Salcedo describes herself as a “secondary witness” to the protracted civil war in Colombia and makes work that honors its hundreds of thousands of victims and that confronts those who perpetrate these conflicts. In Atrabilious (which means “melancholy” or “ill temper”) she encased worn women’s shoes in niches covered with a scrim made from stretched cow’s bladder. The shoes stand in for the people who have disappeared over the course of the conflict. Seen behind their murky, membranous coverings, the shoes resemble old photographs or saintly relics. “I cannot fix any problem[s]. I can do nothing. It’s a lack of power,” Salcedo has said. “But then as a person who lacks power, I face the ones who have power and who manipulate life. It’s from that perspective—of the one who lacks power—that I look at the powerful ones and at their deeds.”
Gallery label from Contemporary Art from the Collection, 2011.