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Advent XIX

Behind window 19: Conceptual Art.

By definition: Art in which the idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. Though I have long wondered why many believe this automatically means that the work can’t also be aesthetically pleasing just because the idea behind it is paramount? The best conceptual art is rather Zen in nature or has a certain poetical poignancy. It raises a feeling of wonderment.

Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project, Cildo Meireles, 1970-75

Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project, Cildo Meireles, 1970-75

For instance: In the 1970s when Brazil was ruled by brutal military dictatorships and soda bottles were still being returned, refilled & resold, Meireles created a highly provocative work titled Inserções em Circuitos Ideologicos (Insertions Into Ideological Circuits). He simply removed Coca-Cola bottles [a symbol of US imperialism and global capitalist consumerism] from normal circulation and modified them by affixing decal messages like “Yankees Go Home!” or adding instructions for turning the bottle into a Molotov cocktail and then returned them into circulation.

The work Paradox of Praxis (Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing) by Francis Alÿs documents an action performed on the streets of Mexico City in 1997. The film depicts a simple and seemingly pointless endeavour – a large block of ice being pushed through the city streets for 9 hours until it melts away to nothing.

.. the radical event of art precipitates a crisis of meaning or, rather, it exposes the void of meaning at the core of a given social situation, which is its truth.

Art critic Jean Fisher


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