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.