SALCEDO - b. 1958 Colombia. Lives and works in Bogota, Colombia.
represent a collective statement of defiance against the tactics of disappearance
which the military exercises over its people...Salcedo's work contributes
to an art of memory and consciousness." Charles
Doris Salcedo makes
sculptures and installations about and in response to the violence and
conflict of everyday life in her native country of Colombia. Like
German artist Joseph Beuys, Salcedo sees her art as representing a social
conscience, with her role as a perpetual witness. In a sense the work
gives voice to those in Colombian society who are violently repressed,
silenced and controlled by fear, and provides the focus for a sense of
community, even defiance, though a collective memory and a shared experience
The materials she
works with: simple furniture like wardrobes, tables and chairs, clothing,
thread and animal skin, speak of the sanctity and familiarity of everyday
domestic life. Through her molding or reshaping of these pieces - embedding
a chair within a doorframe, grafting two tables into an unstable hybrid
- she creates a traumatized, dysfunctional, object.
With the clothes, each object implies a nameless person; the wearer. In
the piece 'Atrabiliarios'
meaning defiant, old shoes, in pairs and singles, are encased in a row
of wall alcoves, behind sheets of translucent animal skin which are crudely
stitched to the wall. Below on the floor are small boxes, like living
caskets, made from the same animal membrane. The shoes which bear the
marks of wear, all belonged to women who were 'disappeared', and were
donated to the artist by victims' families. Their place here, hazily visible
through the skin sheet, echoes the persistent memory for all those whose
fate and whereabouts is unknown, permanently suspended between the present
and the past. "Thus 'Atrabiliarios' is not only a portrait of disappearance,
but a portrait of the survivors' mental condition of wracking uncertainty,
longing and mourning." 
Like artist Mona Hatoum,
Salcedo implies violence and fragility, through her use of materials rather
than with overt or literal statements. She explores the possibilities
of expressing the non-visual, of making the invisible, visible.
The untitled installation
(left) made in 1990, was in direct response to an incident in Colombia
in 1988, where male banana plantation workers were dragged from their
homes and murdered.
The shirts are bright
white, carefully laundered and folded, piled up and waiting to be worn.
Steel poles pierce each pile, pinning them to the floor. This piercing
of the soft white cotton, with hard steel, implies a violent interruption.
Behind them, (not visible in this image), leaning against the wall, are
a series of iron bedframes, again giving a domestic context. Each frame
is wrapped with pieces of animal skin, suggesting both a wounding and
a healing process.
This idea of healing
is a recurrent theme in Salcedo's work. It is evident in both the crude
surgical stitches of 'Atrabiliarios' and in the laborious, painstaking
embroidery of hair and silk, used to bind the damaged tables in 'The Orphans'
Tunic' (part of her 1997 installation, Unland). In a sense she is seeking
not only to express the horror of violence but also to investigate the
ways people prevail in the face of such torture, repairing their physical
and psychological wounds, raising resistance and remembering those who
me is the giving of a material gift to the being who makes his presence
felt in my work." Doris Salcedo
Salcedo's makes sculptures and installations using objects which have
domestic connotations, signifying the absent human body. The artist expresses
feelings of loss or absence using various visual metaphors.
- What would you
do or make, inspired by this artist's work and ideas about absence and
- What memories or
traces are left behind when something is erased? The process of erasure
or rubbing out, is one we are familiar with in art, when we make a mistake,
when we want to change something or eliminate it. But very often a faint
trace or 'ghost' of the original image is left behind and this can be
an interesting image in itself. Explore ways of producing an image and
then making it disappear so that nothing but a ghostly trace or reminder
is left. For instance, you could use a rubber on pencil, water on soluble
paint or ink, bleach on a photograph, tracing paper or muslin overlaid
on a picture or wrapped round an object, or various filter effects on
- Artist Pierre Bismuth
has described the digital camera as 'a machine for erasing as much as
recording' because it allows you to delete images which exist only in
the camera's memory. There is no negative and no original. If each person
in the class or group were to take one image on a digital camera and
then the whole lot were erased, how many of those missing moments could
you recreate (in pictures and/or words)?