Gesture and the Object: The Everyday in IMAGINE BRAZIL

Date and time
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gesture and the Object: The Everyday in IMAGINE BRAZIL

DHC/ART Education has created a pedagogical tool, IMAGINE BRAZIL: Movements, with the goal of encouraging visitors to develop and elaborate on key concepts examined in the IMAGINE BRAZIL exhibition. The concepts include anthropophagy, the everyday, heterogeneity and space. This week, we are presenting the second essay in the series, which explores the idea of everyday.

Content: Everyday

As suggested by philosopher Yuriko Saito, everyday aesthetics seeks to “highlight the extraordinary aesthetic potential of the most ordinary everyday experience and, at the same time, to analyze our ordinary aesthetic reaction in its everyday mode [1]”. As this philosophical current gains more prominence, so continues artists’ incorporation of the everyday as a conceptual point of departure or material. Banal, ordinary, typical... we may see these descriptors repeat themselves across disciplines, but just as one’s understanding of aesthetic may move beyond the beautiful and the extraordinary, one’s concept of the everyday can move beyond the trivial and ongoing; there are no fixed definitions of either. What is certain, however, is that even with a shared understanding of what constitutes the everyday, the form that these various objects, symbols, activities, or gestures take is as subjective and varied as our lived experience and socio-historical locations.

The everyday for certain artists in IMAGINE BRAZIL takes myriad forms that challenge similar economic and social structures. Compelling the viewer to re-consider feeling, doing, or being through the everyday, these artists interrogate systems of power and oppression, re-situate history, and create opportunities for connection.

Forty-five years ago, Cildo Meireles was already questioning the sacredness of the art object in his work. Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project (1970) is one of two projects based on, in his words, “the need to create a system for the circulation and exchange of information that did not depend on any kind of centralized control [2]”. Meireles inscribed glass Coca-Cola bottles with subversive text before putting them back into circulation. In doing so he sought to disrupt established power and ownership structures, and in turn, engage public participation in the flow of messages.

By contrast, Paulo Nazareth’s practice in performance engages with the body in movement. Through the everyday act of walking, he has covered long distances and historically significant routes that put him into closer contact with others and, in doing so, his own hybrid roots. Combining in his installations everyday gestures and objects that imply some kind of human relationship or exchange in the public sphere (trading cards, newspapers, street posters, etc.), Nazareth sheds critical light on the power of outside interests to dictate, among other things, self-perception, cultural identity, and national borders.

As the category of ‘everyday’ fluctuates depending on context, so does an object’s cultural or ideological weight. What are some examples of objects or gestures that you consider to be everyday? What factors might cause someone else to see them in a different way?

The ongoing realities stemming from colonialism, slavery, dictatorship, and neo-imperialism weigh heavily in the exhibition. In what ways can the use of the everyday objects and gestures allow us to enter into dialogue about the effects of collective trauma, systemic violence, or internalized oppression?

DHC/ART Education

[1] Yuriko Saito, Everyday Aesthetics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), accessed October 30, 2015,
[2] Cildo Meireles, “Insertions into Ideological Circuits, 1970-75,” in Art and Social Change: A Critical Reader, ed. Charles Esche and Will Bradley (London: Tate Publishing, 2008), 181-186.

Photo: Cildo Meireles, Insertions into Ideological Circuits: Coca-Cola Project, 1970. Text transfer on glass. 18 x 80 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Galeria Luisa Strina, São Paulo.

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