21 April, 2015

A Walk in the Park

A short drive south of Belo Horizonte, outside of the tiny, unimpressive town of Brumadinho, lies a sprawling garden of art known as Inhotim ("een-yo-cheem"). Within this expanse of botanical beauty and contemporary art one can easily pass several days exploring the 3000 acres set aside by mining magnate, Bernardo Paz, to both protect the area around his farmhouse and collect larger-than-life modern art pieces.

This bronze work, without title, is by Brazilian artist Edgard de Souza.

The area contains works by artists both Brazilian and international, some out of doors along various trails, others housed in galleries that rise out of the ground's forest like hidden bunkers.  In my humble opinion, this is one of Brazil's best tourist draws and should be a much more promoted destination; many Brazilians are even unfamiliar with its existence.

"Invenção da cor" by Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica.

What sets Inhotim apart from other contemporary art spaces, apart from its massive size, is that every work demands interaction of some kind with the viewer. Whether is simply walking in a around a particular installation such as "Narcissus Garden" a rooftop pond with large reflective orbs floating freely en mass amongst reeds and lily pads, begging visitors to see themselves an infinite number times, or "Viewing Machine," which looks like a giant telescope atop a hill but is more akin to a kaleidoscope for the lush mountain backdrop or whomever looks through the other end.

Leaning in to the spirit of "Narcissus Garden" by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.
Experiencing Danish artist Olafur Eliasson's "Viewing Machine".

Even the gallery buildings themselves are often full sensory experiences, unworthy of photographs. The Galeria Cosmococa, housed in an ominous-looking grey brick fortress asks visitors to remove their shoes at the door, and invites them in to several different "cinema" rooms; one containing a swimming pool for floating and viewing (complete with changing room!), one with hammocks criss-crossing the cube-shaped space, and another filled with brightly colored balloons and a slippery, uneven floor - all with films being projected on the walls.

My favorite experience was a piece by Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, titled "The Murder of Crows."  Housed in a long warehouse-like building, hidden along a narrow dirt path in the woods, you enter from one end and begin moving cautiously toward the center where, as your eyes adjust to the low light, you see a loose cluster of folding chairs set in a vaguely circular arrangement. Speakers populate the expansive space, some hanging, others on the ground, all growing thicker as you reach the center of the building. All the while a strange symphony is playing, growing more and more full as you arrive at the center. You find an empty seat to find a bizarre story written on a placard, describing a story like a dream-scape, pulling from elements surrounding you. As you read you marvel at how the music seems to fit which ever part of the text you are at. And then you leave slowly, in awe at the experience and a little creeped out at the same time.

A field filled with clay letters are part of Brazilian Marilá Dardot's installation.

I have been wanting to visit Inhotim for some time and am grateful to have had the opportunity to get here, as it does require at least a couple days of travel to not feel rushed. I will recommend this unique place to anyone visiting Brazil. It is well-worth the effort to get here, and lovers of art and/or the outdoors will be satisfied by the experience.

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