Doris Salcedo, Colombian born in Bogotá in 1958, is a sculptor, producer of installations and artistic interventions, who began her career studying Fine Arts at the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano in Bogotá, between 1976 and 1980; then, in 1984, she pursued a postgraduate degree in art at the New York University, where she became interested in the work of Joseph Beuys and Marcel Duchamp. Back in her country, she directs the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Cali and teaches at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

In 1985, Salcedo exhibited at the Casa de la Moneda in Bogotá, the same year in which a guerrilla commando from the Movimiento 19 de abril, M-19, stormed the Palacio de Justicia de Bogotá, a military action that left several dead, including magistrates, public servants, employees and soldiers, as well as several missing persons. That disastrous event, like many others, affected Salcedo and from that moment on she directs her visual discourse based on the issue of the consequences generated by the violence of the armed conflict in her country, whose actors have been characterized by applying different types of violence ─ physical, psychological and sexual─, generating terror in the communities through kidnapping, torture, rape, murder and forced displacement, in order to control the territories and their resources.

1. Doris Salcedo. Homenaje a los diputados del Valle.

Salcedo has declared that she is an artist at the service of the victims of the armed conflict, in such a way that, thanks to her profession, art ─through which feelings, emotions and ideas can be expressed and transmitted─, she assumes a commitment and social responsibility with this vulnerable population. So, since the mid-1980s, Salcedo begins to produce a work that deals with the mourning of the victims, caused by violence. By then her works contemplate objects that referred to the violated human body. In 1987 she received an award at the XXXI Salón Anual de Artistas Colombianos de Medellín for a minimalist artwork, Sin título (Untitled), built with discarded objects from a Bogotá hospital.

In the 1990s, Salcedo resorted to the research method known as fieldwork, acting, in a certain way, as a social anthropologist; that is to say, she met, spoke and interviewed the victims and relatives affected by the armed conflict ─widows, widowers, orphans, mothers who have lost their children, sexually abused women and displaced beings─ to collect information and as a result of their testimonies she began to use objects and furniture, to develop their visual proposals, such as shoes, clothes, tables, chairs and cabinets with cement, from which chairs stand out, among other objects. For the artist, these proposals scream silence, death, the absence of their owners, whose disappearances and murders have gone unpunished, her visual work being the voice of those victims.
2. Doris Salcedo. Sumando Ausencias.
In 1995 she received a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation, a recognition with which she began to broaden her horizon and visibility as an artist in the international arena. Although before this recognition she had already participated in the Sydney Biennale, Australia, and in the Venice Biennale, Italy, since then her work has begun to be presented in various museums and spaces in countries such as England, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil and the United States, country where two retrospectives have been held, one at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, in 2014, and the other at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, in 2016. She currently exhibits at the Glenstone Museum, in Washington D.C., whose exhibition is made up of a selection of works made between 1989 and 2021. With this repertoire of exhibitions, Salcedo has allowed herself to make known abroad the story of the tragedy suffered by her compatriots due to the armed conflict.

Another of Salcedo’s peculiarities is that she has involved victims of violence and people not directly affected to participate in her monumental installations and public interventions actively and massively, which require a lot of logistics and organization, with the purpose of expressing, to make this mourning visible collectively. For example, in 2007 she made Homenaje a los diputados del Valle (1), which consisted of lighting 24,000 candles in memory of them, in the Plaza Bolívar in Bogotá; artistic event in which many people acted to light such a number of candles.

In the same space, in 2016, she carried out another collective proposal entitled Sumando ausencias (2), in which the artist called on victims, students, artists and other citizens to participate in the materialization of this intervention proposal in a public space, which consisted in covering the entire floor of the square with a large white cloth made up of rectangles sewn by the participants, who would then write with ash, on the rectangles, the names of the victims of the conflict.

Another important proposal was Fragmentos (3), from 2018, which was made with the 13,000 weapons that some members of the FARC voluntarily left behind. These were melted down and sheets were made to cover the floor of a museum in Bogotá. It was also done collectively, with the participation of many women who were victims of sexual violence within the armed conflict, who gave shape and texture to the sheets by hammering them. The idea was to make the silenced voices of these sexually abused women heard.

3. Doris Salcedo. Fragmentos (Detail)
“Naming is the immemorial task of art,” says Salcedo, who also intends to humanize and sensitize the viewer, making them feel, aesthetically, the experience of pain of the victims.
Karen Pazan. Habito de memoria


Written by José Gregorio Noroño,

 Arte Original.

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