Using the system to challenge the system

Cildo Meireles, Insertions into Ideological Circuits, 1970

Fundamental to my view of art is the idea that it can come from anywhere and be made of anything and for me a great example of that is the work made by the Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles in the early 1970s, specifically his Insertions into Ideologoical Circuits an example of which is shown here.

For this work, Meireles used the return and refill system operated at that time for soda bottles. Meireles would doctor Coca Cola bottles, adding messages that were all but invisible on the empty bottle but which appeared when the bottle was filled with the conveniently dark liquid. The bottles would them be returned into the system, refilled with coke and distributed to shops.

Thus, unsuspecting consumers found themselves buying fizzy drinks in bottles bearing the slogan ‘Yankies go home’ or with a diagram showing how to turn the bottle into a Molotov cocktail. I love the inventive cheekiness of using Coca Cola’s distribution system to send out messages against the dominance of American corporations. The message – simple and highly political – seems to resonate with current anti-globalisation protests despite the work being made more than four decades ago.

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