Mariana Castillo Deball
Mimbres pottery kill hole sequence

Mariana Castillo Deball’s set of kill hole plates are part of a larger body of work problematizing archeological narratives, and drawing attention to the conservation process and its role in recreating an imagined object. They are playful and exaggerated representations of “kill hole pottery” — ceramic dishes in the Mimbres tradition with distinct circular holes located in the center of the pots. Although very little is known about the Mimbres culture’s specific beliefs, they are loosely understood to have terminated the object symbolically in preparation for funerary use. (A common belief is that kill holes served as a conduit to a spiritual world.) When these ceramics were first discovered, however, there was no scholarly precedent to explain the kill holes or differentiate them from the more common broken sherds of most ancient ceramics, so as a result hundreds of these pots were mistakenly repaired. It wasn’t until more kill hole ceramics were unearthed, and sufficient information was collected, that kill holes were understood as intentional absences, punched into the ceramics as a significant act of negation. Deball’s foregrounding of these pots in her recent project was meant to heighten the kind of leaps made around found artifacts through imagined realities, signaling the anxiety of Modernity—the irretrievable loss of information— and highlight the important work of responsibly decoding the gaps of information.

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.