Doris Salcedo

(b. 1958)

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(1958– )

Colombian sculptor and installation artist, born in Bogotá where she lives and works. Her art reflects the political climate of her country, which has been ravaged by civil war. The violence tends to be suggested indirectly. At the Venice Biennale in 1993, she showed a work in which a stack of white shirts, neatly pressed and stiffened with plaster, had been run through with a bayonet. Salcedo has said, ‘The objects were moulded from the experience of forty women who had witnessed their men being killed on their very doorstep…the marks left behind by the violent act in these places are sometimes evident and sometimes imperceptible, although, in any case, indelible.’ She had gone into remote villages and talked to survivors of violence. The shirts referred both to the care taken by the women of the now dead men and the Colombian custom of wearing white shirts at a funeral. She has also made sculptures by filling furniture with concrete, so suggesting the violation of domestic space: Untitled (1998, Tate) uses a wardrobe with a chair on its side to suggest the traditional subject of the Pietà. In 2002 she staged an event at the Palace of Justice in Bogotá, which in 1985 had been the site of the burning to death of many people, the result of conflict between guerrillas and the state. Salcedo witnessed the atrocity and she has traced the politicization of her art practice to that event. Her proposal was, on the seventeenth anniversary of the day, to lower chairs down the walls of the building, the piece to begin with a single chair at the exact moment when the first victim died. In 2007 Salcedo mounted Shibboleth in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern. This consisted of an immense crack made in the concrete floor. The intention was to draw attention to the divisions of racial hatred and economic disadvantage which exist in the apparently smooth surface of the western world, although much of the press attention was directed towards speculation as to how the work had been achieved.

Further Reading

D. Salcedo, Shibboleth (2007)

Subjects: Art.

Reference entries