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woman with hand touching face
woman with hand touching face

Lygia Clark, Diálogo de Mãos (Hand Dialogue) part of Objetos Sensoriais (1966).

© O Mundo de Lygia Clark-Associação Cultural, Rio de Janeiro

“…to write in this notebook is to reclaim ideas for myself.”

To engage with Lygia Clark’s oeuvre is to explore a web of incessant exchanges and connections so rich with coherence and life that it becomes impossible to outline its boundaries. Clark’s writings do not function as a means for understanding a given work. They are an expansion of her artistic practice, resisting hierarchies and demarcations. Her writings are her work: we encounter projects, studies, sketches, trajectories, paths, obstacles, fears, ambivalences, dreams, accomplishments, commentaries, failures. As Clark says: “I would like to take all my notebooks and make a connection with the work I was making during each dream, linking work, reality and dreams as the process of my whole struggle for the integration of everything.” It is through her writings that we can trace those connections.

Her written production is vast but at the same time highly focused. The writings make it possible for Clark’s readers to not only understand the way in which Clark lived through and archived her own work, but also to sensorially activate and multiply it; it is a trajectory in which lived-through experiences permeated the core of her artistic and intellectual concerns. In Clark’s writing we find doubts, fears and affections; the symbolic value of giving birth, re-enacted by her each time a new work of art was created, and the reluctance of the art world at the time to understand her artistic endeavors. They are recorded in the form of statements, silent pauses and instants of rage that can be identified in the aesthetic power of her work. Nevertheless, we find an intellectual with challenging, impressively incisive positions regarding the modus operandi of the art circuit; a solid determination in taking the role of a “non-artist” (no compromises with labels or formulas, either for the market or in service to the idea of “beauty”); the mobilization of Rio de Janeiro’s avant-garde in the ’60s and ’70s; and the life in Paris — she lived in France in the late ’50s and again between 1968 and 1976. To a question posed by a journalist about her “visual work” in 1959, Lygia Clark answers: “Every artist is suicidal. Why? Because he jumps wholeheartedly, and risks committing entirely to the surface with which he is going to work. And when he does it, he hasn’t the slightest guarantee that he is right in what he is trying to do.” Lygia Clark was essentially a researcher, and her object of study was humankind.

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