ANA ROLDÁN: BESTIARY CHAPTER III, 2013
Ana Roldán presents the third part of her Bestiary. If James Joyce’s “Critical Writings” influenced the first part, which was shown in 2009 at the Kunsthalle Bern, the point of departure of the third part constitutes of Martha Rosler’s work „The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems“. In her work, Rosler documents the street Bowery in Manhattan with texts and photographs. According to Rosler these two means, taken on their own, are insufficient systems of description. This is exactly where Roland positions herself, by working both with text and image – in her case with images in beeswax.
Ever since the cubists inserted newspaper scraps into collages, it became a current manner of expression to assign text to panel paintings. However there are only a handful of artists who write real texts. This is in much evidence in all the contemporary pieces, whose badly primed sentences sound like calendar mottos, like inspirational quotes on the back of sugar sachets, solely for the arts needs. Ana Roldán – who studied
linguistics – can write; her Bestiary basically is a collection of texts about the beasts of the art scene.
Bestiaries date back to the Middle Ages. They depict – always with a Christian background – animals or mythical creatures, often richly illustrated. Bestiary experienced a renaissance during the 20th century, when contemporary literati from Appolinaire to Franz Blei to Jorge Luis Borges took possession of it.
Roldán adopts the literati’s sneer and uses the combination of image and text, of representation and description from the medieval Bestiary. This implicates – as in many of Roldán’s works – the whole theory, which starts with Magritte in art, with de Saussure in linguistics and asks: what is the relational conception of objects
with their representation in words and images?
The individual beasts derive from the art scene. However, they belong to different categories. There are types such as the NOBODY or the FEMALE ARTIST. There are tendencies such as MINIMAL, there are forms of expression such as ENVIRONMENT or HAPPENING and there are conditions such as DRUNK or HIGH.
Reading Rosler caused Roldán to create beasts, which originate from the sixties and the early seventies. The description that Roldán gives them, refer however to what these terms signify today. The COLLECTIV or the FEMALE ARTIST, which, during the sixties, embodied the New, have today a slight aftertaste: they became beasts.
With this shift from a cosmos of art phenomena from fifty years ago to her description as contemporary beasts, Roldán introduces contemporaneity and historicity. And a perspective of slight mockery considering the still utterly contemporary use of everything and everyone from the art world of the sixties et seqq.
Contributing to this are also the drawings in beeswax, which summarize every single beast to a logoesque symbol and establish diverse references to art history. For instance when an emblematic work such as Kippenberger’s crucified frog stands for the beast DRUNK. Therewith the most heavily alcoholic Kippenberger calls up equally as the Kippenbergian sense of humour, which strongly grew from drunkenness. HIGH goes back to the Mescaline Drawings of Henri Michaux who, by the way, was the force behind the second part of Roldán’s Bestiary. In ENVIRONMENT we encounter a tyre from Kaprow “Yard” (1967), in HAPPENING, Beuys’ outline of a shaman from the performance with the coyote.
Also the third part of the Bestiary renders Ana Roldán as a keen observer of the art scene, with a subtle sensorium for its historical dimension and as an artist who works masterfully with diverse methods of description and specific inadequacies.
2013 01 Thomas Haemmerli