This is a continuation from the preview of our visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art at Serralves in Porto on January 5. We are heading to Serralves again this weekend (it’s free on Sunday mornings), which reminded me to hurry up and post the other pictures from last month because once the exhibitions change it’s more difficult to track down the information for reference. Also, it’s easy to forget small details about the art once it’s out of physical range. 2D pictures are a big part of my life, but they are only meant to inspire — you cannot live through pictures, no matter how hard you try. And I don’t encourage anyone to try, in fact I discourage it! Get out there and see things in person, though on the other hand what I’m also trying to accomplish here is to provide a pictorial to those who can’t, for whatever reason.
Cildo Meireles is a Brazilian artist born in Rio de Janeiro in 1948, best known for his contemporary installation art. Notably, the early works were created during the time of the Brazilian Dictatorship (1964-1985) and no doubt his later works were also influenced by that period of oppression. The Tate Modern in London featured Meireles’ work Oct 2008-Jan 2009 and has a longer bio on their website.
The exhibition was at Serralves from Nov 14, 2013-Jan 26, 2014, a collection of installations Meireles created from 1969-2013. Before Serralves, the solo exhibition showed in Madrid’s Museo Reina Sofia from May-September 2013. (The Madrid press release here for more information, as I couldn’t find one for Serralves.)
These works by Meireles are large, which is why I’ve got photos of them at different angles. When you consider the dimension and scale and detail of these pieces, the logistics of a travelling exhibition is mind-boggling, although I don’t know if all works travel as an ensemble or if parts are acquired locally.
For instance, this first work titled Olvido (1987-1989) is made of 6,000 banknotes from all the American countries, with three tonnes of bones and 69,300 candles. In Amerikkka, a floor is made of 20,050 wooden eggs beneath a ceiling of 40,000 bullets. In Marulho, more than 17,000 books with photographs of sea water represent the ocean. I don’t have photos of all the pieces in the exhibition simply because it’s not easy — or downright impossible — to capture; all the more reason to see them in person.
Amerikkka is probably the most visually-arresting installation in the exhibition due to the menacing sparkle of 40,000 bullets overhead and the unmistakable shape of 20,000 white eggs. It is also one of the most interactive of all the works, where viewers are invited to participate by taking the expression “walking on eggshells” literally:
And speaking of expressions, you know that one about finding a needle in a haystack? Here we are: Fio (thread) is made up of bales of hay, 18-carat gold needle, 100m of 18-carat gold thread.
To give you an idea of how much Meireles’ work is valued, have a look at this link for the price tag from Christie’s auction house of Jogo de Velha Serie C 8A (Tic-Tac-Toe Serie C 8A). An excerpt of their description of the work:
With Jogo de Velha Serie C 8A, Meireles arranges yellow wooden rulers into nine squares on masonite. He paints five X’s in black and four O’s in an identical yellow on each square. The piece visually engages the viewer through the visual tension between the daubed markings and the details of the rulers as well as the use of a limited but effective palette. The X’s almost appear like targets and themes from his earlier political works are discernable. With the rulers one cannot help seeing the oppressive force in the need to measure and corral. One can also extrapolate from the game of naughts and crosses an allusion to power and its cruel vicissitudes. However, though the crosses in black may dominate the board visually, it is the nearly invisible naughts which have won the game. Might has failed as a latent order and begins to assert itself in a piece emblematic of Meireles aesthetic and social concerns.
This is another interactive installation titled Entrevendo (Glimpsing), which Paulo participated in. From the website murmurofart.com:
Visitors are invited to enter a funnel-shaped structure measuring more than eight metres in length, at the end of which is a hot air blower. At the entrance they are offered two cubes of ice –- one salt, the other sweet –- to put in their mouths. The ice melts as they approach the source of hot air, giving concrete form to the phenomenon of synaesthesia: the same sensory stimulus is thus perceived as a dual experience, creating a sense of alienation.
Mereiles also has multiple projects using banknotes, some of which he altered with stamps and circulated, while others are fabricated:
Marulho (Surge of the Sea; 1991-1997): wood decking, 17,000 books, soundtrack with the word water in 84 languages.
By this point you can imagine I’ve read many bios of Meireles while researching this post. The man has a wide body of work spanning decades using different mediums, and it’s not easy to describe conceptual art, let alone his. But this bio by Britannica has a quote from him which gives a brief insight into the philosophy behind his work:
“Remember that the work is not what we see in a museum exhibition. It’s not the bank notes or the Coca-Cola bottles. These objects are only relics. The work itself has no materiality. And it is ephemeral. It only exists when someone is interacting with it. In this respect, it’s much more connected with the concept of the anti-object or the non-object.”
You can see the rest of the Cildo Meireles exhibit and other works at the Museum of Contemporary Art this winter in the album: Serralves Winter 2014