1958, Bogotá, Colombia
Doris Salcedo studied art in New York and Bogotá, where she lives and works. Her practice involves interviewing survivors of violence and the families of people killed or vanished in her war-torn native country. She translates that experience into laboriously constructed sculptures that become both witness and memorial. As the artist explains, "My work deals with the fact that the beloved — the object of violence — always leaves his or her trace imprinted on us."
The household objects Salcedo uses allude to the absence of the human bodies with which they were formerly associated. Beds, tables, chairs, and clothing are often modified with human or animal tissue, alluding to the fragility of life. Many of her works intervene directly into their architectural setting; for example, gouges into floors and walls evoke the pervasiveness of the psychic wound that results from loss.
Salcedo on memory and her choice of materials
An empty steel bed frame. A kitchen table. Boxes filled with old shoes.
In everyday life, we would barely notice these objects. But in the hands of sculptor Doris Salcedo, they are painstakingly transformed into chilling artifacts of human suffering—silent evocations of the ongoing drug and civil wars of her native Colombia.
All of my work is based on real experiences. So I try to find individuals who have gone through extreme experiences. That is the point of departure. Then my work starts. In this case, it’s about the disappeared people in Colombia. And how the—their families never, ever hear anything about them.
Salcedo works with humble materials—chairs, concrete, hair, old shoes—materials that may have belonged to the disappeared.
So I play different roles as I work. I—kind of a schizophrenic. So I’m not really this artist living a comfortable life, working. But I am the widow who just the lost the husband, or the orphan. I—I do try to work from that point of view. And then if I am that person, what resources do I have? So I limit my resources according to whichever testimony I’m working on. The viewer, I—I hope, they can come here and see the work, and walk through; and if I did anything right, then some aspects of the lives that were lost are present.
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