Art & Science Transdisciplinary Lectures
Okwui Enwezor, Curator. On the Politics of Disaggregation: Notes on Cildo Meireles’ Insertions into Ideological Circuits
November 2, 2010
Parsons The New School for Design
A new initiative co-organized with the School of Art, Media, and Technology and the Fine Arts Program Parsons, this series captures the increasingly trans-disciplinary nature of scientific, academic, artistic and cultural practices and, in particular, focuses on the complex cross-disciplinary settings for art’s production in contemporary life. Okwui Enwezor’s lecture is entitled “On the Politics of Disaggregation: Notes on Cildo Meireles’ Insertions into Ideological Circuits.”
Far more than for any other part of his oeuvre, Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles has become known for his project Insertions into Ideological Circuits from the early 1970s. In order to avoid censorship, Meireles printed images and messages onto various consumer items (such as recyclable Coca-Cola bottles) and bank notes already in wide circulation. Enwezor analyzes this body of work, maintaining that Meireles’ Insertions – like Jorge Luis Borges’ forking paths – operate at the gap between material flows, ideological structures, and nodes of value (symbolic, social, economic, political). The artist’s “insertions” are as much cuts inscribed on as they are breaks struck into formal structures of power, broadcast systems, and instruments of public transmission.
As Enwezor elaborates, “In tactical terms, the “insertions” represent the brutal scoring onto the sheets of public consciousness of the wild rumors of human existence caught in the grips of unaccountable power. Thus they are procedures of disaggregation carefully insinuated into spheres of everyday practice whether embodied in models of institutional totalization – for instance in the machineries of the State and multinational capital – or in the theological pieties of the church and family. In seeking to analyze and attack these scenes of production, communication, dissemination, and domination, Meireles in Inserções formulated the modalities of a counter-ideological discourse, one which through communicative action arrives at the address of its intended public by means of dispersal and detour into social structures and institutional systems.”
Enwezor’s talk follows two lectures on post-Fordism and artistic practices, delivered by sociologist Pascal Gielen and philosopher Michael Hardt on October 26.
* * *
Okwui Enwezor is a curator, writer, and scholar. He is the founding publisher and editor of Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art. Since 2005 he is Adjunct Curator at International Center of Photography, New York and was previously Adjunct Curator of Contemporary Art, at the Art Institute of Chicago. Enwezor was Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice President at San Francisco Art Institute (2005-2009) and has held academic appointments as Visiting Professor in Art History at University of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, New York, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and University of Umea, Sweden. In 2011 he will deliver the Alain Leroy Locke Lectures at Harvard University, and in 2012, he will serve as Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.
Enwezor has served as the Artistic Director of several leading biennials and global exhibitions including the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1996-1997); Documenta 11 (1998-2002); 2nd International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Seville, Spain (2005-2006); and 7th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2007-2008). He is currently Artistic Director of Meeting Points 6, a performance and visual arts project bringing together theater, dance, film, and contemporary art in eight Arab and European cities (Beirut, Amman, Damascus, Cairo, Tunis, Tangier, Brussels, Berlin).
Amongst Enwezor’s numerous exhibitions are The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-1994, Museum Villa Stuck; Century City, Tate Modern, London; Mirror’s Edge, Bildmuseet, Umea; In/Sight: African Photographers, 1940-Present, Guggenheim Museum; Global Conceptualism, Queens Museum, New York and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Stan Douglas: Le Detroit, Art Institute of Chicago; David Goldblatt: Fifty One Years, Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography, International Center of Photography, New York; The Unhomely: Phantom Scenes in Global Society, Centro Andalucia de Arte Contemporaneo, Seville, and Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art, at International Center of Photography, New York.
Some of his publications include Events of the Self: Contemporary African Photography from the Walther Collection (Steidl, 2010); Contemporary African Art Since 1980, with Chika Okeke-Agulu (Damiani Editore, 2009; Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art (ICP/Steidl, 2008); Mega Exhibitions: Antinomies of a Transnational Global Form (Fink Verlag, 2002); as well as edited volumes Antinomies of Art and Culture: Modernity, Postmodernity, Contemporaneity with Terry Smith and Nancy Condee (Duke University Press, 2008), and Reading the Contemporary: African Art from Theory to the Marketplace (INIVA and MIT Press, 1999).
He is currently completing work on two historical exhibitions: The Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Bureaucracy, Institutions and Everyday Life; and Sun in their Eyes: Photography and the Invention of Africa, 1839-1939, as part of trilogy of exhibitions focusing on the African continent at the International Center of Photography, New York.