Jac Leirner (1961 - )

O Livro (dos cem) (1987)
The Book (from The One-Hundreds)

Screen print on paper
height: 64.06cm
width: 24cm

Donated by Jac Leirner 1994


O Livro is one element of a series collectively titled Os Cem (The One-Hundreds), a series that Jac Leirner assembled between 1985 and 1987. The starting point for each element of the series is the 100 Cruzeiro note; at the time of this series' making, the Brazilian Cruzeiro was a currency about to reach the limit of its valuable life. Hyperinflation, and with it the sudden transformation of money into piles of printed paper, allowed Leirner to amass thousands of one-hundreds, which became the raw material for sculptural works: snakes and rings of notes strung together closely so that the nature of their material was not immediately evident, and their primary resemblance was to soft-edged sculpture.

Os Cem was a series within which every element of each note was conserved, from the paper dots created when Leirner punched and strung together wads of notes, to the words written on the notes; collected, transcribed, taxonomised (into thematic categories: love, sex, religion, politics, signature, picture, indecipherable mark) and, as here, typeset into the poster-page of an imaginary book. This work, O Livro, is thus a highly charged linguistic monument disguised, as a book, in the cooled-down clothing of historical document.

O Livro makes transparent one of the habits that make up human communication (and one common in Brazil): writing on banknotes. This is a type of writing that, like graffiti, often has meaning for few others than its author, an enunciation that is more memento than message. There is a peculiar gap between the someone who desires to speak and the one who will eventually listen, receiving the bank note via a differently intended type of transaction. On the wall of a gallery Leirner is translating this species of communication into another configuration; there is a complete dislocation between text and referent, where the text speaks from and who it now speaks to.

The emptying out of meaning from these message-mementos, (and value from the notes that they were written on) is given greater density by the homophonic pun between the words 'Cem' (100) and 'Sem' (without) of the parenthesised series title. While the literal translation of Dos Cem is 'from the' (de + os = dos) 'One Hundreds' (Cem), it also translates phonetically as 'from' (de) 'those' (os) 'without' (sem).

Isobel Whitelegg, 2008

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