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.
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.
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.