anthropodino, photo Giorgio Benni
The dark, stuffy entrance to the Park Avenue Armory is a little intimidating with its oak paneling and glass-encased armor, but the organization’s first commissioned installation is welcoming, intimate, and engaging. The Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto has created anthropodino, a massive indoor playground that encourages viewers to actively touch, smell, see, and listen to their surroundings. Stretching 192 feet long by 122 wide, anthropodino creates a womb-like space that is wonderfully sensual and sophisticated while simultaneously evoking innocence and a return to childhood.
The central structure is a giant dome covered in translucent, golden-colored tulle, with similar tunnels in shades of blue and red extending out from it to create a giant labyrinth with myriad passageways and rooms. Fabric tubes filled with a total of 1,650 pounds of spices – cumin, cloves, turmeric, and ginger, among others – stretch down from overhead (upon entering the Armory, the intense aroma was the first thing I noticed). Some are stained yellow from the turmeric while others are a darker brown from the cloves and cumin. The pleasant scent is both relaxing and awakening. In separate parts of the exhibit, viewers can collapse into a giant purple pillow that molds to your body. It’s surrounded by white netting and a giant, hanging spice-filled sock that brings to mind an umbilical cord. Elsewhere you can jump into a pool of balls, lay down on a mat made of colorful interwoven materials, or stretch out in a tent filled with lavender-scented pillows. No matter where you are within the large space, anthropodino feels cozy and intimate.
photo by Librado Romero
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the installation is watching how others react to and interact with Neto’s work. Giddy children tend to run amok – trying to swing from the spice-filled socks and “splash” around in the pool – while older participants are content sinking into the purple pillow and dozing off for a bit. Even without a nap, it takes at least an hour to wander through the space and take in all of the sights, textures, and aromas.
Anthropodino is interactive art at its finest. But like all living things, the installation’s delicate structure is susceptible to wear and tear (Armory staff kindly reminded participants not to vigorously pull on the spice-filled socks). It is only on display until June 14, but hopefully Neto will continue to create visceral and physically resonant work.
photo by Librado Romero