01/31/04 - 03/07/04
Cildo Meireles' installation entitled Occasion dates back to the early 1970s, but has until today never been realised. It will now be exhibited for the first time at Portikus. Two independently accessible rooms are connected by a large spy mirror. In the first brightly lit room there is a basin filled with coins and bills, and there are large mirrors on the walls. The viewers are surrounded by a spatial sculpture confronting them with both their mirror image and a heap of openly accessible cash - perceived individually an ordinary sight, but quite irritating when brought together. The second room is empty and darkened, with the spy mirror functioning as a window from this side and giving a view into the first room. While one can observe the other exhibition visitors unnoticed from here, this view also allows the visitors to give their actions and feelings in the first room a second thought, shifted in space and time.
Since the late 1960s, Cildo Meireles has repeatedly made money the topic in numerous works. Árvore do Dinheiro (1969) is a stack of one hundred 1-Cruzeiro bills bundled with a rubber band and placed on a plinth with the inscription "Title: 100 1-Cruzeiro banknotes / Price: 2,000 Cruzeiros." The pieces Zero Cruzeiro and Zero Centavo (1974-78), Zero Dollar and Zero Cent (1978-84) consist of bills and coins produced and distributed by the artist. They all bear the numerical value zero, thus feigning to be worth even less than the paper on which they were printed or the metal on which they were struck. Eppur Si Muove (1991) consists of a process during which Meireles had 1,000 Canadian dollars changed into British pounds, and then changed into French francs. After over a hundred of such transactions, the remaining sum amounted to four dollars and a few cents. With these conceptual works, Meireles succeeds in revealing the discrepancies between symbolic and actual value, but also in thematising the arbitrariness of the free market. With the work Occasion shown at Portikus, this critique is once more expanded by a dimension that can be physically experienced by the viewer. Is it the shame one feels when seeing one's countenance, is it the instilled sense of right and wrong and
of value, or is it the fear of being controlled by the secret observer in the adjacent room that keeps one from taking the money? Occasion deals with a number of further aspects and questions which have been central themes in Cildo Meireles' oeuvre since the late 1960s: simultaneity and different concepts of time, the construction of identity and self-reflection, geographical and architectural shifts in perspective.
Today, Cildo Meireles is one of the most influential representatives of a generation of artists including, among others, Antonio Manuel, Artur Barrio and Umberto Costa Barros, who made their appearance from Rio de Janeiro in the late 1960s. Brazil's difficult political and cultural situation during the military dictatorship characterised Cildo Meireles and his colleagues just as much as the strong influence of the slightly older so-called Neo-Concretist artists, such as Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clarke and Lygia Pape. These artists were no longer interested in the passive nature of most artworks encountered in museums, but rather in an art that involves the viewer in a special way. They developed a conceptual approach in their works which directly responded to the cultural circumstances in Brazil. Cildo Meireles' work, however, additionally reveals an intensive study of Marcel Duchamp, the Dadaists, and concept art in Europe and North America. By means of very direct formal placements, Meireles time and again succeeds in confronting viewers with the way they have been socially, culturally, historically, and politically conditioned. Paulo Herkenhoff described Meireles work as a poetic theory of society, which raises questions that pertain equally to political, economic, communicative, and ideological strategies.
Cildo Meireles (*1948) lives and works in Rio de Janeiro.