‘Employing’ Testimony and Using Materiality

Salcedo employs the testimonies of such witnesses as a foundation for her sculptures but steers away from a direct relation between these testimonies and the final work. Her sculptures are never an illustration of these narratives, nor are they confessional props. She avoids explicit images and instead tends towards poetic representation, abstracting the experiences recounted to her by using simple materials indicative of the environment and poverty which surrounds the victims.

‘Unland’ The Place of Testimony, Doris Salcedo’s Unland: audible in the mouth 1988,
Contemporary Art in Focus: Patrons’ Papers 3, Tate, London 2004.

Thinking more about how my research looks at the experiences of women forced into sexual slavery, my main concern was always that the work made would be read as ‘props’ rather than representations of those experiences, and the removal of their histories.

When I think about the materiality of my work I want to convey the subjective sensations of memory, and how that memory is being disintegrated. The disintegration of the pots looks to act as a new language, speaking of the period of silence where survivors were shamed into near invisibility because of their trauma. I want for my film to represent absence through presence, and presence through absence, through the documentation of the dissolving pots. Seeing the same thing happening to more than one form, seeing it from several angles and not being able to do anything about it but watch it happen; witnessing it.

As an artist I can’t intercede in the process of the water eroding away at the clay, I can only watch, and see what it does.

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