Unland: The Place of Testimony by Tanya Barson

Doris Salcedo’s work is very well known for how she approaches the subject of mourning. A lot of her work is done in public spaces, often trying to get other people involved in the work, but the Unland Exhibit is more traditional in the sense that it is displayed as part of a gallery. Salcedo’s exhibit consists of tables that are cut in half, but are joined with another table of a different make and style. They don’t necessarily look smooth or like a well done repair, instead they look awkward and obviously joined together roughly, but this was the intention.

Salcedo wanted the the tables to look authentic and familiar to communicate an empathy with the viewer. As for the awkwardness, Tanya Barson describes “The tables are different heights and width and seem to lean into another uncomfortably, as though they might collapse.” “The awkwardness and abruptness of the join is entirely deliberate.” Salcedo’s is trying to speak to the empathy of mothers in Columbia who lost their children, and other people who lost family member and loved ones, by showing how the process of recovery and mourning is uncomfortable and to really show the damage left behind and how difficult it can be for repair. Barson also writes “Salcedo says she wanted to find a way of working that would seem like a huge expenditure, or waste of time, energy and effort in order to evoke the extreme conditions and waste of life that occurs in violent regions of the world.”

Salcedo’s work is meant to empathize with those who have witnessed the sudden, violent death or displacement of a loved one, and their process of putting the pieces back together. In this way the Unland project connects with a very deep and delicate aspect of humanity, and deliberately shows how awkward and unfitting the process of repair can feel. 062_Salcedo-web


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