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Lygia Clark, Baba Antropofagica

Lygia Clark was a Columbian artist and psychotherapist who worked very closely with psychoanalytic concepts, and created Baba Antropofagia, 1973, where she explored dream, extreme transference, collective body and exchange of psychic qualities. Clark deploys a strategy of many telepathy artists to ‘sensitizes us politically.’ Clark’s work Baba Antropofagica was based on a dream: “I dreamt that I opened my mouth and took out a substance incessantly [. . .]”.[1] The participants expelled cotton threads from their mouths, with “cannibalistic slobber”, abject and uncanny like ectoplasm, emitted onto a reclining body. In a letter by Clark to her artist colleague Helio Oiticica, who also worked with telepathy through Columbian aesthetics of anthropofagia. She described the ‘vibrating body’ of sweaty participants within her nylon and plastic ‘biological architectures’ and that the “colourless transparent plastic was almost like ectoplasm that linked the bodies in nonmaterial way.”[2] Suely Rolnik describes the “fantasies/ghosts” of Clark’s vibrating bodies that were expressed and expelled in her rituals, which Clark describes as being “vomited”[3]. In another letter by Clark to Oiticica she says: “We arrived at what I call corpo coletivo (collective body) which in the last analysis, is the exchange between people and their intimate psychology. This exchange is not a pleasant thing…It is an exchange of psychic qualities and the word “communication” is too weak to express what happens in the group.”[4] The telepathic latency of the anthropofagia art movement, including the work of Clark and Oiticia, resonates with Marcel Mauss’ study of magical collaboration in the case of group mobilisation suggests a demonstration of what J.G. Frazer (an early anthropologist) terms ‘a savage telepathy.’[5] Telepathy and sympathy operate as do other forms of affective contagion, with a number of individuals sharing the same passion, carrying the same props and wearing the same make-up and making the same sounds: “The whole social body comes alive with the same movement. They all become, in a manner of speaking, parts of a machine or, better, spokes of a wheel: the magical round dance, performed and sung, becomes the ideal image of the situation. This image is probably primitive, but certainly still occurs in our own times…The rhythmic movement, uniform and continuous, is the immediate expression of a mental state, in which consciousness of each individual is overwhelmed by a single sentiment, a single hallucinatory idea, a common objective.”[6]


[1] Susan Hiller, “Lygia Clark,” Dream Machines, by Susan Hiller, and Jean Fisher (London: Hayward Gallery, 2000) n. pag.; Guy Brett, Lygia Clark: The Borderline between Life and Art,” Third Text 1 (1987).

[2] Rolnik, 57-110, 85; Lygia Clark, letter dated 20 May 1970, in Figueiredo, 145.

[3] Rolnik, 57-110, 85; Lygia Clark, letter dated 20 May 1970, in Figueiredo, 91.

[4] Hiller, “Lygia Clark;” Lygia Clark, From a letter to Helio Oiticia, 6 July 1974.

[5] Marcel Mauss, A General Theory of Magic, trans. Robert Brain (1902; London, and NY: Routledge, 1972) 163. Mauss is referring to a phrase of J. G. Frazer.

[6] Mauss, General Theory of Magic, 163.