Laura Lima

Laura Lima speaks about her show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami

View of “Laura Lima: The Inverse,” 2016.

Laura Lima’s solo debut exhibition in the US, “The Inverse,” consists of a site-specific installation that shares the same title. The Brazilian artist has threaded a thick blue nylon rope through the architecture of the atrium in Miami’s Institute of Contemporary Art, looping it over beams and wrapping it around columns as it dwindles in size. It ends between the legs of a half-visible woman lying on the floor—a performer who engages with the sculpture by inserting an end of the rope into her vagina. The work garnered recent headlines when a participant alleged she was “misled,” which covered here. The show will be on view through October 30, 2016.

I NEVER PERFORM IN MY WORKS. I like being very hidden. When I arrived at ICA Miami I wanted to fill that space with magic. It is a peculiar space, with beams and columns crossing everywhere—not an easy site to make a piece. I had about five ideas, and only one seemed perfect to me.

The idea for The Inverse came to me twenty years ago. It is part of a group of works that I began in the ’90s. At that time, I wanted to make a piece that was radically different from performance art of the’60s and ’70s with its reliance on the presence of the performer. I wanted something where people were part of the construction of the image—where there was no hierarchy between the flesh of the body, the flesh of the rope, and the flesh of the architecture. I had already worked on a piece where a man tried to pull a landscape into a building and another where a woman slept with her hair tied to a wall. Each idea has the same conceptual structure.

There were some news articles written about The Inverse. I’m surprised when someone twists the meaning of my work. In twenty years, I’ve never had problems, but it can happen. I do not rehearse my works. So I have to prepare the performers, because they take care of the piece. I explain all the concepts, the way I think and construct things, and the way that they have to engage with the piece. Everybody that takes part is different; they all have to be engaged in a way that they feel comfortable and committed to the work. The participants perform just one task. For the project we constructed a room to conceal the performer’s identity, which is very important. I also provided them with a gown. Half of the body appears in a way that you don’t know exactly what’s going on. The intro text simply says that the rope merges with a body, but you don’t see how. It’s not just something that is going inside of someone. It’s also going out, leading you to the structure and through the space. When I was in conversation with the performers, we weren’t talking about the task as radical. It’s provocative, but not scandalous.

The performers are female, so we cannot say feminism is not part of the work, but people tend to push this idea of feminism in a way where everything related to feminism is about victimization. I am also a woman constructing the work. I would rather not label it, mainly because the idea of feminism is so complex.

In art you have to confront ideas. When there is a body there is fragility, which is the beauty of the piece. There is this physiological way in which the performer is engaging in the piece—this live person with her own histories. It is poetic.