The Tropical featuring Mariana Castillo Deball

2:48 | Published on July 2, 2014 | 219 Views

Pablo León de la Barra, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Latin America, explores the idea of the tropics, which he frames as being about an artist’s own sense of place as well as location and climate. He discusses the work of Mariana Castillo Deball, which is concerned with the significance of archeological and anthropological research, and with related ideas of authenticity and value. Castillo Deball’s Stelae Storage comes from her research into plaster copies of Mayan stelae made by archeologist Alfred Maudslay.

For more information, visit the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative.

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The idea of the tropics, in a way, comes from artists assuming and positioning themselves in the place where they’re producing the work. It doesn’t only have to do with ideas of vegetation and climate, although that of course influences the work—it’s also about creating new bodies of knowledge about their own place.

The work of Mariana Castillo Deball has been very preoccupied, for the past decade, in analyzing and presenting archeological research, and to re-think it as how it relates to art, and to artistic practice. Mariana originally comes from Mexico and has been living in Berlin for a long time, so this distance allows her to question her own culture. Basically, she asks “Why are some objects kept in ethnographic and anthropological collections not considered art? And what happens if we rethink how many of these objects have influenced actual art history? And what happens also if we look the other way around, if we read contemporary art as future archeology? What will survive, and how will this information survive?”

The specific works that we’re presenting as part of the show come from the research that Castillo Deball has been doing in relation to Palenque—the Mayan city of Palenque—in Mexico. Basically, she researches the Mayan stelaes, of which plaster copies were made by English archeologist, Alfred Maudslay. He made these papier-mâché copies of the stelaes, which were then kept in the British Museum, and were used to produce copies of these stelaes. Many of these stelaes disappeared because they were looted, or they were destroyed, and only the copies at the British Museum survived. But Mariana is more interested not in the fiberglass copies, but in the original casts made of papier-mâché that are still kept in the museum, and also in this idea between the original, the fake, the copy. What is real? Which is a thing that has value? So, she makes this kind of analysis and research between these different issues, using archeology and anthropology as a way to question it through contemporary art.