Instituto Experimental Tropical del Amazonas

EXHIBIT On view at the 18th Street Arts Center, Atrium Gallery from February 24 until May 19, 2018.

PERFORMANCE The archive-installation and manifesto of the Instituto (Manifesto de Coco) will be activated through a performance by Corey Fogel and Abigail Levine, Coconut Experiment #1 at 5:30PM on the 19th of May during the Pico Block Party.


Review in Hyperallergic  by Abe Ahn, May 14, 2018

Make Zines and Screenprint Slogans at a Politically Minded Festival (Pico Block Party) Hyperallergic  by Matt Stromberg, May 16, 2018


Mixed media installation with ink, texts, photos, jute fabric, string, handmade tropical fiber paper, Bixa Orellana spice, coconuts and human placenta print

This installation presents an archive of works, posters and documents from the Instituto Experimental Tropical del Amazonas, an imagined experimental art school that operated in the Amazon rainforest between 1935 and 1942.

Run by a team of feminist artists with a communal spirit, the Instituto’s members studied the properties of rich tropical materials, learning building and craft techniques with native populations (Ye’kuana and Yanomami) and setting out to re-imagine every aspect of living. Evoking the utopian aspects of the Bauhaus through a feminist, Latin American lens, the Instituto aimed to make art in concert with nature, within it and in contrast to it. Essential to the Instituto was the rotation of labor among the diverse group, including governance and instruction, as well as a commitment to gender balance and harmonious living.

Guest speakers included artists, architects, poets, craft experts and healers, ranging from Le Corbusier presenting his designs for University City and the Ministry of Education in Brazil; Sonia Delaunay presenting her everyday living art-design philosophy; Kanii comparing principles and symbolism in Yanomami and Ye’kuana weaving; and artist Joaquín Torres-García discussing his budding Escuela del Sur and his Circulo y Cuadrado collaborations. Among the Instituto’s visitors, one who elicited much discussion was Oswald de Andrade, a modernist poet and author from Brazil. Andrade defined his postcolonial critique through a humorous reversal term, Antropofagia, as way to call for cultural cannibalism and a Latin American, matriarchal utopia in which cultural production is a “rite that attempts to express a mode of thinking, a vision of the world.” He encouraged Latin American artists to “strangle dominant culture” – foreign art forms and theories – to dissect it and extract from its interstices the palpitant matter which should be “devoured, critically digested, to create something new… Carnal turns into volatile matter and creates friendship. Affective, love. Speculative, science. Life is the act of devouring.” Photo credit: Gene Ogami.