The sound of breaking glass

Cildo Meireles, Through, 1983-89/2008

Installation art can be risky. It’s just that usually the risks are more about whether the pieece will work and whether viewers will respond as one hopes rather than whether they’ll stumble on a floor of broken glass. But having risked his own freedom by making overtly political work while living in a military dictatorship, Cildo Meireles was never likely to be put off by something like a slight – and largely theoretical – risk of an audience member sustaining a minor injury. Unlike the harmless threat of the long shadows and caged-in feeling of being in a Mona Hatoum installation, Meireles’s Through does involve a level danger, albeit a low one.

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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.

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