“red shift” by cildo meireles

another cildo meireles installation at the museu d’art contemporani de barcelona was called “red shift”. in physics the term describes the stretching of light as it travels through expanding space on its way to the earth. but meireles is referring to a shift in perception.

the installation occupies a u-shaped space, starting with what looks like a studio apartment done up exclusively in red. there is a normalcy to this environment. the monochromatic color scheme is soothing although the abundance of red objects could also point to a hoarder’s obsession with collecting/acquiring/consuming. to me it was a capitalist’s sanctuary. this first part is called “impregnation”.

the second part of the installation connects this first room to a second room. it is a winding path along which a tiny bottle lies sideways, spilling a disproportionately large amount of red paint. already the installation starts to feel a bit odd and unsettling. as we move along this pathway the paint spill seems interminable. the lights dim. it gets progressively darker. this part is called “entorno”, which means both spill and environment in portuguese.

we finally reach the second room, the most dramatically staged yet. it is pitch black now. we cannot see the contours of the room. a spotlight is mounted on top of a large white sink, floating in space at a crooked angle. there is blood-like fluid gushing forth from the faucet, making a loud splashing sound. like the spill, this spurt seems never-ending. the effect is that of a crime scene, something cinematically staged in a horror movie. it is ominous, terrifying. this part is called “shift”.

our perception has effectively shifted from familiar and comforting, to odd and surprising to downright frightening. the work is said to have been inspired by the murder of a journalist by brazilian police, when the country was struggling under a military dictator in the 1960s. the message seems clear. unbridled capitalism or accumulation of private wealth, which for many countries goes hand in hand with dictatorships, can only be achieved through exploitation and violence.

“red shift” by cildo meireles

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