review of the Lygia Clark retrospective organised by the Fundació Antoni Tapiès, Barcelona in 1997, the art historian Yve-Alain Bois wrote that he knew of no other artist whose oeuvre a curator would find more difficult to present. 1

Curatorial involvement with Clark's work - a poetic dismantling of the object - was never a case of straightforward display of the artistic corpus. From the early 1960s on, Clark located her practice at the edge of art, considering her 'propositions' as dialogic works to be experienced physically. Amongst other pieces, these are the handcuff-like Moebius strips and the sensorial masks - works that came to take on seminal status within contemporary art, thanks largely to the Tapiès exhibition and Clark's inclusion in documenta X, also in 1997. However, the difficulties inherent in presenting Clark's work apply in particular to her last project, Estruturação do Self (Structuring the Self), which she undertook towards the end of her life, and worked on between 1976 and 1988. From a curatorial point of view, Bois threw down the gauntlet, pondering that 'perhaps documentation is all one can present concerning this last phase of her work - and even then the dilemma is not entirely resolved'. 2

Taking up the challenge, and pushing the curatorial involvement one step further still, Suely Rolnik - psychoanalyst, cultural critic and both friend and collaborator of Clark's - proposed a different way of accessing the artist's work in an exhibition she organised at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes (2005) and the Pinacoteca do Estado de

  1. Yve-Alain Bois, 'Lygia Clark', Artforum, January 1999.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Université Paris VIII-Vincennes, Saint-Denis.

  4. Psychiatric clinic founded by Jean Oury in 1951 near Cour-Cheverny in the Loire Valley, where Félix Guattari and Oury developed and practiced the theory of schizoanalysis.

  5. Lygia Clark, 'Objeto Relacional', in Suely Rolnik (ed.), Lygia Clark (exh. cat.), Rio de Janeiro: Funarte, 1980; reprinted in Manuel Borja-Villel and Nuria Enguita (ed.), Lygia Clark (exh. cat.), Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 1997. Rolnik's collaboration with Clark for this essay is only mentioned in its original publication.

  6. S. Rolnik, Cartografia Sentimental. Transformações contemporâneas do desejo , São Paulo: Estação Liberdade, 1989; reedited by Porto Alegre: Sulinas, 2006.

  7. From a letter sent by Hélio Oiticica to Guy Brett on 2 April 1968, quoted in Carlos Basualdo, 'Tropicália: Avant-Garde, Popular Culture and the Culture Industry in Brazil', in C. Basualdo (ed.), Tropicália: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture, São Paulo: Cosac Naify Ediçoes, 2005.

  8. 'Tropicália: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture', organised by the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Gabinete de Cultura, São Paulo. It also toured to Barbican Art Gallery, London in 2006.