Missão/Missões [Mission/Missions] (How to Build Cathedrals)
249.94 cm x 345.95 cm x 345.95 cm (98 3/8 in. x 136 3/16 in. x 136 3/16 in.)
(Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1948 - )
Latin America, Brazilian
Medium and Support:
600,000 coins, 800 communion wafers, 2,000 cattle bones, 80 paving stones, and black cloth
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of the Peter Norton Family Foundation, 1998
Cildo Meireles’s installation was first commissioned for an exhibition about the history of the Jesuits in southern Brazil. The artist created a contemplative space that functions as a critique of Jesuit missions established during colonial times to contain the indigenous Tupi-Guaraní people and convert them to Catholicism. The work’s symbolic elements reveal the complicit relationship between material power (coins), spiritual power (communion wafers), and tragedy (bones), while the black shroud and overhead lighting evoke ideas of life and death. Meireles’ use of cattle bones references the importance of ranching within the region’s colonial economy. Yet the bones’ physical resemblance to the human femur also alludes to the human losses associated with forced acculturation.