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At the height of the British Empire Liverpool’s reputation as an international port marked the city’s geographical location and its sometimes uncomfortable place in history. August 1960 marked a significant change: the Beatles hit the headlines, and from that day to this Liverpool has been known worldwide as the birthplace of the most famous pop group of all time. Meanwhile 1960s Brazil was subsumed by the samba and bossa nova rhythms of artists such as VinIcius de Moáres, Gilberto Gil and Carlos Jobim, who blended musical styles from Africa, India and Portugal. Although they attracted international attention, none of these artists had the incredible global impact of the Fab Four: John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Merseybeat, the Beatles and their birthplace, Liverpool, inspired one of Brazil’s most significant living artists to create a project for International 04. A pioneer of installation art since the 1960s, Cildo Meireles is best known for his dramatic and politically charged walk-in environments, which often incorporate sound, smell and touch alongside an all-encompassing visual experience, requiring the viewer’s full ‘The Poets are, as Always, in the Vanguard’ perceptual involvement. For several decades Meireles’ work has been included in the most significant international surveys, from the landmark Information exhibition at MOMA, New York, in 1970, to the XXIV Biennial of Sáo Paulo in 1998. A major retrospective of Meireles’ work opened in 1999, organised by MOMA, New York, in association with the Museums of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro and Sáo Paulo.

Taking the top 27 Beatles songs (from the album The Beatles 1, released in November 2000), Meireles layered one track on another around the central note of each. In this way, the longest song (‘Hey Jude’ at 7 minutes 4 seconds) started to play and continued uninterrupted until almost four minutes later when ‘Come Together’ began. Another song was added after a few seconds and gradually more were added until all 27 tracks were playing simultaneously. The sounds blurred into an indistinguishable white noise. Gradually, as the shortest track came to an end (‘From Me to You’ at 1 minute 56 seconds), followed by the end of the next and the next, individual chords became recognisable. Short phrases triggered the memory and suddenly the dying moments of ‘Hey Jude’ were heard before a silence and the whole cycle starts again.

Through this project Meireles succeeded in creating a tangible, physical presence for the music, a solid form condensed from sound – a parallel to the very real and continued ‘presence in absence’ of the Beatles in Liverpool.

Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial International 04

Sound engineering (Rio): Pedro Ariel Meireles Production assistance (Liverpool): Sean Hawkridge


18 September – 28 November 2004