Publication Details

Mackie, V. C. 2008, 'Doris Salcedo's Melancholy Objects', Portal: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, January, pp. 1-14.


Doris Salcedo’s work ‘Atrabiliarios’ (Defiant) (1992-2004) refers to the women who have been disappeared in her homeland of Colombia.1 Over forty boxes are recessed in the walls of the gallery. Each box contains one or two shoes, sometimes a single shoe, sometimes a pair, sometimes a mismatched pair. Each recessed box is covered with a membrane, described as a layer of cow bladder, bordered with black stitches of surgical thread. The backlit cow bladder evokes human skin. The black, white, brown and ivory shoes are visible through the skin-like surface. On the floor of the gallery are stacked a series of empty boxes, made of the same cow bladder which covers the gallery niches. A version of this work, which Salcedo has developed over several years, is now held in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).2 This is where I encountered the work, and where I started to try to make sense of the power of these particular objects. After my visit to SFMOMA, shoes came to be a recurrent theme in my encounters in museums and art galleries, suggesting to me that there was an archetypal element to this display which was worthy of further exploration.

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