Luis F. Benedit

1937 - 2011

Born in Buenos Aires (AR).

The copious oeuvre of architect and artist Luis F. Benedit includes paintings, drawings, collages, objects, and installations. That said, this Latin American artist primarily made a name for himself in Europe with his ‘biological sculptures’, Plexiglas plant and animal ‘habitats’ from the 1960s and 1970s. Benedit plumbed the depths of nature as a landscape painter, but instead of continuing to paint it ‘as is’, he attempts to home in on its pre-iconographic state, analysing plant and animal behavioural patterns in collaboration with ethologists.

He exhibited his first ‘habitats’ in 1968 at the Microzoo solo exhibition in the Rubens Gallery and the group exhibition Materials: Nuevas Técnicas, Nuevas Expresiones in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, both in Buenos Aires. At the 1970 Venice Biennale, he filled the Argentine pavilion with Biotron, a Plexiglas and aluminium construction that housed 4,000 bees. The insects had access to the nearby flower garden and an artificial feeding system that consisted of computer-automated ‘sugar flowers’. Bioart, a trend with genuine staying power, had taken hold: two years later, the Belgian collective Mass Moving took part in the Biennale as spectators and amateur scientists, studying the emergence of 10,000 butterflies from a giant, artificial cocoon. In 1972, Benedit was the first Latin American artist to exhibit in MoMA’s Projects Gallery. He exhibited two installations. One was a hydroponic greenhouse where 70 tomato plants and 56 lettuces were fed artificial light and a chemical growth formula; the other was an environment for white mice.

The ICC organised a solo exhibition in 1976 featuring Benedit’s work (Antwerp, 25 September – 31 October 1976). Flor Bex kept in close touch with the entrepreneur and curator Jorge Glusberg, who founded Buenos Aires’ Centro di Arte Y Communicacion (CAYC). As a result, many Latin American artists found their way to Antwerp, showing in group exhibitions or solo presentations by Nicolas Garcia Uriburu, Lea Lublin, Jonier Marin, Carlos Ginzburg, and Osvaldo Romberg. Flor Bex outlines the genesis of Bendit’s ‘habitats’ in the introduction to the ICC catalogue: 

‘Fascinated by the landscapes, animals, and plants he’d depicted, he began integrating living creatures into his work in 1967. In the initial stage, he visualises the mechanised nature – authentic nature antithesis by, among others, personally designing robot animals, which he juxtaposes with live specimens from nature. The artist wasn’t satisfied with the bird cages, terrariums, etc., available in the shops. So, in a second stage, he designed his own new ‘habitats’ for smaller species, noting how the behaviour of these animals, individually and as groups, changes according to the habitat they are confined to.’

A piece written by Jorge Glusberg can be found in the same catalogue. In it, he refers to the significance of cybernetics, the scientific study of how information is translated into control and regulation within a system, whether it be animal, vegetable, or human.

Benedit studied to be an architect, uniquely familiarising him with the idea of walls or systems as a control measure for our behaviour. We live in an artificial world and are becoming increasingly enmeshed in our scientific and technological developments. In Benedit’s 1971 Laberinto Invisible [invisible labyrinth], humanity exceptionally becomes the object of observation. He paves an invisible path through a museum for visitors to travel, responding to the non-linguistic cues of light and sound. If you successfully follow the path, you’ll wind up at an Axolotl, popular in Argentina because of a short story by Julio Cortázar in which a man stares at the animal for so long that he turns into it.  


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