Eleanor Clayton, Assistant Curator, invites you to take a close look at the bottles in Brazilian conceptual artist Cildo Meireles’s Coca-Cola Project, on display in Art Turning Left at Tate Liverpool

Cildo Meireles, 'Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project' 1970

Cildo Meireles
Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project 1970
Transfer text on glass bottle, metal and soft drink, in three parts
object, each: 250 x 60 x 60 mm
Presented by the artist 2006, accessioned 2007© Cildo Meireles

View the main page for this artwork

Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola project is on display at Tate Liverpool in Art Turning Left, an exhibition which reveals how left-wing values have been embedded into the modes of artistic production and distribution by numerous artists across the globe.

When empty the bottles look like normal Coca-Cola bottles, but when full the brown liquid reveals political statements printed on the glass in white, like ‘Yankees Go Home’, or instructions for how to make a Molotov cocktail. The empty bottles were recycled back into the Coca-Cola distribution system with these messages on, at a time when Coca-Cola was extremely symbolic of the capitalist imperialism of American influence within Brazil.

Meireles said of this work that he sought to use systems that were not centrally controlled, like the media or press, and that:

The Insertions would only exist to the extent that they ceased to be the work of just one person. The work only exists to the extent that other people participate in it. What also arises is the need for anonymity. By extension, the question of anonymity involves the question of ownership. When the object of art becomes a practice, it becomes something over which you can have no control or ownership.

This shows Meireles opting to use distributions systems outside of the commercial art market also, eschewing the idea of ownership and authorship that such systems depend upon. The question of how art can be distributed differently is one which features in our show Art Turning Left, with a range of artistic solutions being offered - from the French revolution, to postable artworks by Fluxus from the 1960s. The exhibition is structured around persistent problems like this to provoke further questions, and maybe to offer solutions as well.

Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789–2013 is on display at Tate Liverpool from 8 November 2013 – 2 February 2014