On Cildo Meireles

Carey Young

I have been collecting slogans about corporate creativity for the last decade. It's a little like building some vast textual graveyard of the imagination stone by stone, except this is no mausoleum: such slogans express corporate vision for the future, a desire to be associated with imagination, innovation, with artistic endeavour and the avant-garde new. This image of imagination allows firms to suggest they have a handle on the future, and as a result, a greater market worth. These slogans have not only accumulated on my computer like a virus, they are also everywhere outside it: in advertisements, on the TV, in public space, in our galleries. Think Different. Invent. Imagination at work. Where imagination begins. It's not that hard to imagine. A repetitive beat, an echo: the sound of the market's systems and images in endless call and response.

The strange thing about these slogans is, in fact, that most are very hard to remember. I made a work about this: Product Recall, (2007), a short video set in a psychoanalyst's consulting room. For this video I fabricated the consulting room, complete with wall-mounted Persian rugs and framed monochromatic prints (in this case, a print of Dürer's Melencolia 1, 1514) typical of Freud's consulting room with the Modernist furniture and academic clutter of the average cinema or TV shrink. In Product Recall the analyst gently tests my ability to recall the company names associated with a number of corporate catch phrases around creativity. All of the slogans are from real ad campaigns of globally-recognised brands, most of which are active as sponsors of art institutions, fairs and exhibitions. During the analysis session, which seems part of an ongoing relationship between the analyst and myself, it remains unclear whether the point of the exercise is for me to remember, or to forget the material. The fact was, whether acting or not, it proved impossible for me to recall many of the slogans. They all sound the same, and simply slide into each other like some accidental business merger. The quasi-fictional realism of the piece is intentional - the audience (whom I often like to engage as participants in my work rather than as observers) will also find themselves able to remember some of these slogans and not others simply because these brand statements are so bland. It has struck me that if we are looking for ways to resist corporate influence, one small method may simply be not to remember their advertising messages.

Cildo Meireles has been an inspiration for my work for about the same decade. His Insertions imply hope in our systems-oriented era in ways which have only become more prescient. The idea of an artistic intervention, with its implication of stoppages and blockages, has always seemed a little naïve to me. Why is this word so over-used in connection with art? I hope I am not being over-literal when I ask: since when did an artist actually stop anything to do with mainstream Capitalism?  Insertions seems a much more useful and provocative term. It implies that the artist has the knowledge and the tactical cunning to define a system (perhaps by combining disparate systems) in formal, conceptual and indeed rhizomatic terms, and then find a gap from which to insert or divert something which reframes an understanding of the whole. Such a tactic exposes and manipulates the dynamics and asymmetries of power around us: a form of Kinetic art employing a systems aesthetic. This is art as software: it implies a potential reprogramming of the physical and the immaterial. We should explore this model further.

Text produced for Tate magazine, issue 14, 2008 - see article online here

© Carey Young, 2008