Making the "Disappeared" Visible

Colombian sculptor Doris Salcedo, a fall 2002 CSWR Religion and the Arts Initiative fellow, spoke about and showed slides of her work. She spoke as part of the Carpenter Center's "An Evening With the Artist" series. 

About Doris Salcedo (as of 2002)

Doris Salcedo is a sculptor who lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia. Her work has been exhibited in London, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Thiers, Zurich, and Bogotá. A political artist whose work evokes that of the Russian formalists, she is interested in focusing on different forms of confinement within the context of war—specifically, on spaces where entire populations are excluded from the protection of the law.

Any discussion of catastrophe in our time is linked inevitably to the Holocaust. In the pieces Salcedo has created, she has established connections between the Holocaust experiences lived in concentration camps and present experiences of people deprived of all those aspects of life we recognize as human. While at the CSWR, she has concentrated on the similitude between the political space in which we dwell today and the German camps. In the pieces she expects to produce as a result of her residency, she hopes to depict the impossibility of occupying space when it becomes political, when the very lives of those inhabiting the space are at stake, where life with all its potentiality is uprooted—places where inhuman conditions similar to those experienced in the concentration camps are still being reenacted. In order to establish this connection, she juxtaposes experiences and testimonies of Holocaust survivors with testimonies of Colombian victims of violence.

Through her research, Salcedo wants to develop an image where the private and the political collide, producing a complete sense of disorientation. The search for meaning in this most violent of epochs, says Salcedo, must be linked to acts of remembrance in a religious sense: "The work of art rooted in a historical past simultaneously convokes and invokes the presence of those whom Paul Celan referred to as 'unsheltered even by the traditional tent of the sky' and who are 'perhaps the source of humanity,' as Emmanuel Levinas pointed out. Art that is attentive to the other is a form of secularized prayer."