María Isabel Arango retraces and transforms memories and accounts about the tormented past of her home country Colombia. Nurtured by her own experience, Arango, born 1979 in Medellín, examines the conflicts of a society with a history of violence and its traumatizing effects on local and global communities.
“Memory is a process, not a task to be completed; it operates through constant repetition and renewal. But erasure is also a process, a far more difficult and laborious one, in which each moment pervades what is attempted at being forgotten” as the artist states.
Arango gathers information and modifies it by withdrawing or alienating its content and raising the communication to a non-narrative, metaphysical level. Her art is an attempt to rise to the challenge of a troubled memory while expressing a subconscious desire for change, reparation and transfiguration.
For her Broken Language series María Isabel Arango collects newspaper articles about the violent history of her home country. These are subsequently cut up and soaked in water to create a paper pulp, from which Arango’s Broken Language series arises. The thick sheets possess intricate surfaces and great density while showing glimpses of the deconstructed events. Texture, form and content undergo a radical alteration to result in a personalized yet simultaneously neutralized “recycled” paper, drenched in history, rough and beautifully structured, yet elementary and blank.
Arango’s title-giving series ¿? is based on the daily investigation, collection, and transcription of selected material of several Colombian print media between 2010 and 2014.
She gathers news about the sociopolitical situation of the country and the cultural response to it. The news is then transcribed through the erasure of all its words, leaving only the punctuation marks and layout markings. Arango alludes to the collapse of distinction between actual information, rumor and speculation and the distorted realities the media convey as a whole.
The ¿? series withdraw the media its content while reshaping and recharging it. The accounts are no longer present, but their traces bear the psychological imprint of the deleted text.
At ZONA MACO Mexico fair (4th to 8th February) Arango’s series Cumulation will be presented. The artist initially seeks commercial paper rolls such as fax, receipt, carbon or printer rolls, which would usually be inscribed or imprinted. Arango joins these rolls together in a time consuming process to create round, wound up scrolls of different sizes, which she then places on a table and sometimes covers with her own markings. Combined to groupings, the rolls start to tell their own story; they speak about past memories engraved during the act of accumulation. But they also anticipate a future, a becoming, that could result in unfolding. Cumulation exists in a space between sculpture and performance - it is a work in progress, a continuous process of accretion.
Arango’s practice, while rooted in the formal traditions of Latin American Modernism and Minimal, announces a new language and a new beginning. Arango creates objects and installations sourced from contemporary life and mass products and intelligently and poetically charges them with issues of trauma and broken identity. Her works bear a particular strength in formal stringency and material sensibility while digging deep in the psyche of the human condition.
The questions that Arango’s art grapples with, the traumas and violence of conflict zones and how to come to terms with it, is a prevailing contemporary issue and one that has always shaped our identities. In the current cultural climate, with an increasing loss of identity in a globalized world, the issues have become even more pressing.
María Isabel Arango holds a Master's Degree in Drawing from the University of the Arts in London, where she is currently living and completing a PhD.