Image: Atrabiliarios (Defiant)
(Bogotá, Colombia, 1958 - )

Atrabiliarios (Defiant) , 1996

Installation of shoes, cow's bladder, surgical thread on drywall, and wood
198 in. x 210 in. (502.92 cm x 533.4 cm)
The Mary S. and Louis S. Myers Endowment Fund for Painting and Sculpture
2000.46 a-g
Installed in galleries
'Atrabiliarios' is the most important and best known of Doris Salcedo’s early installations.  It is both sculpture and ritual space.  The level rows of rectangular niches recall the geometry of the minimalist art in the adjacent gallery.  The pieces of translucent cow bladder that cover the niches, crudely sewn to the wall like bodies hastily stitched up after autopsies, arouse far less rational reactions.
'Atrabiliarios', an archaic Spanish word meaning “defiant,” is derived from an expression for melancholy associated with mourning. That emotion is common in Salcedo’s country, Colombia, where civil war and the drug trade have made disappearances and violent death common occurrences. Salcedo was asked by families of “the disappeared” to make art commemorating their losses.
Salcedo learned that most families could only determine the identity of those in mass graves by recognizing their shoes.  Each niche contains one or two shoes, most still bearing footprints and scuffs.  As you walk around the room, the niches become like reliquaries or stations in a chapel.  “By presenting a story of a victim of violence in Colombia, I am calling on the memory of pain which all human beings have, here or anywhere else in the world.”
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