statements cildo meireles

I remember that in 1968, 1969 and 1970 we knew we were beginning to touch on what was interesting—we were no longer working with metaphors (representations) of situations; we were working with the real situation itself. On the other hand, the kind of work that was being done tended to volatilize, and that was another characteristic. It was work that, really, no longer had that cult of the object, in isolation; things existed in terms of what they could spark off in the body of society. It was exactly what one had in one’s head: working with the idea of the public. At that time we were putting everything into our work, and it was being directed towards a large, indefinite number of people: that thing that is called the public. Nowadays, in fact, there is the danger of doing work knowing exactly who will be interested in it. The idea of the public, which is a broad, generous notion, was replaced (through deformation) by the idea of the consumer, which is the part of the public that has acquisitive power. Really, the ´ Insercoes em circuitos ideologicos (Insertions into ideological circuits) arose out of the need to ¸ create a system for the circulation and exchange of information that did not depend on any kind of centralized control. A language. A system essentially opposed to that of press, radio and television, typical examples of media that actually reach an enormous audience, but in their circulation system there is always a certain control and a certain channelling of the inser-

´ tion. In other words, there the “insertion” is performed by an elite that has access to the levels on which the system is developed: technological sophistication involving huge amounts of money and/or power. ´ The Insercoes em circuitos ideologicos had taken shape as two projects: the Coca-Cola proj¸ ´ ect and the Cedula (Banknote) project. The work started with a text I wrote in April 1970 and it sets out precisely from this position: 1) in society there are certain mechanisms for circulation (circuits); 2) these circuits clearly embody the ideology of the producer, but at the same time they are passive when they receive insertions into the circuit; 3) and this occurs whenever ´ people initiate them. The Insercoes em circuitos ideologicos also arose from the recognition of ¸ two fairly common practices: chain letters (letters you receive, copy and send on to other people) and the bottles flung into the sea by victims of shipwrecks. Implicit in these practices is the notion of a circulating medium, a notion crystallized most clearly in the case of paper money and, metaphorically, in returnable containers (soft drink bottles, for example). As I see it, the important thing in the project was the introduction of the concept of “circuit,” isolating it and fixing it. It is this concept that determines the dialectical content of the work, while interfering with each and every effort contained within the very essence of the process (medium). In other words, the container always carries with it an ideology. So, the initial idea was the recognition of a (natural) “circuit” that exists and on which it is possible to do real work. Actually, an “insertion” into this circuit is always a kind of counter-information. It capitalizes on the sophistication of the medium in order to achieve an increase in equality of access to mass communication and also, one must add, to bring about a neutralization of the original propaganda (whether produced by industry or by the state), which always has an anaesthetic effect. It is a contrast between awareness (insertion) and anaesthesia (circuit), considering awareness as a function of art and anaesthesia as a function of industry. Because any industrial circuit normally is far-reaching, but it is alienating/ed. Of course, art has a social function and has more ways of being densely aware. A greater density of awareness in relation to the society from which it emerges. And the role of industry is exactly the opposite of this. As it exists today, the power of industry is based on the greatest ´ possible coefficient of alienation. So the notes on the Insercoes em circuitos ideologicos project ¸ specifically contrast art and industry. (. . .) The way I had thought of it, the Insercoes would only exist to the extent that they ceased ¸ to be the work of just one person. In other words, the work only exists to the extent that other people practice it. Another thing that arises then is the idea of the need for anonymity. By extension the question of anonymity involves the question of ownership. You would no longer

cildo meireles statements 411

work with an object, because the object would become a practice, something over which you could have no kind of control or ownership. And it would try to raise other matters: firstly, it would reach more people to the extent that you no longer needed to go to the information because the information would come to you; and consequently there would be the right conditions for “exploding” the notion of a sacred space. (. . .) Insofar as museums, galleries or pictures form a sacred space for representation, they become a Bermuda Triangle: anything you put there, any idea, is automatically going to be neutralized. I think people tried primarily to make a commitment with the public. Not with the purchaser of art (the market). But with the audience sitting out there in the stalls. The hazy face, the most important element in the whole structure. Working with the wonderful possibility that the plastic arts provide of creating a new language to express each new idea. Always working with the possibility of transgression in terms of reality. In other words, making works that do not simply exist in an approved, consecrated, sacred space; that do not happen simply in terms of a canvas, a surface, a representation. No longer working with the metaphor of gunpowder itself. You would no longer work with the object, because the object would be a practice, something over which you could have no kind of control or ownership.
ˆ This text is taken from statements made by Meireles in a recorded interview with Antonio Manuel. This extract was originally published in Ronaldo Brito and Eudoro Augusto Macieira de ˆ Sousa, Cildo Meireles, arte brasileira contemporanea (Rio de Janeiro: FUNARTE, 1981), and more recently in Cildo Meireles: IVAM Centre del Carme, 2 febrero/23 abril 1995 (Barcelona: Generalitat Valenciana, Conselleria de Cultura, 1995), p. 174, from which these extracts are taken.


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