EN / nl
b. 1963, Mortsel, Belgium; lives and works in Brussels, Belgium
[...] STAIN [...], 2012 Installation, 20 framed inkjet prints with feathers and coloured acrylic glass (53.5 x 53.5 cm each), 4 display tables (93 x 68.5 x 327.5 cm each), 2 loudspeakers on tripods, Bässgen media player, English voice, loop In her work
© photo: Ana Torfs
Ana Torfs often revisits history, and the ways it is interpreted, narrated, and archived. By extension, she is preoccupied with knowledge and perception, and the gap between what we see and what we know. [...] STAIN [...] consists of 20 prints framed with differently coloured glass, presented on 4 display tables, and an audio recording. With this work Torfs continues her preoccupation with science, systems of classification and taxonomy by means of an interplay between text and image. The starting point for [...] STAIN [...]is an investigation into synthetic colours derived from coal tar, a by-product of coke manufacture. In 1856 the first coal tar dye, generally known as mauve, was patented by the British chemist W. H. Perkin (Garfield 2002). This discovery led to the growth of an entire industry built around manufacturing synthetic textile dyes, which now number several thousand, and subsequent developments in pharmaceuticals, explosives, photography, food colouring, etc.
Torfs selected 20 representative synthetic colours, with such evocative names as Congo Red, Bismarck Brown, Paris Violet and Uranin, and searched for connected images, each image bearing a number. The captions referring to those numbered images appear to be missing, but the artist integrated them into the sound recording, which is part of the installation. A female voice reads out the names of the 20 selected colours and the 182 numbered captions in an artificial tone, played in random order by a computer programme, with long silences between each “caption”. Some colours—“Rose Bengal,” for instance, first produced in 1882—are still in use today, whereas historic “mauve,” from 1856, is no longer produced. For the lay-out of the 20 prints, Torfs drew inspiration from an amazing colour sample catalogue from Bayer’s dye factory, dating from 1910, in which goose feathers, in all the colours of the rainbow, provided an overview of the synthetic dyes Bayer was producing at the time. The artist provides carefully considered ‘clues’, but not the whole story, leaving it up to the viewer to fill in the blanks. KG
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