In the Museum with Magdalena Moskalewicz
Cildo Meireles, Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project
by Zoya Brumberg (MA 2015)
What could three Coca-Cola bottles possibly say about modern art and Brazilian politics in the 1970s? For Brazilian conceptual artist Cildo Meireles, the Coca-Cola bottle was more than a vehicle for a consumer product. His 1970 piece, Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project, employs the classic bottles as a signifier of American hegemony and a medium for subversive communication. Meireles saw the cycle of consumption represented by the bottles as a ‘circuit’ that could be interrupted—he affixed nearly-invisible stickers with messages about modern art and the United States’ political involvement in Brazil into empty Coca-Cola bottles, then returned them to the factory to be refilled. Once full of dark soda, the messages became visible. Meireles was able to communicate art and political ideology through “secret” messages between the artist and Brazilian consumers, unbeknownst to Coca-Cola.
Magdalena Moskalewicz, curator and lecturer in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, says Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project is “an opportunity to talk with students about what an ‘ideological circuit’ is.” Meireles’ piece was a way to communicate within an oppressive society in a time before digital communication. For Moskalewicz, Meireles’ work is an archive of a moment in time—a relic from a performance piece, one that sought to facilitate subversive communication and discourse about art through objects that would not be art without the story to contextualize them.
When Moskalewicz teaches Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project, she asks her students to imagine, “how can an artist insert themselves into an ‘ideological’ circuit today?” It is a poignant question for emerging artists and art historians, one that keeps Meireles’ piece relevant in the face of a transformed system of social communications.