Lygia Clark’s Anthropophagic Drool and Rejecting Power

On this 2nd reading response (3rd session reading due to submission error), I think it is safe to theorize a few things about interaction and the body:

  • transformative experience occurs when the body is used as a controller.
  • minimal design elements provide an open-ended platform and help constrain the experience usually outputs a multitude of responses/outcomes from participants
  • in the case of collective bodies, it increases the potential of being transformative that outputs multitude of experiences/collective interaction.

On my thoughts regarding the re-enactment of Lygia Clark’s Anthropophagic Drool, the process was described vividly here:

On a bright evening, a group of about ten gathered there for the re-enactment, organized by Lianor da Cunha. Everyone was given a small spool of thread. One person lies on the floor and the others form a tight circle around her. They each place the spool of thread in their mouths and with eyes closed, each one pulls the thread from his or her mouth, unravelling the spool onto the participant below.

The falling threads gradually form a web or mesh that covers the prostrate participant. Once the spools are emptied, everyone opens their eyes and “reconnects” with the drool by pulling apart the wet threads until the mesh has been undone. The “destruction” of this mesh is done with aggression, euphoria, and even pain, because the threads are hard to break; it is followed by a discussion.

I would have never understood or guessed how spools of thread and wrapping a participant around it was a response to socio-political climate in Brazil, or rejection of control for that matter. Even with in-person participation in this visceral collective performance, I could guess that my reaction would vary –  a knee-jerk reaction of physical discomfort, embarrassment, minutes of struggling to keep my mind distracted from the absurdity of the act and heightened stress after sharing a space with other people’s drool.

On the other hand, I truly appreciate the originality and unique use of the body that is imposed with the re-enactment and the discomfort of using drooly threads.

Drooling is a natural reflex of the body, so it seems like doesn’t seem to take much out of a participant to do, and I also found that the particular steps that guide the performance provided a seriousness and formality:

The piece should be repeated several times so that it can be experienced in different ways, and not be confined to one interpretation or experience of it.

The turning spool causes the mouth to produce extra saliva, which the thread catches and absorbs, so that each participant is actually drooling on the person below.

The act of pulling the thread out of one’s mouth draws attention to the act of bringing something from the inside to the outside. According to Clark, participants “first feel that they are pulling the thread out. Then they begin to perceive that they are pulling their very guts out.

To reiterate important takeaways from the article, I’m providing my reaction to each of the following points:


My understanding of this is that the act of unspooling thread out of one’s mouth as a metaphor for relinquishing control/power as participants were dictated to follow a certain action (as a means of transformation) and later on discovering an unexpected solid web of drool, to then have the participants aggressively free the prostrate body, (an end goal) provides quite a transformative, anxiety-inducing and hyper-sensational interaction. Paulo Herkenoff provided some insight to this by comparing it to a “strategy of cultural emancipation.”

Paulo Herkenhoff, art historian sees this use of the word as part of a “strategy of cultural emancipation”; a visceral, provocative metaphor of consumption and renewal describing relationships of power and influence… the enactment connects meaning from psychoanalytic theories of the time against a backdrop of Clark’s ties to a counterculture that opposed the oppressive regime in Brazil.


This another point that I thought makes the performance one of its kind, that without the collective bodies feeling and experiencing their own interpretation of the performance, I think it won’t work as effectively. Note how Lydia also admits that the whole process is not meant to be an art form, but an exercise to find a renewed sense of self:

Releasing the phantasmagoria of the body is, for her, a way of “attaining the singular state of art without art.” It is an exercise that engenders a new sense of self through others by creating a new, collective body.

Kudos to Lygia for not stressing that this performance need not to have artistic to be appreciated as our bodies when thoughtfully explored in art brings out the best of artistic and profound outcomes. In this case, it would be like a combination of “Art imitates life” + Newton’s 3rd law of motion.

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