Doris SALCEDO — one of the most influential living artists in Latin America
Disclaimer: The information provided in this episode comes from multiple sources and is not my scientific studies or discoveries. All authors and sources are credited at the end of this article. Thank you!
Welcome to HerArt podcast, a project for art lovers, especially art created by women. In our third episode, we will talk about Doris SALCEDO — one of the most influential living artists in Latin America. My name is Nata Andreev and I am going to tell you seven curious facts that you didn’t know about the artist that makes sculptures and installations that function as political and mental archaeology, using domestic materials charged with significance and covered with meanings accumulated over years of use in everyday life. For this episode, I wanted to thank my dear, dear friend Michael, who helped me find out when exactly Doris was born.
Curious Fact #1
Salcedo, who was born in Bogotá, where she is also now based, is known for her monumental sculptural installations focusing on the ways in which survivors and their descendants deal with various forms of trauma through mourning and grief. Her objects and assemblages consist of furniture, chairs, tables, wardrobes, cabinets, and other domestic artifacts, such as textiles, which are reconfigured by the artist into memorials for victims of violence and injustice.
Curious Fact #2
For Salcedo, the previous histories of the found objects charge her works with an inherent sense of narrative and memory, and it is her role as an artist to retrieve their stories. Like a sensitive archaeologist, the sculptor excavates objects that retain the residual imprint of the events that took place around them, and in a symbolic sense, were witness to them. Although Salcedo is a formalist sculptor with an interest in the emotive properties of her materials, she also admits to having a political scope for her art.
Curious Fact #3
Salcedo’s experience as a Colombian artist working abroad has made her especially sympathetic to the plight of marginalized people. Between 2002 and 2003, Salcedo completed two installations that make this clear. In the first work, the artist staged a performance where she lowered empty wooden chairs over the side of the Palace of Justice in Bogotá. The performance lasted 53 hours and commemorated the 1985 siege in that building where three hundred people were held hostage; the siege ended in a bloody confrontation between rebels and the military.
Curious Fact #4
The second installation also honored the victims of senseless violence. Salcedo piled more than 1,500 chairs into a space between two buildings in Istanbul. The breathtaking sight of this nearly three-story sculpture highlighted how warfare disrupts everyday life and creates refugees out of ordinary citizens as it recalls the countless shoes discovered at concentration camps at the end of World War II.
Curious Fact #5
Salcedo was the eighth artist invited to create a sculpture for the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. In her installation titled Shibboleth (2007), a large crack in the floor’s concrete is visible along the length of the massive hall. The crack is a deep chasm that divides the hall, and along with parts where the gorge is deeper, mesh wires are exposed amidst the concrete. This sculpture, for Salcedo, symbolizes the divide that immigrants from poorer countries attempt to cross when traversing the borders of wealthier nations. The modern world is dependent upon immigrants and their labor, yet continues, according to Salcedo, to exploit and ignore them, and does not live up to democratic ideals of tolerance and commonwealth.
Curious Fact #6
Following the negative result of a referendum in Colombia calling for an end to nearly sixty years of civil war, Salcedo created Sumando Ausencias (2016) in collaboration with the Museo de la Universidad Nacional. After several years of negotiation, a small majority of the Colombian public rejected the final peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The title is loosely translated as ‘adding absence’, with the work taking the form of a banner or ‘shroud’ utilizing 7, 000 m of fabric onto which was written in the ash the names of just 7% of the victims of the ongoing conflict. To quote Salcedo, ‘the names are poorly written, almost erased because we are already forgetting these violent deaths’. Congregating in the main square in Bogota — the Plaza Bolivar — Salcedo worked with a number of volunteers over a period of 12 hours to stitch the banners together, creating 11, 000 m of stitches in order to cover the entire Plaza.
Curious Fact #7
At a gala dinner in Shanghai in 2019, Doris Salcedo was named the winner of the first Nomura Art Award. With the one million dollars, the Colombian artist will continue her series of “Acts of Mourning” installations, made in remembrance of those who have been murdered in her home country’s civil war, which has gone on for more than 50 years. First begun in 1999, the works in the series are intended as coping mechanisms for communities reckoning with profound losses.
Thank you so much for listening to the ninth episode of season three of HerArt podcast — a project for art lovers, especially art created by women. If you want to follow more of what I do, find me on Facebook and Instagram. And don’t forget to tune in next month, when I am going to tell you about Hannah HOCH — one of the originators of photomontage. This is the seventh episode I am recording during COVID-19. I hope everyone is safe and takes care of themselves and their loved ones. And don’t forget END SARS because BLACK LIVES MATTER!