The majority of the blog thus far has encouraged the reader to seek joyful new experiences and along the way take note of art, everywhere. This week’s post will challenge the notion of art as “purposeless play” and illustrate how artist’s work forces acknowledgement.
Through May 24 a retrospective on the work of Doris Salcedo can be viewed at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Preserving memory of victims killed or never found and addressing unthinkable victimization, Salcedo’s work poignantly incites feelings of sorrow, pain, and anger.
Entrance into the exhibition is met with the installation, Plegaria Muda. In response to victims of Los Angeles gang violence and children lost and/or killed due to political violence in Columbia. Salcedo created dozens of coffin sized, hand-made tables. Stacked top to top and placed in rows that simulate mass graves she’s delicately implanted in the belly of the tables blades of vibrant green grass conveying hope.
Made in response to the 1988 massacres in La Negra and La Honduras Columbia, Salcedo stacks original shirts worn by the victims. Preserved in plaster and pierced by steel rebar the plantation worker’s shirts memorialize not only the crime but of each individual.
Atrabiliarios was created in response to the brutal crimes committed against women across Columbia. Due to the excessiveness of these crimes the victims shoes were often the only way they could be identified. Imbedded in the gallery walls and preserved with an overlay of animal fiber the shoes remain a reminder of the women that wore them. As heart-breaking as this installation is, empty boxes stacked in the corner indicate a continuum.
Each of these sculptures were created with 12,000 needles and woven raw silk. At a distance the shirt’s shadows appear to be soft and delicate but with close inspection thousands of needles pierce the entire piece. Here, Salcedo is questioning society’s disabling inability to express grief or sorrow.
Salcedo’s largest body of work compiles objects from the victims of political violence in Columbia. Encasing and preserving these objects in concrete powerfully conveys the immeasurable damage done to these people, especially when fragile details like this woman’s shirt are unable to escape their circumstance.
In her own words Salcedo states, “A Flor de Peil started with the simple intention of making a flower offering to a victim of torture, in attempt to perform the funerary ritual that was denied to her.” Preserved and hand-stitched together are thousand of rose petals creating a burial clothing.
Many thanks to Doris Salcedo for this incredible work and to the MCA for exhibiting it. Most of my information for this blog entry came from the catalog printed about the show and the book, Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory by Andreas Huyssen.
Last, get out there, seek what you haven’t seen, think about the work artists create. Delight in it’s joy and morn in it’s pain and if possible share your experience with me.
–In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it. -Ernst Fischer