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Ana Roldán’s work is inspired by cultural phenomena, historical events, philosophical ideas, language systems, reflections on aesthetics and theoretical concepts in general. Roldán is interested in challenging the viewer both emotionally and intellectually, through displacing and disorienting common systems.
In the series Displacements (2011/2019), Roldán appropriates images taken from a catalogue of the 1970s exhibition called The Death in Mexico. Featuring pre-Columbian objects and other artifacts, the exhibition aimed to explore various representations of death in cultural traditions. The artist cuts up these referenced black-and-white photographs and breaks them apart into fragments, slicing, dismembering, and rearranging the artifacts they depict. Roldán pays homage to these enigmatic and impenetrable sculptures with which Mesoamerican cultures—the Aztecs, or Mexicah as they called themselves,—worshipped the ruling couple of the underworld, Mictlantecuhtli and Mictecacíhuatl, or the earth deity Tlaltecuhtli—a devourer of cadavers.
But these “collages of death” gain new faces, the skulls are opened out, pierced with holes, are multiplied, or broken down into geometric shapes and recombined in new arrangements. In this manner, the visage, intrinsically grotesque as it is, becomes almost unrecognizable, transforming into a volcanic landscape, a puzzle or a picture with hidden images. Roldán’s resulting images reveal lines of fissure, gaps of black, and dislocations in form. These imperfections in the surface of her reconstituted artifacts speak to the equally imperfect processes of memory and the fragmented inheritance of knowledge and meaning.