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“Lygia Clark at Signals London, 27th May to 3rd July” is a special issue of the Newsbulletin of Signals London dedicated to the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark (1920-1988) on the occasion of her first solo exhibition in England organized by Paul Keeler at Signals London, the short-lived experimental gallery. This edition of the Newsbulletin features several important texts by the artist in which she describes her Bichos [Critter, translated here as Animals] and Trepantes [Creepers, translated as Going] series. Clark views the Bichos as organic constructions enlivened by the active relationship between the viewer and the object. Like the limitless metallic critters, her Trepantes depend on an immediate active relationship between the viewer and the work where the latter becomes a projection of the viewer’s body. In both series, Clark writes, the idea belongs to the artist but the expression is wholly owned by the spectator and depends on the total fusion between work and viewer.
“The Signficance of Lygia Clark” by the noted Brazilian art critic Mario Pedrosa (1900-1981) complements Clark’s testimonies. He places Clark in the tradition of active space and viewer participation initiated by Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner with their Constructivist Manifesto of 1922. Yet Pedrosa recognizes that, unlike her European predecessors’ work, Clark’s spatial constructions are revolutionary because they no longer rely on the spectators’ movement around them. Rather, Clark’s works call for the immediate participation of the spectator and her intent is to compose a new space where the spectator is projected unto the work. The result is an expressive force that is both organic and reflective of a mathematical spatial dynamism that is unique to Clark.
An organ of Signals London, Newsbulletin of Signals London published experimental writing, as well as progressive ideas on architecture, art, and modern life. It was edited by the Manila-born but London-based artist David Medalla (born 1942), who in his editorial for this issue presented an excerpt from “GO TO WORK ON A POEM” or “999 instructions on reading david medalla’s found-poem for takis” that Signals London intended to publish in 1966. Medalla’s poem is kindred to the Kinetic spirit in that, just as in Clark’s work, it requires the reader’s manipulation to unlock its multiple meanings. The special edition of the Newsbulletin of Signals London also includes poems by Walmir Ayala, Hugo Williams, and Nicholas Snowden Willey, a biographical sketch, and Clark’s curriculum vitae, as well as quotes by Sergio de Carmargo, Henri Deligny, Dore Ashton, and others. The edition also contains the unrelated texts “Disarmament and the Struggle Against Underdevelopment” by Josué de Castro, a past chairman of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization Council, and the fifth installment of the column “John Newell on Science” on the beginnings of life. All pages of the special edition have been left intact, as rare reproductions of some of Clark’s little-known series are interspersed throughout the texts, including her Constructions with Matchboxes (1964).
Signals London played an important role in defining London as a center for experimental artistic expression during the 1960s. Along with such alternative spaces as Gallery One, New Vision Centre, and Indica, the gallery presented art forms that emphasized movement and viewer participation and which were a far cry from the prevailing currents of Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism. The space emerged in 1964 from the collaborative Centre for Advanced Creative Study established by gallery director Paul Keeler, the London-based art critic Guy Brett, and artists Medalla, Gustav Metzger (German, born 1926), and Marcello Salvadori (Italian, 1928-2002). The group and the gallery became known as Signals London when they moved to a larger four-story building in central London. During the two years it was open, it built a network of such experimental international artists as Clark, Sergio de Camargo, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Mira Schendel, Jesús Rafael Soto, Alejandro Otero, Hélio Oiticica, and the Greek artist Vassilakis Takis (born 1925), after whose tensile sculptures Signals took its name.