Ana Torfs was born in Mortsel, Belgium in 1963 and studied Communication Studies from 1981 to 1986 at the University of Löwen, and from 1986 to 1990, film and video at Sint Lukas University College of Art & Design in Brussels. She has already had numerous solo exhibitions at international museums, including GAK Bremen (2006), the Sprengel Museum Hannover (2008), and the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in cooperation with the Generali Foundation (2010). Torfs participated in the Biennial de Lyon (1995) as well as the Manifesta 9 in Genk, Belgium (2012). She has received numerous grants and prizes, including the Flemish Cultural Award for Visual Arts in 2005.
At the center of Torfs’ work, which includes installations, films, photographs, internet projects, and works in public space, is concern with the construction of meaning in connection with inquiry into the relationship of fiction and truth. As starting points for her works, Torfs often uses existing texts, such as a nineteenth-century drama or medieval trial, which she brings into complex forms through suspenseful connection of text and image. The selected material opens a confrontation with the cultural (Western) memory, among others, with historical figures in danger of congealing as one-dimensional clichés, such as Jeanne d’Arc or Ludwig van Beethoven. In her work, she is able to shift them (and the events associated with them) into new perspectives. This hereby emphasizes the distinction between historical moment and its fictional up-dating. Unexplained questions existing in the fragmentary attestations of the past remain open. The way that projection plays a fundamental role in determining meaning becomes evident when beholders close these open positions through their interpretation. Following from that, Torfs’ works that grapple with the process of making a portrait, in particular, draw attention to the fact that identity is generated through attribution. Here, beholders take on a decisive role—they are invited to examine her interpretation of texts and images. At the same time, Torfs’ extremely precisely constructed works seem to be attempts to get as close as possible to the literal meaning of the text (or image). It is as though a competition to get as close as possible to truth takes place in the narration, while simultaneously, doubt is permanently cast on truth’s existence.