Luis Camnitzer, Coca-Cola Bottle Filled with a Coca-Cola Bottle, 1973, Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich

Luis Camnitzer, 81 years-old today

Luis Camnitzer is 81 years old today. I came across an image of his work from 1973 titled “Coca-Cola Bottle Filled With a Coca-Cola Bottle” one day. It stopped me in my tracks. It was the first image of one of his works I had ever seen. First time I had heard his name.

For me, this work is a good example of a conceptual artwork doing its job really well. It has that quality that makes me think of what’s called a combination tone in music theory. A combination tone occurs as an acoustic phenomenon when two tones produced at the same time spontaneously produce the perception of a third.

As you might expect with conceptual work, the really interesting parts of this work by Camnitzer do not necessarily exist physically—unless, of course, you’re into Coca-Cola collectibles. The bottles are in some sense as unremarkable as snow shovels, bicycle wheels and bottle racks, ahem. Yet, in my mind (notice it has been activated and is hearing phantom tones), the suggestions made by this object seem fruitful, endless, as it sits there sort of humming as you look at it wondering what it means.

What are the implications of something that contains itself? One whole; one carefully shattered, broken. One a skin, the other a mass. Solid, liquid. A brand, a product, its own waste. A product of its own waste.

Ryoji Ikeda at Eye Film Museum