Master Project

Damian Christinger

Assembleia MotherTree


Ernesto Neto: GaiaMotherTree at Zurich Main Station
A project by Fondation Beyeler
Exhibition: June 30–July 29, 2018

Curated by Ernesto Neto, Daniela Zyman and Damian Christinger

Between June 29 and July 27, 2018, the Fondation Beyeler will be hosting an installation by the Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto (b. 1964 in Rio de Janeiro) in Zurich’s Main Station. The monumental work “GaiaMotherTree” is a sculpture made of brightly colored hand-knotted cotton strips. It resembles a tree that is 20 meters tall, and reaches the ceiling of the main concourse. The walkin structure functions as a meeting place and a venue for interaction, discussion and meditation. Assembleia MotherTree, a two-day assembly convened in the GaiaMotherTree tent and at On-Curating Space in Zurich, will contextualize the installation by Ernesto Neto, investigating the links between the public location of the installation — itself a transitory nexus — and the artist’s Amerindian collaborators. Within a framework of migrating cultural ideas, projections, desires, techniques and misunderstandings, Assembleia MotherTree will explore how the collaborative efforts embodied in the project are at the core of the discourse on the futures of our planet. Bringing together members from three different Amerindian families and traditions — the Huni Kuin, Yawanawa, and Tukano — with scholars from many parts of the world, as well as students, artists, activists, and ecological thinkers, Assembleia MotherTree will open up a multiversed conversation to the engaged public. The purpose of the Assembleia is neither simply to share each expert’s own particular and situated knowledge, nor merely to facilitate the receipt of new information, but rather, the aim in bringing this diverse group together is to co-create as well as share, enact as well as grasp, and disseminate as well as internalize multiple knowledges, thus expanding each individual’s own perspective beyond the situated bounds of each of our respective singular contexts and traditions. Assembleia MotherTree is thus a cosmo-ecological congregation, infused by the powers of artistic transversality and ancestral practice convened with the aim to un-silence, and awaken, to re-think and re-animate. It points to our common futures and remembers our shared pasts. Perhaps, the Assembleia can re-mind us of humanity as the form of a shared and negotiated quality, common to all entities (biological or otherwise), and a shared responsibility that extends beyond particularized interests and rehearsed hierarchies of acting upon the world.

“Assembleia MotherTree is the desire to join people together to breathe Gaia, the spirit of the Earth. GaiaMotherTree is the fountain and the place, the uterus and the square, she is the shubu, kupixawa, oca — a place to be, to feel the life inside us, to connect to infinity and to others, to meet, to talk, to sing, to meditate, to rest, to pray… to give a hand, to listen, to love, the poetry, the sacredness and the joy of being alive, a chant to father sun and to mother earth.” Ernesto Neto Neto’s installation GaiaMotherTree shapes a unique and eccentric communal space of gathering and reunion, designed to encourage both traditional and not-yet-defined practices of learning and engagement. Accessing the “circle” of Gaia-MotherTree in the course of the Assembleia thus offers both an entry to a spiritual experience and a form of bodily learning, performing, and enacting of communality. Sharing the circle engages us in the co-building of an ethical relation to the worlds we live in, and at its best can help us to reconnect to the plurality of our human knowledges, giving space to what Elizabeth Povinelli calls the possibility of experiencing the world “otherwise.”

The collaboration between Ernesto Neto, the Fondation Beyeler, and Amerindian delegates, who have invited a European public to participate and jointly learn through the underlying idea that together we can become part of a process of healing.
This project is decidedly democratic in its motivation and methods, and it attempts to incorporate the global decisive heuristics in a quintessentially romantic, deeply un-ironic, and unabashedly old-fashioned attempt to give art a role that has been far too absent in contemporary fields, namely that of a mediator between different cultures of knowledge, understandings, and longings. The manner in which we will discuss, negotiate and address some of the core issues of global futures, is inspired by the traditions of the Amazon, and the Swiss tradition of the “Landsgemeinde” — a democratic negotiation of core values and ideas concerning our futures as a global community. Rather than taking a typically academic form, the symposium will include many different forms of speech and expression on an equal basis, thus giving voice to different perspectives and experiences concerning a constellation of issues that are connected to the core ideas of the artwork by Ernesto Neto.

List of Delegates
Delzimar Acrino Yawanawa – Peû (Pajé, Brazil)
Ravi Agarwal (Artist and Activist, India)
Petra Baettig-Frey (Biologist, Switzerland)
Biraci Brasil – Nixiwaka (Pajé, Brazil)
Damian Christinger (independent curator, writer and lecturer Switzerland)
Emanuele Coccia (Philosopher, France)
Nitoo Das (Poet and Birder, India)
Clémentine Deliss (Curator, Publisher and Cultural Historian, Germany)
Alvaro Fernandes Sampaio – Tukano (Pajé, Brazil)
Daiara Figeroua – Tukano (Pajé, Brazil)
Mauro Gandra (Huni Kuin Guardian and Activist, Brazil)
Ernst Götsch (Agriculturalist and Activist, Brazil)
Monica Ursina Jaeger (Artist, Switzerland)
David Kaiza (Writer, Uganda)
Tadeu Mateus Kaxinawa – Siã Txana Hui bai (Pajé, Brazil)
Maya Kóvskaya (Writer, Ecological Political Theorist, Thailand)
Fabiano Maia Sales – Txanabane (Pajé, Brazil)
Jeremy Narby (Anthropologist, Switzerland and Canada)
Ernesto Neto (Artist, Brazil)
Luiz Alberto Oliveira (Chief Curator, Museum of Tomorrow, Rio, Brazil)
John Palmesino (Territorial Agency, UK)
Raimundinha Luiza – Putanny (Pajé, Brazil)
Telo Tulku Rinpoche (Buddhist monk, Shadjin Lama of Kalmykia and His Holiness’ the Dalai Lama’s representative in Russia)
Fabio Rubio Scarano (Ecologist, Brazil)
Romina Vilar Lindeman (Huni Kuin Guardian and Activist, Brazil)
Daniela Zyman (Chief Curator TBA21, Vienna)

List of Respondents
Damian Christinger (Curator, Writer and Lecturer, Zurich)
Urs Mueller (Head Research Sustainability Communication, IUNR, Switzerland)
Dorothee Richter (Professor in Contemporary Curating University of the Arts Zurich and University of Reading)


Zürich Main Station
Bahnhofplatz, 8001 Zürich

On-Curating Space
Ausstellungstrasse 16, 8005 Zurich
hosted by MAS Curating
University of the Arts Zurich