Narrator: The large golden-orange sculpture hanging in the middle of the room is from a series that Oiticica called the Nuclei. Donna De Salvo.

Donna De Salvo: The idea of “nucleus” becomes very interesting of thinking of this as a kind of center and positioning yourself in relationship to it as you are part of the center. You are on the periphery. You almost have to think a little bit more about what is your relationship to the work.

Narrator: The sculpture is suspended above a mirror.

Donna De Salvo: Now, in today's world, we think of mirrors in terms of selfie. But it's interesting, in this case, he's really reflecting the work. But I think he's also suggesting a kind of infinity, because the mirror—and mirroring the image back up—really can suggest a kind of larger space. And I think this is where this idea of world is very interesting to consider you know—the nucleus as the center, maybe art as the center, maybe us as the center of things. But the mirror is already suggesting a larger world.

Narrator: The Nuclei include the viewer metaphorically. But at the same as Oiticica was developing that series, he began working on sculptures that the viewer could enter literally—the Penetrables. The first of these, a tall orange-and-yellow structure, stands nearby. Unfortunately, this one can’t be entered anymore—it’s more than half a century old, and fragile. But as you explore this exhibition, you’ll encounter a number of Penetrables that you can go into as Oiticica intended.

Donna De Salvo: It's really interesting in today's world to think about these kinds of participatory works. We're so much more used to finding these, particularly in any modern and contemporary art museums. In Oiticica's moment, this was a serious, also political act, of bringing the viewer into an active engagement with a work of art. You completed the piece. And it's interesting to keep that in one's mind—to almost go back to that moment in time when this was a very radical gesture.


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