Palimpsesto: Doris Salcedo’s reflection on violence

Doris Salcedo. “Palimpsesto”, 2017.

 

 

Doris Salcedo’s (Bogotá, 1958) work is not conformist, not it seeks the comfort of meaning either. To the contrary. This sculptor uses art to reflect on the suffering of marginated, the impact of political violence and the mourning as a human process that provides dignity to all of us. “Palimpsesto” is a work that encloses the purest essence of the modus operandi of this artist, and it achieves to represent the violence without violence.

 

 

 

Portrait of Doris Salcedo. Photo by ©Rui Gaudencio, 2014.

 

 

The artworks of Doris Salcedo are large projects in which she invests a lot of resources, both of time and of intellectual efforts. Each piece is the result of a confluence of elements that put together personal experiences, research and reflection upon the sense of the artwork and its communicative value. But the aim is to make visible a deep message that highlights the value of human life in a tumultuous period where natural disasters, armed conflicts and social discrimination push millions of people to move, migrate and risk their lives.

 

 

 

Doris Salcedo. “Palimpsesto”, 2017.

 

 

Doris Salcedo does not leave anyone indifferent. Her sculptures, on the edges of the classic concept of this discipline, have received much attention from many cultural institutions at an international level, and some of the biggest museums have organised monographic exhibitions, as the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago (2015), the New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York, 1998), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1999 and 2005) or the Tate Modern of London (2007).

 

 

 

Doris Salcedo. Design of the project “Palimpsesto”, 2017.

 

 

This time, the Palacio de Cristal will host a sculpture-installation that reproduces the names of millions of men and women as a way to represent the tragedy, nowadays already usual, of people dying into the sea during their desperate escape from their country of origin. The same day of the opening, the museum has organised a lecture with the artist who, together with Estrella de Diego, an essayist and full professor of the Complutense University of Madrid, will explain to the public the message of her proposal “Palimpsesto”.

 

One of the proposals included in the calendar of the “Art Madrid-Proyector'20” program was the organisation of several meetings with artists within the fair. This gave visitors the opportunity to get to know their work better and open a personal dialogue with them after the presentation of their last lines of work. From Wednesday 26th to Saturday 29th of February, we had the participation of Abelardo Gil-Fournier, Fernando Baena, Mario Santamaría and Maia Navas, a group of creators who work with the moving image, but also with the installation, technological art, performance and video art.

Abelardo Gil-Fournier's work revolves around the hybridization between the real and the sensible. This artist and researcher approaches this question in his works from a perspective in which perception, image and material production merge. Both his artistic and research practice deal with issues related to land use and plant growth without losing sight of these three points of interest. This results in works that incorporate the presence of nature from various perspectives, sometimes as a space of experimentation in which to reflect on the connection between art and politics, the relationship of the human being with the environment or the criteria for landscape intervention.

During his presentation on Wednesday 26th, Abelardo told us about some of his latest projects, in which the presence of technology is key to offering an artistic interpretation of the individual's impact into the territory. All this affects issues such as agricultural techniques, the progressive deforestation or the exploitation of land resources. The result is colour-coded pattern drawings that break down the analyzed landscape and offer a more visual and technology-based reinterpretation of these human behaviours. In addition, in this meeting, the artist explained his work “The Quivering of the Reed”, an installation that mixes video image, sound and material elements, and that plays the role of mixing the sensory with the real.

Abelardo Gil-Fournier

Fernando Baena shared a talk with us on the afternoon of Thursday 27th. This artist has focused a large part of his work on performance, happening and video pieces, many of them designed to capture the result of the action and give the work a second life in a new format. The main subjects that monopolize his work range from the treatment of sexuality and gender issues, to migratory movements and the drama of refugees, the exercise of political freedom and thought ... all of them are far-reaching issues that Fernando addresses from a familiar approach, with the use of common materials and recognizable environments. Another of the characteristics of his work is the presence of Marianela León in many of his pieces, a performer who has been collaborating with Fernando for many years until becoming almost an alter ego of himself and starring in most actions that take place in public spaces.

In this meeting, Fernando was able to explain part of his creative processes and to highlight a key aspect to the performance artist: to understand the reaction of the public. In this way, the impact of a work conceived from the theoretical plane is also analyzed, the meaning of which can completely change depending on the viewer's perception. As he himself explained in the talk regarding his piece "Balsa":

"What started out as a performance with an established script ended up being a happening in which the public participated with sometimes unusual reactions".

For his part, Mario Santamaría, who was with us on February 28th, shared with us a completely different work from Fernando's. This artist is focused on the analysis of the use of data, the feeling of manipulation and lack of control over our information that is produced in the digital medium and the desire to transform into something real some ideas as ethereal and commonplace today as the use of virtual storage clouds, the location of web pages or the data flow over the Internet. Much of his work, documented on video or transformed into technological facilities, is a form of research on the impact of the digital medium on our daily lives. His desire to bring these terms to the material plane, which we handle in our language today without really understanding their meaning, has led him to visit server bunkers, storage warehouses, in addition to tracking the exact location of the servers that host his own website to find isolated places far away from humanity.

Mario proposed a material trip to this reality to demonstrate that we are facing a very fragile system, whose durability is sensitive to natural phenomena, as evidenced by some of the documentation work carried out, where he rescued images of wild animals entering these data centres and endangering the livelihood of the digital world.

Mario Santamaría

Finally, Maia Navas, recently arrived from Argentina, shared with us the afternoon of Saturday 29th in a chat in which she told us about her creative work as well as her experience at the head of Play-Videoarte, a festival entirely dedicated to this discipline that she co-founded in 2012, and that in these six editions has combined an annual exhibition with a program of activities that take place in the City of Corrientes (Argentina), at the Cultural Centre of the University Extension that depends on the National University of the Northeast (UNNE).

Maia has a degree in psychology, as well as a degree in arts and technology, and combine her artistic career with teaching. The impact of psychology among her work topics is evident, and some of her video works try to delve into disturbing and perplexing aspects of human behaviour, such as the series "Procedures" that we could watch during the presentation. In it, the artist portrays the daily lives of people affected by OCD syndrome with an excellent visual narrative that puts the accent, almost with a cinematographic vision, on the personal experience of this phenomenon.

Maia Navas, foto de Marc Cisneros

From Art Madrid, we want to thank all these artists for sharing their creative experience with us and giving us the opportunity to dialogue with them about their present and future projects.