Art Talk: Doris Salcedo—Sculpture as Witness

February 4, 2021
Installation view of Thou-less and Untitled chair works (2004–5), by Colombian artist Doris Salcedo, in the exhibition Doris Salcedo: The Materiality of Mourning, 2016–17, at the Harvard Art Museums. Artworks © Doris Salcedo.

During these unsettled times, art allows us to reflect on and confront sociopolitical uncertainties through close looking at objects. Doris Salcedo’s sculpture Untitled (2004–5), recalling a worn, simple chair, marks the absence of countless victims lost to political violence in Colombia’s civil war. In this talk, curator Mary Schneider Enriquez examines Salcedo’s work and considers how an everyday object speaks to the power wielded by those whose victims remain silent.

This talk is part of a series investigating power dynamics in artworks across the collections. Considering intersections of art and power, our curatorial team discusses how artists engage with social and political crises, use art to upset systems of power, and imagine more equitable futures.

For more about Doris Salcedo, please see Doris Salcedo: The Materiality of Mourning and check out the film Doris Salcedo’s Public Works (2015) from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Led by:
Mary Schneider Enriquez, Houghton Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Works explored:
Doris Salcedo, Colombian, Untitled, 2004–5. Stainless steel. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Cowles, by exchange, 2010.573. © Doris Salcedo.

Doris Salcedo, Colombian, A Flor de Piel, 2013. Rose petals and thread. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mr. G. David Thompson, in memory of his son, G. David Thompson, Jr., Class of 1958, by exchange; purchase through the generosity of Elaine Levin in honor of Mary Schneider Enriquez; and purchase through the generosity of Deborah and Martin Hale, 2014.133. © Doris Salcedo. Photo: Joerg Lohse; courtesy of the artist and Alexander and Bonin, New York, and White Cube, London.