‘Volatile’ is a mystery reserved for four people at a time. The final work in the Cildo Meireles retrospective at Tate Modern requires you to take off your shoes and socks and brave the step into darkness. What you find, when your eyes adjust, is Meireles’ work at its most dangerous and its most achingly beautiful.
In a nutshell, Meireles’ work pours cold water on our contemporary artistic fixations. His concept of Conceptual is not to re-present objects in a way that frames some clunky, inflexible academic idea, reducing it to a full stop at the end of a train of thought, but to open up our responses with something playful that nevertheless conceals a darker heart.
Dynamic narratives are created from everyday objects like Coke bottles, pennies, radios and rulers – personal objects we all own that are laden with symbolism. From these nuts and bolts he explores political corruption, time and space, the subversion of authority and the concept of infinity. ‘For me,’ Meireles has said, ‘the art object must be, despite everything else, instantly seductive.’
In ‘Mission/Missions (How To Build Cathedrals)’, a pool of copper pennies invites you to dip your hand and rake the shallows, evocative of blood drip-dripping from the mausoleum of bones above you. A string of communion wafers ascends towards some higher spirituality, ironically offering the body of Christ in a bid to eradicate the cannibalism of the indigenous people of
The viewer – or, more accurately, the participant – is required not just to think but to feel, to hear hundreds of radios whispering in your ear, or the sheer volume of a room where every object is red, or cold shivers down your neck as glass cracks beneath you. Some mysteries are best left unexplained.