Raw Material 2: Hélio Oiticica Propositions

March 31, 2016

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Photo: The Parangolé, 

Irish Museum of Modern Art , Hélio Oiticica: Propositions  

Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica’s (1937-1980) contribution to physical performance was enfolded within the dimensions of the parangolés  he produced as wearable sculptures. The parangolés  were inhabited as a dwelling space for physical exploration and expression. The complex fabric dimensions of these tent like constructions embodied architectural spaces. The fabric also had associations to homelessness and the nomadic carrying of one’s own belongings. Foremost, the wearer entered into an experience which performed new sensations regarding one’s physical positioning within public space.

The parangolés supported non-conformist bodily actions. They were intended as political interventions within the social context of a military dictatorship in Brazil. The purpose of these cape like structures was immediacy during a historical period of constriction. Rather than behaviour within boundaries Oiticica proposed the wearer of the parangolé to exert an influence upon surrounding social conditions. The anarchy of wearing unstructured layers of fabric could be considered a camouflage, but also a banner. The parangolé experience was an intimate experiment, aimed at finding new routes of social movement within limiting political circumstances.

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Photos: A Forest Art Therapy Studio, Investigations of Movement

The consideration of fabric being worn as a supportive frame for physical disclosure and deterritorialization* is perhaps unusual within art therapy. The parangolé was not a costume, but a physical revelation. And still today it offers an inspiring example of how to interrogate physical presence. The wearer of the parangolé was both a celebrant and a dissident. Particularly evocative when worn outdoors, these draped dimensions of fabric facilitated movement patterns that were ambiguous and sculptural, punctuating public environments with sensory inquiry.

The choreographer, theoretician and dancer Rudolf Laban used the term living architecture to describe explorations of space and geometry through movement. By drawing the body through lines of travel, a mapping process occurs. These lines of investigation compose movement dimensions  – forward and backward, high and low, and diagonally across from side to side. Demarcating space with pathways and networks of geometry, facilitates not only the physical explorations of spatial possibilities, but also cognitive capacity. Embodying the full spectrum of environmental possibility stimulates both mind and body. By learning to move in more than one direction, the coordinates of how we travel through life are extended. We move into new places, new situations, new volumes and depths.

*Deterritorialization is a term developed by Deleuze and Guattari (Anti-Oedipus, 1972) to describe the transgression of subjectivity from its routine formations, into a state of becoming  (being in a state of flux, in process, in transition). It also refers to political and social movements, and society undergoing disruption and change.


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