Helio Oiticica’s Anti-Art: An Immersive Vantage Point

by Marc Davis

Visiting a museum often consists of standing in front of pieces of art not knowing what to look at or even what to think. Too often these expectations deprive many viewers of being able to experience art. Hélio Oiticica created his art in hope of bringing a new approach to how one experiences art. His method of delivering art is demonstrated in his installation, CC6 COKE’S HEAD SOUP, where Hélio Oiticica uses music, images, and the senses to bring together an immersive experience.

Oiticica was largely influenced by the time period he lived in and as CC6 COKE’S HEAD SOUP was made in 1973 this was a great epoch of culture for him to work with. The piece itself is unorthodox and what Oiticica described as Anti-Art. CC6 COKE’S HEAD SOUP is a room with white walls and  a mattress covering the entire floor. The person viewing the piece is invited into the room; one can stand on the mattress, jump, and walk around. Be eaten up as you sink into the mattress. On the walls, the picture projected is the album cover of Goats Head Soup by The Rolling Stones. The picture of the album is manipulated by Hélio Oiticica as he traces many parts of the album cover with trails of cocaine then taking a series of picture. Cocaine was commonly used by artists and a focus of many of Hélio’s pieces.  Because the picture is displayed on all four walls, one is inevitably looking at this projection in every direction, fully submerged. In the background the song “Sister Morphine” by The Rolling Stones is heard alongside sounds of a typewriter. The Rolling Stones were creating a world, changing music and the song itself stands in to create an emotion. As in many of his pieces, Hélio Oiticica leaves an interactive space creating a room where the possibilities are left up to one’s imagination.

Oiticica’s piece is representative of the impact that American pop culture has had upon foreign nations. At the time, Oiticica’s piece was as unorthodox as it is now. The difference in time reminds the viewer of its simplicity and the purpose behind it. Today, although no longer contemporary it related to its own time by mirroring the new music scene and the increase in drug use by creative communities. The piece has not lost its context and shows how immersive and timeless art truly is. The world changes and so does art but because Oiticica created this piece to be enveloping, it adapts keeping its purpose always in sight, to merge art and life.

By creating a room like this, Hélio Oiticica constructed a place where a person viewing can do whatever they’d like. The emotion of jumping on a mattress to a melodic rock song induces a feeling of childlike fantasy. A comforting room like this is a simple space –anyone can create it but Hélio did construct it in a way that gives the viewer a new stage to experience life as art and art as life.


Hélio Oiticica (b.1937) is a Brazilian artist and activist most prolifically working through the 1950s until his untimely death in 1980. His artistic practice began with geometric and abstract investigations in painting and drawing. From there he expanded into sculpture and architectural forms. Finally shifting into immersive installations, film and large scale environments. His work consistently reflected on the transformation of art maker and art spectator  –merging art and everyday life.    

Marc Davis is a high school student

Photo credit: Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Deliriun on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC through Oct. 1, 2017.