Ana Maria Maiolino, Gulp Gulp Gulp
Glu, Glu, Glu: Digestion, Consumerism, Ignorance
The Brazilian Military Coup of 1964 displaced João Goulart, an anti-militarist who became president only because of Silva Quadros’ resignation in 1961. The coup was at first a ‘relief’ to many Brazilian citizens, because it came during a time of strikes, military dissent, and inflation rates peaking at 92% (Nadorff 301). Unfortunately, the relief that Brazilians felt was short lived, as the military rule soon became oppressive with the creation of ‘Institutional Acts’ that superseded the Brazilian Constitution of 1967. Institutional Act No. 5, passed “on December 13, 1968 marked a new, harsher phase of authoritarian military rule in Brazil (Ibid 325). Specifically, the suspension of Habeas Corpus was incredibly detrimental because it enabled “the practice of torture [to become] widespread, systematic and institutionalized” (Macaulay). Habeas Corpus had functioned in the past to protect the human body by legally requiring someone detaining another to produce their body in court. Without it, there was no way of knowing if someone had already been tortured, killed, and disposed of. As a result, the idea of the protected human body as a sacred right fundamentally changed. The body became more like a commodity: devalued, non-unique, and disposable.
Art became an arena for highlighting, questioning, and discussing the new implication for the body that were created by the suspension of Habeas Corpus. The period of Concretism during the 1950s in Brazil placed importance on universal discourse instead of local in an effort to internationalize Brazil, which lead to a separation from the individual body. Between 1958-1965, Neoconcetism emerged in opposition to Concretism, and would go on to “receive wide international recognition for reformulating and surpassing the idealistic precepts of Concrete Art” (Chiarelli). Neoconcretism also became an important tool for creating questions about the body in art. With Neoconcretism, the body became not only a subject of art, but also an integral part of art by physically interacting with it. This can be evidentially seen in Rubens Gerchman’s work, The Altar, where viewers of the work were invited to kneel within the instillation. The work was not complete without a viewer’s body within it. Another work that involves the human body, and is thematically connected to Pop Art through commenting on consumption is Glu, Glu, Glu by Anna Maria Maiolino.
Completed in 1968, and constructed from quilted fabric and wood, Glu, Glu, Glu appears to be a representation of a human body from the waist up. However, from the shoulders down, the exterior of the body is gone, and the digestive organs are exposed. The organs are all different colors, and appear to be in their proper location. The top half of the work does have its exterior skin, but the skin is blue, and the only facial feature that is depicted is the mouth. The mouth is open, and the words Glu, Glu, Glu are written as if they are food descending individually into the throat, being prepared for digestion. The work mechanizes the human body, and more specifically, its process of digestion. Individuality is lost because of the lack of facial features, and the blue skin creates an eerie sense that the human depicted is dead, while making the race of the individual unclear.
Anna Maria Maiolino’s work provides a commentary on the nature of consumption. By removing the eyes, ears, and nose, Maiolino literally removes senses from consumption. She is suggesting that the constant use of commodities is blind, and thereby controlled by some lager, imperialistic power. The individual is not thinking about the implications of consuming: that it furthers the capitalist structure, and that it leaves the less fortunate living in the waste of the more fortunate. As a result, commodities are usually not recognized as such: they are an assumed part of every day life, while the consumers are ignorant towards the people and the processes responsible for providing it. Latin American Pop Art has historically questioned this system, and especially highlighted the differences in commodity consumption across the North and South. This trend can be seen in influential Latin American Pop Art works such as Juantio Sleeping by Antonio Berni, and The Queen of the Yokes by Alberto Gironella. Glu, Glu, Glu is similarly non-neutral on the subject of consumption. Enhancing its political critique, the work was completed in the same year as Habeas Corpus was suspended. Therefore, this piece that directly comments on consumption of commodities, can also be connected to the treatment of human bodies as commodities. Glu, Glu, Glu creates a discussion about how Institutional Act No. 5 altered the value of the Brazilian human body, and the implications that had on the social, political, and economic structures of the nation.
- Schuyler DeBree
Chiarelli, Tadeu. “Modernism and Concretism in Brazil: Impacts and Resonances.” Post: Notes on Modern and Contemporary Art Around the Globe. 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 4 April 2015.
Nadorff, Norman. “Habeas Corpus and the Protection of Political and Civil Rights in Brazil.” Lawyer of the Americas 14.2 (1982): 297-336. Web. 28 Mar. 2015.
Macaulay, Fiona. “Brazil: Never Again?” History Workshop Journal 71 (2011). Web. 28 Mar. 2015.
Sidgwick, Emma. "Vivência: From Disciplined to Remade Lived Experience in the Brazilian Avant-Garde of the 1960s." Subjectivity 3.2 (2010): 193-208. ProQuest. Web. 1 Apr 2015.
Small, Irene V. "Sensitive Geometries: Brazil 1950s-1980s." Artforum international (2014): 208. Web. 31 Mar 2015.