Cildo Meireles


Rio de Janeiro, 1948; lives in Rio de Janeiro

Cildo Meireles’ works have been described as ‘philosophical objects’ or ‘material thoughts,’ pointing out the strong links between his oeuvre and the various approaches of conceptual art. It is from the unity of concept and object, of spirit and matter , that Meireles’ art derives its strength. Since the late 1960s, the artist has experimented with various strategies and techniques, and within works a wide range of materials have often come into play. Meireles’ works are rich of symbolic and linguistic references and full of poetic and political substance.

In 1967–68, Meireles worked on a series of 44 drawings titled Espaços Virtuais – Cantos [Virtual Spaces – Corners], which are imaginative variations on a domestic room corner, indicated by the encounter of two walls and the floor, and accentuated by skirting boards. Some of these exercises on geometry and on the virtual have been realized as three-dimensional objects to real scale. Espaços Virtuais – Cantos n°VI (1967–68/2005) is one of the best examples of Meireles’ mastery in engaging the viewer, who tries to understand perspective with his or her own movement around the object.

The banknotes on display are from two distinct bodies of works. For Information,an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1970, Meireles developed his Inserções em circuitos ideológicos [Insertionsinto Idelogical Systems], exploring the notion of circulation and exchange of wealth. For Projeto cédula [Banknote Project], Meireles stamped messages onto banknotes, before returning them to normal circulation. The messages, appearing in both English and Portuguese, include various political slogans, such as the question “Quem matou Herzog?” [Who Killed Herzog?], referring to the journalist Vladimir Herzog (1937–1975), who was arrested and murdered by the military regime. Zero Cruzeiro (1974–78) and Zero Dollar (1978–84) make use of a similar strategy, proposing the use of fake money and questioning the value of capital, brought to complete worthlessness.

Jochen Volz