Doris Salcedo, Installation at 8th International Istanbul Biennial, 2003.


With the continual stream of information and images flooding past me each day, I’ve come to appreciate the rare, found gems that stop me in my virtual tracks. This week it was the above photograph of wooden chairs piled between two buildings that caught my eye on a friend’s Facebook page and sent me on a pleasurable hunt for more details.

Doris Salcedo’s haunting artwork Shibboleth, a giant crack installed in the floor of the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, brought the Colombian artist well-deserved attention in 2007. But most of us are less familiar with her earlier projects, such as her 2003 chair piece titled Installation for the 8th Istanbul Biennale.


Doris Salcedo, "Shibboleth," 2007. Concrete and metal, 548 feet long. Installation at Turbine Hall in Tate Modern, London. (Photo by Tate Photography, London. © Doris Salcedo. Courtesy the Alexander and Bonin, New York)



Salcedo's idea was to create a "topography of war"--not tied to a specific historical event, but to war in general. Seeing these 1,550 wooden chairs piled high between two buildings in central Istanbul, I'm reminded of mass graves. Of anonymous victims. I think of both chaos and absence, two effects of wartime violence.