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IXIPTLA / Journal on Art and Archelogy – initiated by the artist Mariana Castillo Deball

“When men die, they enter into history. When statues die, they enter into art. This botany of death is what we call culture”, says the narrator of the essay film Les Statues Meurent Ausi (Statues Also Die), by Alain Resnais and Chris Marker. To continue: “And then they die, in their turn. Classified, labeled, conserved in the ice of showcases and collections they enter into history of art, parasite of the forms, where the most mysterious relationships are established.”

Mexican artist Mariana Castillo Deball explores these correlations and examines the way objects and artifacts work in our understanding of identity and history. In her works she sets together forgotten things, creating new visual and narrative constellations, which allows for alternative reading and rise of doubles of interpretation and meaning. They becomes cogs in wheels of critical reflection, of the museum as institution, of the history of interpretations and of ways of presentation.

Catillo Deball’s process of working resembles the methods used in archeology, ethnography and history of science. Collecting fragments of material culture left by the passage of time, like excavated material – she assembles it into contemporary artists usage of visual forms.

Excavation involves the recovery of several types of data from a place where the evidence of human activity was found, which could include: artifacts, features, ecofacts and most of all – the context. While working, archeologists produce other objects: notes, descriptions, field books, drawings, photographs, conversations. And those casts of original finds, become their second selves and begin to lead their own existence, independently from their prototypes.

Similar path is followed by Ixiptla – biannual journal on trajectories of Antropology, initiated, edited and designed by Deball (published by BOM DIA BOA TARDE BOA NOITE). Being interested in residues and what is obsolete – it opens a space for reflection, where invited anthropologists, artists and writers instigate a discussion around the model, copy and reproduction.

Ixiptla itself acts as a double – the doppelganger of creative and thinking process of Deball’s artistic practice, translating it into material form of a magazine. “I wanted to create a space to crystalize conversations, findings and collaborations which emerge while I am working. I see it as an autonomous space that grows in its own pace, parallel to exhibition making.” – says the artist.

The title derives from Nahuan word understood as image, delegate, character and representative. “In Nahua culture it took the form of a statue, a vision, or a victim, who turned into a god destined to be sacrificed. Without having to visually appears the same, multiple ixipltlas of the same god could exist simultaneously. The distinction between essence and material, and between original and copy, vanishes”. – explains the introduction in the first issue, published on the occasion of Expedite Expression, the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art.

The second number of the Ixiptla (in English and German) took a form of a newspaper accompanied the artist’s show Parergon at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, in which Deball delved into the history and collection of the museum itself. Pretty much different from the other editions of the magazine it was released in very close relation to the show, taking a role of a guide, press release and storyteller at once and being complement part together with recorded audio tour – poetically blurred facts with fiction.

The third and the most recent issue, published only in Spanish, appeared in the context of the exhibition Who will measure the space, who will tell me the time? at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca in Mexico. Following the visual trajectory of the first volume and conceptual framework of the show it explores archeological heritage and how it is expressed, contaminated and dissolved in the present.

“History, I stumble, is when time is absorbed into a story and becomes invisible”, writes Moosje M. Goosen in her text ‘The Dinosaur That Was Still There’ in Ixiptla Vol. I. And it goes on: “Any encounter with a prehistoric being provides us with an ahistorical plot and is thus immediately subjected to the laws of fiction”.

If Mariana Castillo Deballs works could be call “visual essay” – Ixiplta is its reversal, essayistic visuality. Like in her body of work, Deball takes pays close attention to connections that goes beyond what known and unequivocal, connects new contexts to historial references. It has something from an atmosphere of magical realism – drifting across the historical facts creates bewitching fiction; ancient objects mingle with artifacts, fiction becomes facts and vice versa. It touches subject of a dead ringer – where the fiction becomes the understudy of the history.

“All of our culture is an artifact. Nature is the raw and different thing we have chosen to overlay with thee sense of order. We make the order (…) And because we are making the order, there are stories constantly created around us, constant puzzles that are coming at us”. *

Published texts vary from historical analysis, to essay and fictional stories. The contributors vary, “sometimes they are people I have already worked with, sometimes authors I have been following and the journal is the perfect excuse to start a conversation” – says Deball.

Ixiptla often appears in relation to an exhibition or an art event, when more than being its extension – takes form of an autonomous object, and similar to archeological material, leads its own life independently of the origins of its creation. Being standalone at the same time play an important role in the understanding of Deball’s artistic glossary. Touching her fields of interests it uses the stories told by others to bring closer to her own. Beautifully design, mostly taking form of classical magazine with carefully chosen cultural texts – it doesn’t try to be anything more than it is. And therein lies its power.

*Spalding Gray by Karry Kammer,

Weronika Trojanska

is an artist and art writer

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