In her attempt to explore the quotidian experience of massacres and other violent acts, Doris Salcedo chooses to focus on the domestic sphere. Her work consists of items like wardrobes, chairs, beds, fabric and shoes, which bear the traces of lived experience. ‘Every time I visit a place, there are vestiges of a violent event. Even two years after a massacre, there’s a special feeling in the place where it happened. In my work I want to use objects that have an aura of pain imprinted on their surfaces to evoke this spirit.’ Salcedo exploits the aura that clings to things that have been used to recover the memory of the violent acts inflicted on their one-time owners. In this way, the artist draws attention to the way totalitarian regimes silence the memory of such events. Sin título consists of a small wardrobe and a display cabinet, both filled with cement, with details of their former contents, such as pieces of fabric and bits of glass, protruding from the furniture. The artist makes the traces of specific aspects of a human presence visible, constructing images that evoke the memory of an existence that has been dramatically erased. Salcedo thus confronts the viewer with the experience of pain in a way intended to cut through our indifference to the plight of others. In this process, the items of furniture become metaphors for the human body, and the cement they contain signifies the repression experienced by the men, women and children who are the victims of violent events. Salcedo shows that objects have the power to speak to us, and commemorates those who have been brutally silenced. Sin título was part of a group of over twenty cement-filled pieces of furniture Salcedo created for an installation at the Carnegie International in 1995. The exhibition of the works in an industrial building and their disordered arrangement in the space created a striking, mysterious and dusty atmosphere, in which silence and absence became protagonists, producing a feeling of claustrophobia in viewers.
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