5 | Stone Lips, Pepper Tits, Clove Love, Fog Frog, 2008

Ernesto Neto has earned recognition for creating installations that trigger and combine sensory impressions. In this work we are invited to enter something rather like a large igloo. It’s held up by a wooden skeletal structure. The walls are made of two layers of dark transparent fabric. Cylindrical orifices create transitions between the outside and the inside. Hanging from the sculpture’s internal cavity are cloth sacks heavily-laden with freshly ground pepper and cloves.

From outside, the huge but fragile edifice can be seen as a sculpture, or we can cross a threshold and go inside. Neto is interested in how our experience changes as we approach the sculpture and then enter it. If we stand outside looking in, we will have a different impression than if we enter through the oval opening and walk around. Once inside, we are enveloped by the cloth structure and can right stand next to the hanging spice sacks. These droplet-shaped sacks are called copula. Their shapes might resemble flowers, fruit or reproductive organs, but the bulbous forms are actually knots. The name stems from the act of tying a knot – a kind of copulation.

This work can be defined as a continuation of the so-called Nave- series, which Neto has worked with since the late 1990s. The series is characterized by spatial, bodily structures the public can enter into. While the word nave sounds similar to ‘navy’, it actually means ‘ship’ and here denotes the idea of one independent structure. Several earlier works in this series were made solely with textiles hung in rooms. By now Neto has developed an assortment of support systems, but it was first in 2007 that he developed bone-like structures made from wood. And even though the skeletal network appears to be sturdy and solid, the wooden pieces are joined together without screws or glue of any kind. Gravity is essentially what holds it up.

The title, Stone Lips, Pepper Tits, Clove Love, Fog Frog almost seems like a poem. Language is central to Neto’s artistic practice. He uses evocative words, or makes up words – sometimes he even writes directly on the gallery wall. In this instance the juxtaposition of alliteration and descriptive words is poetic and informal, and the human aspect is playful – all of which help create a sense of immediate physical presence.

This installation previously featured in the exhibition Psycho Buildings, at Hayward Gallery in London, from 28 May through 25 August, 2008.