one of the coolest installations i’ve seen in years–the other next–was when i hit the blanton museum with my friend amy back home in april and saw the work of a brazilian artist, cildo meireles. the installation room is kept dramatically dark and the installation itself seems almost eerily lit from within. kids dove in knee-deep to the shiny pennies while most of the adults stood around the perimeter looking at the bone ceiling above and central rope connecting the two. exposition taken from the tate where he had an exhibition 2008-2009:
(How to Build Cathedrals) 1987
Mission/Missions (How to Build Cathedrals) was created for a group exhibition of Brazilian artists to commemorate the seven mission settlements founded by the Jesuits in Paraguay, Argentina and the south of Brazil between 1610 and 1767 to convert the Indigenous peoples to Christianity.
‘I wanted to construct something that would be a kind of mathematical equation, very simple and direct, connecting three elements: material power, spiritual power, and a kind of unavoidable, historically repeated consequence of this conjunction, which was tragedy’, Meireles has said.
The resulting work comments on the human cost of missionary work and its connection with the exploitation of wealth in the colonies: the ceiling is composed of 2,000 bones, while the floor comprises 600,000 coins. Symbolically joining these two elements is a column of 800 communion wafers.
The missionaries hoped to save the Indigenous population from what they understood to be the most savage of practices, cannibalism. As Paulo Herkenhoff explains, ‘In a plea to eradicate cannibalism, the missionaries offered in exchange the Eucharist and the Holy Communion – the consumption of Christ’s body.’ Yet the missionaries’ desire to absorb and replace the beliefs and practices of the Indigenous people itself constituted a form of cultural cannibalism, one culture or civilisation absorbing another.”