Cildo Meireles

(b. 1948)

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

(1948– )

Brazilian Performance and installation artist, born in Rio de Janeiro. Meireles came from a politically radical family who were especially concerned with the rights of indigenous peoples. He was initially influenced by artists such as Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, who were concerned with environment and audience participation. He became known for works which were a tactic of resistance against the military regime in power in the late 1960s and 1970s. These he called Insercoes em Circuitos Ideologicos (‘insertions into ideological circuits’). Banknotes were stamped with political slogans, as were Coca-Cola bottles. The latter were both symbols of the political power of the United States and also objects which could be put back into circulation after use. Meireles printed on them in white, just like the normal lettering on the bottle, so that when empty his intervention would easily escape notice but be clearly visible when the bottle was filled with the dark liquid. One such intervention took the form of instructions for converting the bottle into a Molotov cocktail. The most dramatic of his gestures against the military regime was his 1971 performance named Tiradentes: Totem-Monument to the Political Prisoner. In this, ten live chickens were tied to a spike and set on fire. He spent the years between 1971 and 1973 in political exile in New York. He has subsequently worked as an installation artist, often inviting dramatic physical participation and providing an experience which was tactile and auditory as well as visual. In Volatile (1980–94), the visitor takes off shoes and socks to walk through ash. In Through (1983–89) it is necessary to tread on shards of broken glass while confronting various forms of barrier, both physical and visual. Cinza (ash grey) (1984/6) was in two rooms. In one the floor was covered with chalk sticks, in the other with charcoal. The movement of visitors tended to mingle the two substances, a likely reference to the idea that miscegenation was a source of strength for Brazil.

Further Reading

E. Leffingwell, ‘Unspoken Stories–Cildo Meireles Exhibition’, Art in America (July 2000)C. Meireles and F. Morais, ‘Material Language’, Tate Etc. (autumn 2008)

Subjects: Art.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.