CILDO MEIRELES, CONCEPTUAL AND POLITICAL ART: A REVERSE DUCHAMP

In the late 60s and early 70s in Brazil, a series of works on unsustainable practices and conceptual art strategies with political activism. It was not representation of revolutionary processes of images of guerrillas or works weakened or of strengthening like Hercules by the revolutionary process. On the contrary, and above all, it was a matter of questioning an art project as representation, which is the foundation of capital and its bourgeoisie. A structural isomorphism is sought between the revolutionary process of guerrilla warfare and artistic practices and languages. That is, how to make a revolutionary-guerrilla process in the aesthetic, cultural and artistic universe, respecting its autonomy and in its own terms? This is exactly the case of a series of works by Cildo Meireles called “Insertions in ideological circuits”. The job was in the system of circuits and exchange information. As series of insertions in information by a variety of alternative circuits exemplified by Coca-Cola bottles, Black-Power hair combs, money notes, etc.

The historical context in which the work circulates and gives it meaning is Brazil dominated by a military dictatorship that violated the constitutional regime of 1964 and rebounded upon the late 60s. The dictatorial regime, Immediately, Imposed a dramatic repression on the artistic expressions, subjecting them to a censorship that filtered all forms of information. The series of insertions in ideological circuits of Cildo Meireles sought to explore communication and artistic alternatives to execute a true guerrilla against the repressive system of the military dictatorship. Among the series, it is worth mentioning the information printed on Coca-Cola bottles. This conceptual work was a project that used a media, bottle of soda, to carry out a revolutionary criticism by means of anti-imperialist messages to a potentially immense public and, at the same time, escaped from the vigilant monitoring carried out by the dictatorship in all conventional channels of communication.

The insertion of the Coca-Cola type consisted in printing messages and critical opinions about Brazilian politics, about U.S. imperialism and interventionism. These messages were printed in white, which made them almost invisible (hidden) when the bottles were empty. As soon as they were filled with the syrup, the messages became clearly visible. We remember that in the time in question, late 60’s and early 70’s, soft drinks were sold only in bottles , requiring the exchange of the empty hull (bottle) in the purchase of a full. The informational circuit becomes perfect, then. In the very sign of imperialism itself, revolutionary and critical messages are conveyed. The work consists not only in the messages of Cildo Meireles, but also in an invitation for all to make and exchange these critical messages. It is an invitation to a certain action, which in terms of conceptual art became known as command-piece. What is important to this work of art is the projected idea and the process that it triggers. Everyone becomes an artist. This was the great utopia of Joseph Beuys and much of modernism, being fundamental question lines of conceptual art.

It is important to note that the work of Cildo Meireles is a reverse or reversed Duchamp. The Duchampian ready-mades were discrete everyday objects inserted into the circuit of art, functioning as unveiling of the political system of art and a complete desublimation of the same. Art is undone in everyday life, losing all its goldenness. The poetry of ready-made was appropriated by Pop Art and Minimalism by largely mitigating its critical power.

Already the Insertions of Cildo Meireles are the art and its transforming power of reality. It inserts itself into everyday life as art that is idea, trying to transform the same everyday. All the force of an intentionality (of the artist) rescues the romantic power of belief in art as a possibility of regeneration and return to a life in social harmony and with nature. Instead of inserting a common object of the institutional space of art, as Duchamp does, the work of Cildo Meireles returns the Coca-Cola bottles of its original circulation system, albeit with its slightly altered form. Art does not dissolve in life, but it dialogues with it, criticizes it and seeks to transform it, functioning as a negative of the current situation.

The insertions of Cildo Meireles return the discussion about the relations between art and life (reality), going beyond representational conceptions or teleologies that simply dilute art in life.

Inserção em circuitos ideológicos

Insertions in ideological circuits

 

Insertions in ideological circuits

Insertions in ideological circuits

 

Insertions in ideological circuits

Insertions in ideological circuits

 

 

São Paulo, fevereiro de 2016
Professor Dr. Eduardo Cardoso Braga

A feminist and allegorical art of Gustave Courbet and Carolee Schneemann

Gustave Courbet – “The Origin of the World” (1866)

Gustave Courbet – “The Origin of the World” (1866)

When we begin contacting Courbet’s painting reproduced above, we interpret as an image of erotic connotations and perhaps even pornographic. The making of realistic painting and its rich detailing reference to the presence of a true view and testified as fact. However, such a reading is too hasty. The correct interpretation of art always requires a time and a way: dialog with the work. So Paul Klee said: Do you understand a work? Take a chair.

Reading this image as simply erotic and “spicy” with perspective somewhat sexist, is in open opposition to the very strong Aristotelian tradition in which art is understood as a value and therefore referring to what “should be” and not exactly what it is. This tradition is unfortunately often overlooked by historians rushed, which often make the “retrospective illusion”, i.e., they believe that their own concepts can be designed throughout history. Pure realism in art is a delusion. Aristotle in his “Poetics”, distinguishes the historian, which works with what is, and the artist, which is what it should be; noting the intellectual superiority of the seeker the world as it should be, so the theoretical and metaphysical sphere. This is the first and fundamental distinction between the literary/artistic and historiography. Thus, poetry is the imitation of human action, and history is the narration of events and facts that actually occurred. The classic distinction between literature and history, based on the conventions of fictionality and truth, derives from the Aristotelian conception that poetry is imitation of human actions (“should be”), and history is the narration of the events actually occurred. Here we have already made, the structures of the modern conventions of fictionality and truth, key concepts in the definitions of the two discursive modes. It is from this distinction that we can understand the contemporary critical movement of history and fiction, which seeks a rapprochement between history and fiction, or more exactly approximation of historiography with the poetic. A good part of recent historians advocate a philosophy of history that interprets the historiography as well as belong with the literary dimension, thus behaving like something of the fiction. So today, instead of seeking the difference as Aristotle, search the similarities. For Aristotle, this difference is not only the metaphysical order, but also epistemological. The fundamental difference between the Poetics puts the History and Poetry sets up the kind of knowledge that each gender develops: (1) the poetic imitation or (2) the historical narrative. Imitation meaning what could have been (should-be), and historical narration which indeed was.

The knowledge provided by history is less than that given by poetry, because his concern is for what happened to an individual who is a minor scope of what could happen, the universal. For Aristotle the true and certain knowledge always universal aims. Only knowledge is universal rational, poetry is something more philosophical, more serious, deeper than the story.

The formal (formal cause) dimension of Poetry / Art – the confabulation plot of facts – guaranteed structuring actions perfectly organic, unitary and beautiful way (“For the beauty lies in the extent and order […] ” Poetics, VII, 1450 35 b). In the beautiful, each party has its meaning in terms of making up the whole, in such a way that results in knowledge and pleasure (final cause). The poetic imitation of the world, after that requires a certain transfiguration of a world in a coherent and organic whole.

“It is, moreover, evident from what has been said, that it is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened, but what may happen,– what is possible according to the law of probability or necessity. The poet and the historian differ not by writing in verse or in prose. The work of Herodotus might be put into verse, and it would still be a species of history, with metre no less than without it. The true difference is that one relates what has happened, the other what may happen” (Poetics, IX, 1451 b).

In Aristotle’s Poetics, Poetry is imitation (mimesis), which is characterized by an operation of representation and the transfiguration of nature (physis). In your nature the man is action. The imitation of this action does not happen in terms of simple copy or transcript, but as an expansion and the universalization of its ability. The poet imitates actions and this imitation is creation, for it goes beyond what is simply given, deriving possibilities and potentialities (poiesis). The poet is a creator of fables and should compose and recompose the traditional myths to achieve its own ends, i.e., create and broker the elements chosen in an order that leads to a significant whole. The activity of the poet is then total or universalize what is singular. Make sense of the fragmentary referring it to a significant totality.

Let us return to Courbet and started with this new data, the dialogue with the work. This is the presentation of a female sexual organ. Not a pornographic experience, despite the accurate representation and in detail. We are facing a sensory confrontation and we must wonder about their meaning. What does this painting mean? This confrontation, on the hermeneutic circle, leads us to the very experience of art, in which sensory and repertoire are mobilized to produce the need for meaning. The title of the work provides the key to its correct interpretation. Word and image, sometimes establish complicity and mutual clarifications or illustrations. One illuminates the other. Especially from the Renaissance, the title of a work can turn it into a real allegory, in Benjamin’s sense. That is, a particular feature, a certain perspective, a fragment become an expression of the whole. The particular monad is all expressed in a point of view. The title of Courbet’s work is “The Origin of the World”. Then a certain woman with her particular sexual organ, becomes an allegory of the creation of the world, the powers of the Great Mother, which is the source of all us. The painting then expressed the allegory of creation, the very power of art, artist and cultural gesture that creates a sense of something. The power of appointment. Naming means to transform the world, recreate it, transfiguring it into pure sense or meaning. We cannot help but notice that Courbet think the woman with her sexual organ as the carrier of this power to create and name. In this sense, we can, following a track Lehrer (2012), associate the work of Courbet to the performers Carolee Schneemann works that explore women’s issue and, especially, the creative dimension of women. His work “Interior Scroll” shows us the creative forces of women, symbolized by the act of generation; act materialized in sensitive way of your sex organ.

It is then to establish the links between biology and lost the sacred. In our society this link is always hidden in the objectification of ensuring the biological fetish for merchandise that becomes naturalized. For example, simply review the cartoon and children’s comic books. Social relations are always displayed as uncles and nephews. Almost there is no biological relationship of father and mother. At the same time, industrial objects as they are collected from trees, used and disposed of without any binding to its production system. A character needs a helicopter and it appears immediately on hand to be used. And after use is mysteriously dropped. Everything behaves as if it were organic products, the nature and harvested trees.

The work of Courbet and Schneemann have the strength to reveal this strange situation returning the importance for biological, for women and their specificity. Also, this biological is not presented as pure brute fact, but linked to the cultural process and a certain sacredness that celebrates the creative act, unveiling the be hiding in the art of the era. The world and all that dwells in it then becomes the result of a creative process, a system or production process.

Carolee Schneemann – “Interior Scroll” – Performance – 1975

Carolee Schneemann – “Interior Scroll” – Performance – 1975

References

– ARISTÓTELES. (1996). Poética. Trad., Pref., Introd., Com., Apend. de Eudoro de Sousa. Porto Alegre: Globo.
– Butcher, S.H.(2006). “Aristotle’s Poetics: New Translation.” 2006-08-05. <http://www.leeds.ac.uk/classics/resources/poetics/poettran.htm>
– Costa, Lígia Militz da. (1992). A Poética de Aristóteles: Mímese e Verossimilhança. São Paulo: Ática.
– Gazoni, M. F. (2006). A Poética de Aristóteles: tradução e comentários. 2006. 132 f. Tese (Doutorado em Filosofia) – Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo.
– Goldschmidt, Victor. (1982). Temps physique et temps tragique chez Aristote. Paris: J. Vrin.
– Lehrer, Keith. (2012). Art, Self and Knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
– Naval Durán, Concepción. (1992). Educación, Retórica y Poética: tratado de la educación en Aristóteles. Pamplona: Ed. da Universidad de Navarra.

Ph.D Eduardo Cardoso Braga
2014

The Adoration of the Magi according to Giotto

The Adoration of the Magi

The Adoration of the Magi

 

The Adoration of the Magi, 1304-1306.
Capela Scrovegni, Pádua, Itália.

While the other monotheists and the Protestant Reformation excluded images of worship, the Catholic Church maintained its pictorial representation giving her a didactic use. This use of the image was always questioned throughout history by various currents within the Church. However, the argument of force didactic image always triumph. In fact, before a largely illiterate population the images become teaching tool for the church, which appealed to artists whose works illustrated and approached the life and works of saints, the everyday reality of the common man. Due to the use of great artists for the construction of Christian imagery, production iconography Church wins the aesthetical and artistic dimension going well beyond mere didacticism. The construction of the Western visual communication, as well as their aesthetical bases can have their archeology found in Renaissance movement, especially in its religious dimension.

Giotto is an artist of this stature. His image simplification, based on a clear and precise design, its light color, clean and bright make their images are a visual impact and a dimension of monumentality itself to express the educational content desired by the church. Vasari in his “Lives of the most important artists of the Italian Renaissance“, written in 1550, considers Giotto as the very origin of the movement, which will culminates in the generation of Vasari. This generation develops a sense of rupture with the passed culture immediately differentiating indeterminate temporal flow. This is a break with the Gothic and a resume, according to an accurate reading of a classical passed has been forgotten.

In the painting “The Adoration of the Magi Giotto,” whose execution took place among 1304 and 1306, the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy, Giotto shows all the mastery of his monumental style, clear and perceptive impact. The scene reveals one Epiphany, i.e., a manifestation and miraculous phenomena, which expresses a special moment of revelation that illuminates a significant and makes the life of one or more characters. Thus, the observer of the scene becomes a witness to the fact, keeping the Christian faith and belief in the veracity of the narratives of biblical events.

Giotto’s painting we are analyzing is part of a set of images ordered and paid by Enrico Scrovegni, a rich merchant. Usury was condemned by the Church and a way to purge this sin was to make donations to the church as works of art and architecture, thus contributing to the glorification of God and evangelization of men. Enrico’s father, Rinaldo is Scrovegni character of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is in the seventh circle of hell, where those responsible are being punished for the sin of usury. So it is obvious that Enrico wants to purge devoting part of his fortune to build beautiful works of art for the churches, purifying himself so much like his father.

The theme of the adoration of the Magi is linked to the main theme of the Nativity that had already been recovered by introducing yourself in the popular imagination thanks to the work of San Francisco and dissemination of cribs and nativity scenes.

In the Bible, the only reference to the Nativity and the Magi found in the Gospel of Matthew. It is precisely this gospel that Giotto provides the imagistic elements to compose the scene of the Adoration of the Magi, which are represented as rich and powerful men from other lands and religions, but who recognize the Child Jesus the Messiah. They then pay tribute and bring offerings to the Messiah who was prophesied by a star. According to Matthew, “fell down and worshiped him.” Giotto makes them even kiss the feet of Jesus. In this painting, we see a constant recurrence in images of Giotto: the presence of the rock, which appears in many paintings of the time. This is a reference to Psalm of David (18.2) which states: “The Lord is my rock.” The wooden cover, very stylized, is an icon that references the manger, Nativity place.

Beyond the iconography derived directly from the Gospel of Matthew there are small elements that are probably based on the book of Peter, which was taken from the Bible and belong with the so-called “New Testament Apocrypha“.

Evidently Giotto built his compositions under the supervision of doctors of the Church and the inclusion of elements of the apocryphal gospels cannot be understood as a form of defense. The reason Giotto use these visual elements, which are not described in Matthew, is mostly due to the presence of these elements already in the popular imagination than any alleged recovery apocryphal gospels. To the effect of “witness of truth” must happen is that the imaginary expectations of the people are fully satisfied, adding a visual impact Giotto whose creation is a great teacher. The main elements that are not in Matthew are the rock, who’s meaning has already been explained, the angel and the star or comet. Angel are mixed and star and both have the same meaning with significant different. This is the reference angel as a star. The guiding star is the angel who guides.

The Adoration of the Magi is a derivative of the Nativity theme, but has its iconography beauty, and a wealth of images created by great artists.

Regardless of faith or ideological dimension of education, we can certainly enjoy the aesthetical beauty of the painting of Giotto. His emphasis on drawing clear, clean and direct and monumentality in the treatment chart reveals an archeology of contemporary visual communications. There is great beauty in the subtle use of colors representing with great sensitivity immaculate holiness of characters in the scene. The draping of garments refers explicitly to classical sculptures of ancient Greece and the entire scene is bathed in a transcendent elegance without flaunting any excessive luxury. The beauty of this painting opens my heart to celebrate, Brazilian celebrate “folia dos reis” (Three Kings Day).

Prof. Dr. Eduardo C Braga

06/01/2013 – Folia de Reis

References

 BUENO, Cintia M. F. R. “Seguindo a estrela: Mateus e o Apócrifo de Pedro na Epyphania de Giotto em Pádua”. In: ANPUH – XXV SIMPÓSIO NACIONAL DE HISTÓRIA – Fortaleza, 2009.

 HEINZ-MOHR, Gerd. Dicionário dos Símbolos: Imagens e sinais da Arte Cristã. São Paulo: Paulus, 1994.

 PANOFSKY, Erwin. O significado nas artes visuais. Trad. Maria Clara F. Kneese e J. Guinsburg. São Paulo, Perspectiva, 1979. (coleção debates)

 PANOFSKY, Erwin, A Perspectiva como forma simbólica, Lisboa, Edições 70, 1993.

 VASARI, Giorgio, 1511-1574. Lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors & architects, by Giorgio Vasari: newly tr. by Gaston du C. de Vere. With five hundred illustraiions, (London, Macmillan and co., ld. & The Medici society, ld., 1912-15.)

 

Art and autonomy: the decisive contribution of modernity

The concept of genius was first formulated by the Enlightenment and later developed in German Idealism. Its function was to explain the differential nature of art when compared to the world or nature. From its origins and development, this concept took two contradictory directions. On one side it was assumed irrationality linked to a power that has the artist-genius. On the other hand, strengthened the concept of an autonomous art, that is, possessing its own rules when compared with the phenomenon of nature and even the needs of society. For modernity, the defense of the autonomy of the artwork engendered the possibility of an unity between the subjective and the objective or the defense of an aesthetic sense represented not simply a matter of personal taste. The autonomy of art necessarily infer that there are criteria for judging the quality and importance of works of art. Thus, the distinction between genres or repertoires “superior” and “lower” is possible thanks to the criteria established by the autonomy of art, which make possible the means of evaluation of their own activity.

We can already see in Kant and Hegel thought contrary to the absolute irrationality of subjectivism. Kant formulated the pleasant feeling of beauty does not have a conceptual basis, this is you cannot reach it and discuss it using logical arguments. But this does not lead to irrationality in that for Kant this aesthetic feeling has the property to be shared and validated by a group of people who feel the same certainty about beauty. Therefore, non-conceptual does not mean that the aesthetic feeling to become the property of a totally subjective opinion. In Kant, the subjectivity of aesthetic feeling is mediated by the communicability of the feeling and recognition by other members of the same community.

Hegel entered the art and important as an organic part of his philosophical system. He fought the romantic tendencies who joined the art as a product of an intense imagination, anarchic and undisciplined intuition and senses. Imagination that could never be governed by a rationale and abstract thought. Against the enemies of reason, Hegel thinks of art as something that has the truth and, therefore, likely to be thought of Reason. Hegel defines art as a tangible manifestation of the Spirit. This appears to substantially the Spirit cannot be mistaken as an appearance whatsoever. For Hegel, art is a representation that leads to a different reality of everyday life. In this, the appearance hides an essence. In the art, the look reveals an intrinsic essence to it. So art gives us a higher autonomous reality and true. In the Kantian tradition and especially Hegel, art is an activity that preserves its autonomy, conceived as part of a system of thought that establishes criteria for the aesthetic.

The autonomy of art is what preserves exacerbated subjectivist relativism that leads to a catch-all made incapable any trial that qualify. This pure subjectivism is a true “assault on reason” which prevents any kind of common agreement. It is strongly present in the post-modern trends that deny modernism and the search for a synthesis between subjectivity and objectivity.

Thus, it is vital to the defense the way the art object and its autonomy, thus preventing the dilution of the autonomy of art. This autonomy does not exclude the possibility of finding homologous structures between art and society, since art is an activity part of everyday life to then return to it, resulting in a repetitive circular motion and increase in awareness of the sensitive men, or, a real catharsis. This increase is not a daydream or a kind of escape. She opposes the fragmentary experience of everyday life enriching the man who, through art, makes the passage of what is real to what is abstract and vice versa. The art, therefore, enables the transcendence of fragmentation engendered by the mere mercantile relations, producing a continuous enrichment (spiritual awareness) of humanity.

Art, then, figure, with its own means, the reality that is presented as chaotic daily life. This figuration is presented seamlessly confronting the fragmentation of everyday experience and thus enabling a perceptive break marked by heterogeneity and superficiality of the phenomenon of the day-to-day that hide their true essence. This is a re-presentation of the world as a second immediacy, so the necessary autonomy of art relative to this world. The fragmented character of reality reappears through the art form, transfigured as a new immediacy, this is a sensitive unit of essence and appearance. Alienation, estrangement, indifference and aggression in the world is transformed into an art for itself, that is, a world in accordance with the human.

This is possible thanks to the work of the artist, his talent or genius, who focused all determinations of reality into a whole, in their own world. There is then the receiver, or spectator, art an unique suspension of their daily life, raising it from subjectivity to a field goal, or, singular to the universal.

This movement’s own art, namely, the movement to break and return to everyday life can only be experienced in that art has a high degree of autonomy from the everyday life and is not determined or driven by everyday needs and subjective . The autonomy of art demands that it belongs with the realm of freedom and not necessity. Ultimately, art cannot be completely diluted in everyday life. Its autonomy is a condition of its negative character or lift relative to the fragmentation and alienation of contemporary daily experiences. Thus, contrary to postmodern attitudes that make the art a decorative social modernity, with the autonomy of art, makes it necessary to the process of overcoming alienation, making the world a habitable place for humans and all forms of life.

Prof. Dr. Eduardo Cardoso Braga
São Paulo, October 12, 2011