In her work, Torfs often explores the dichotomy between what we see and what we know or believe we know. Beyond a taxonomic process of ordering and classifying reality, the artist investigates the very constitution of knowledge that arises from language and its derived colonial structures. References as diverse as psychology, shadow play, literature, sign language, botany or diaries, serve to explore language as a hegemonic structure and to propose a weave of relationships that permeate our experience. One example is The Parrot & the Nightingale, a Phantasmagoria (2014), a work in which she uses Christopher Columbus’s 1492 travel journal to allude to linguistic alienation and the curiosity provoked by the “New World,” as well as the difficulty of defining and naming the new, always through the imposition and limitation of words.
Torfs’s interest lies in recuperating the liminal space from where the possibility of interpretation and understanding emerges, a space that allows the transfer of meaning. Her pieces are conceived as exercises of translation and deciphering, destined to question representation. What is the process of forming meaning? What role do words play in the constitution of that meaning? How is representation constructed? This question is evoked in her installation Incantations (Double Double) (2017), whose starting point is the Rorschach test, a projective method for interpreting inkblots. Using the responses of people from different parts of the world, Torfs creates a game of projections in which shadow puppets dialogue with songs improvised by Javanese women.
The exhibition also includes three recent installations that are closely interwoven and enter into unexpected combinations. The first one, titled Sideshow (2019) is a compelling video in which several characters wordlessly appear and disappear behind animal masks, bridal veils, and linen bandages. There are no faces or sounds, but the mime is scintillating. Inspired by the worlds of cabaret, silent films, masquerades, circus and butoh, they tell a story with hands and gestures. The second installation, When You Whistle, It Makes Air Come Out (2019) is inspired by a fragment from a book by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, On the Child’s Conception of Physical Causality (1930). Children’s answers to questions such as ‘what happens when you blow’, or ‘where does the air in your mouth come from’ are innocent and surprising.
Lastly, in Echo’s Bones/Were Turned to Stone (2020) a female character seems to be trying to arrange her thoughts in an endless chain of associations, references and facts. She delves deeply into the anecdotes of many artist’s lives and deaths. Her countless enumerations turn into factual descriptions of the functioning of the human body or the condition of the planet. “When we open our mouths, we speak with the voices of ten thousand dead.” “Nothing ever dies,” we hear her say. As long as she speaks, she exists.
Sound and gesture are the primary axes of Torfs’s work. The repetition and the presence of the voice take on corporeality, appearing as new ways of apprehending the world. In Dark Space Where Things Cannot Be Put the artist seeks out the interstices where the importance of experience lies. Her gaze seeks the place before things happen, the undefined space in which perception occurs and illuminates interpretation.
(Belgium, 1963; lives and works in Brussels)
Over the past 20 years, her work has been presented in major solo exhibitions, including BOZAR, Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (2020 and 2000); Pori Art Museum, Pori (2017); Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon (2016); WIELS, Brussels (2014); Generali Foundation, Vienna (2010); K21, Düsseldorf (2010); Sprengel Museum, Hannover (2008); ARGOS centre for art and media, Brussels (2007); daadgalerie, Berlin (2006); and GAK, Bremen (2006). Her work has been included in various international art events including Parasophia, Kyoto (2015); 1st International Biennial of Cartagena de Indias (2014); 11th Sharjah Biennial (2013); Manifesta 9, Genk (2012); 2nd Montreal Biennial (2000); and 3th Lyon Biennial (1995). Her work was also presented in major group exhibitions in Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; MCA, Chicago; ACCA, Melbourne; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and Museion, Bolzano, among other institutions.
Authors : Verónica Gerber Bicecci, Virginia Roy Luzarraga, Ana Torfs
Language : Spanish & English