Doris Salcedo makes sculptures and installations that function as political and mental archaeology, using domestic materials charged with significance and suffused with meanings accumulated over years of use in everyday life. Salcedo often takes specific historical events as her point of departure, conveying burdens and conflicts with precise and economical means.
Her early sculptures and installations, such as La Casa Viuda (1992-1995), combined domestic furniture with textiles and clothing. Salcedo derived her materials from research into Colombia’s recent political history, so these belongings, imbued with the patina of use, were directly linked to personal and political tragedy. During the past few years, Salcedo’s work has become increasingly installation-based, using the gallery spaces or unusual locations to create vertiginous environments charged with politics and history. Noviembre 6 y 7 (2002) is a work commemorating the seventeenth anniversary of the violent seizing of the Supreme Court, Bogotá on 6 and 7 November, 1985. Salcedo sited the work in the new Palace of Justice where, over the course of 53 hours (the duration of the original siege), wooden chairs were slowly lowered against the façade of the building from different points on its roof, creating “an act of memory” in order to re-inhabit this space of forgetting.
In 2003, in Istanbul, she made an installation in an unremarkable street comprising 1,600 wooden chairs stacked precariously in the space between two buildings. In 2005, at the Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Salcedo reworked one of the institution’s major rooms by extending the existing majestic, vaulted brick ceiling of the gallery. Subtly transforming the existing space, Abyss evoked thoughts of incarceration and entombment. For her 2007 Unilever commission at Tate Modern, Salcedo created Shibboleth, a chasm running the length of the Turbine Hall that represented exclusion, separation and otherness. Plegaria Muda is a recent body of work, comprising numerous sculptural objects that sprout delicate blades of grass. Referencing the body, with their coffin-like proportions, the work alludes to an abandoned graveyard and was inspired, in part, by the thousands of missing civilians in Colombia, who are often killed and passed off as guerrilla causalities. The work was first presented at MUAC, Mexico and toured to Sweden, Lisbon, Rome, London and Brazil from 2010-2013.
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, 000m of fabric onto which was written in 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, 000m of stitches in order to cover the entire Plaza.
Doris Salcedo was born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1958 where she continues to live and work. Her solo exhibitions include Palacio de Cristal, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2017); Harvard Art Museums, Massachusetts (2016); Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas (2016); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, touring to Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and Pérez Art Museum, Miami (2015–16); Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan (2014); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico, touring to Moderna Museet Malmö, Sweden, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome, White Cube, London and Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (2011–13); Tate Modern, London (2007); Camden Arts Centre, London (2001); Tate Britain, London (1999); and New Museum, New York (1998).
Salcedo has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2014); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2013); Hayward Gallery, London (2010); MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Centre, New York (2008); 8th International Istanbul Biennial (2003); Documenta 11, Kassel, Germany (2002); and 24th Bienal de São Paulo (1998).