Over the course of three months, visual artist Mónica Restrepo created a new body of work researching Pre-Columbian objects from the Paul and Dora Janssen collection which is currently on view at MAS. Every day the artist visited the collection and studied one object from Colombia, her home country. Back in the studio, she reproduced this object from memory in clay. In this way, she created thirty sculptures, increasingly detailed. The memory translates original objects into new ones, not so different from the ones exhibited but not really quite the same. Eventually these objects will disappear in the Schelde river, as a metaphorical act of questioning heritage and the restitution of ethnographic collections.
This project is a continuation of ongoing research into how clay can be considered a documentary form, thinking from its material properties, gestures and temporal layers through performance. One could say that it is a time-based matter because depending on its state, ephemeral or durable, it can become a trace, an object, or even a text. It has memory because it can record different pieces of information and actions. Restrepo seeks to understand the value rating of these objects by the different stakeholders involved such as collectors, sellers, archaeologists and gaqueros (Columbian name given to people that hunt treasures).
On this evening Mónica Restrepo presents a video and the photos of these objects and talks with Vincent Boele, curator of the America collection at MAS, and Jo Van de Vyver, ethnographic photographer, moderated by Alan Quireyns, artistic director of AAIR. Through Restrepo's contemporary art practice the discussion tackles issues on cultural identity, decolonization and the role of contemporary art and the museum.
The presentation will take place on Wednesday, September 11 at 5:45 pm in the exhibition hall of the Dora Janssen collection on the eighth floor of the MAS. The exhibition can be visited before the presentation.