Lygia Clark and Helío Oiticica: A Legacy of Interactivity and Participation for a Telematic Future


Session Title:

  • Interactive Media Theory

Presentation Title:

  • Lygia Clark and Helío Oiticica: A Legacy of Interactivity and Participation for a Telematic Future



  • Focusing on the interactive vocabulary Brazilian artists Lygia Clark (1920-1988) and Helío Oiticica (1937-1980) developed with their participatory creations from the 1960s and 1970s, this paper points to their relevance to artists working with digital communications technology. The far-reaching implications of Clarkis and Oiticicais nonelectronic interactive works, which continues to yield new meanings, are explored here through their common conceptual ground with the works of Stelarc, the New-York based X-Art Foundation, and Eduardo Kac. Clarkis and Oiticicais sensorial works — masks, goggles, gloves, suits, capes, and immersive environments — although not technologically based, can be conceptually and stylistically connected to virtual reality head-mounted displays and data gloves and perceived as radical parallels to early prototypes of these new technologies.This paper further discusses the critical and original way Clark and Oiticica, working in the periphery of capitalism, reframed universal aesthetic issues as they translated them directly into life and the body. In this process, they circulated content between a Modern European geometric abstract tradition and Brazilian vernacular culture, weaving a web of relationships around the body and its cultural, social, architectural and environmental space. Concerned with the circulation of ideas among artists working in vastly different cultures, this paper also points out that interactivity in art does not simply result from the presence and accessibility of personal computers. Rather, interactivity must be regarded as a natural, internal development in contemporary art—as exemplified by Clarkis and Oiticicais work.Today, artists working with electronic media and the body are pushing the problem of interactivity in art into new territories.