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PRINT February 2010

CURATING

Hélio Oiticica

“THE FIRE LASTS and suddenly one day it goes out, but while it lasts it is eternal.” This was the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, writing in July 1966 about appropriation as anti-art. The appropriation in question was a fire can, one of the innumerable makeshift road signals fashioned from empty oil tins that lit the Rio de Janeiro night, as Oiticica wrote, like so many “cosmic, symbolic signs”: anonymous, ubiquitous, yet unquestionably “a work” as soon as singled out by the perceptive act.

Oiticica died unexpectedly at the age of forty-two in 1980, thereby extinguishing a fire that, by all accounts, burned fiercely and passionately, leaving not cinders but blazing light in its wake. B 38 Bólide Lata 01—Apropriação 02 “Consumitivo” (B 38 Can Bolide 01—Appropriation 02 “Consumptive”), 1966, the appropriation described above, was one of these lights: an intellectual proposition both capable

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