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Colombian Protests Violence With Sculpture

Doris Salcedo evokes lives of the 'disappeared' and is credited with taking art in new directions

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Doris Salcedo is a sculptor who fights violence with art. As a Colombian, she lives and works in what is considered the world's most violent society. She is not subtle about the goal of her work: to make her audiences sense the anguish of the ''disappeared'' and their families, so that they will act to end the terror.

''Indifference is the big problem in our society,'' Ms. Salcedo says.

Colombia has a well-known history of human rights abuses, including the highest murder rate in the world. Apart from crimes tied to drug trafficking and antigovernment-guerrilla activity, some 2,000 Colombians are tortured, murdered, or forcibly ''disappeared'' every year by paramilitary death squads, as reported by the Center for Investigations and Popular Research.

As shocking as these statistics may be, Salcedo believes that no number can move people to act as can telling the story, through art, of one survivor of such violence, or of the absence of a loved one. ''Can you imagine the pain of the wife as she receives the body of her husband?'' she asks.

Salcedo tells her stories without resorting to the use of overt symbols like blood or skulls and crossbones. Instead, she includes objects that were used by the lost loved one. That object, she says, will forever tell its story of the person who is now gone.

'A shoe left lying around'

In one work, ''Atrabiliarios (Defiant),'' shoes have been ensconced in a line of holes in a wall. They are barely visible because each hole is covered with a delicate, translucent piece of a cow's bladder, which is sewn to the wall with what appear to be surgical stitches.

''I use a shoe, because whenever there is a death, or people buried in a mass grave, there is always a shoe left lying around.


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