Mariana Castillo Deball
Do ut des (I give that you may give back)

Do ut des (2009) is part of an ongoing series of books that Castillo Deball has altered with perforations, starting from the front page and working inward, forming symmetrical patterns when each spread is opened. The books belong to O Mundo dos Museus (The World of Museums), a collection conceived by the Brazilian designer Eugênio Hirsch in the 1970s. More than simply a catalogue of artworks, each offers the reader a promenade through a different world museum and its functioning, starting with photo reportage of the building, its urban landscape and architecture, the management and restoration of works, and visitors walking though the galleries. Collaged images of people alongside artworks indicate the works’ dimensions in relation to the human scale. The act of drilling into different institutional representations is a direct intervention into history itself, inviting us to question its representation. The title refers to a Latin phrase that applies to civil law, roughly translating as “I give that you may give back.” This allusion to a form of exchange, negotiation, and reciprocity applies as much to the relationship between the artist and the audience as to that between the artist and the object. The implication that the artist is giving the viewer something so that she will receive something back demands a level of critical reflection and interaction with the work. With these books, Deball infers that history gives these representations to us so that we can detour from them.

The practice of Mariana Castillo Deball (b. Mexico City, 1975) is centered on intensive research. In weaving together perceived facts and legends, the artist deconstructs how we understand tradition, liberating content from imposed ideological legacies. Mariana Castillo Deball’s collaborative research—in particular in the domain of science, geology, archaeology and literature—is manifested and synthesized into her multimodal sculptural practice. The archive is a significant aspect of the artist’s practice, whereby the research conducted in the creation of her sculptures is culminated, catalogued and preserved. Deball is not only interested in traces of the past, her multidisciplinary approach allows her to study the different ways in which a historical object can be read today.