Of What One Cannot Speak: Doris Salcedo's Political Art

Of What One Cannot Speak: Doris Salcedo's Political Art

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by Mieke Bal
     
 

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Doris Salcedo, a Colombian-born artist, addresses the politics of memory and forgetting in work that embraces fraught situations in dangerous places. Noted critic and theorist Mieke Bal narrates between the disciplines of contemporary culture in order to boldly reimagine the role of the visual arts. Both women are pathbreaking figures, globally renowned and widely

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Overview

Doris Salcedo, a Colombian-born artist, addresses the politics of memory and forgetting in work that embraces fraught situations in dangerous places. Noted critic and theorist Mieke Bal narrates between the disciplines of contemporary culture in order to boldly reimagine the role of the visual arts. Both women are pathbreaking figures, globally renowned and widely respected. Doris Salcedo, meet Mieke Bal.

In Of What One Cannot Speak, Bal leads us into intimate encounters with Salcedo’s art, encouraging us to consider each work as a “theoretical object” that invites—and demands—certain kinds of considerations about history, death, erasure, and grief. Bal ranges widely through Salcedo’s work, from Salcedo’s Atrabiliarios series—in which the artist uses worn shoes to retrace los desaparecidos (“the disappeared”) from nations like Argentina, Chile, and Colombia—to Shibboleth, Salcedo’s once-in-a-lifetime commission by the Tate Modern, for which she created a rupture, as if by earthquake, that stretched the length of the museum hall’s concrete floor. In each instance, Salcedo’s installations speak for themselves, utilizing household items, human bones, and common domestic architecture to explore the silent spaces between violence, trauma, and identity. Yet Bal draws out even deeper responses to the work, questioning the nature of political art altogether and introducing concepts of metaphor, time, and space in order to contend with Salcedo’s powerful sculptures and installations.

An unforgettable fusion of art and essay, Of What One Cannot Speak takes us to the very core of events we are capable of remembering—yet still uncomfortably cannot speak aloud.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

“Bal is a leading cultural critic, known for her engaging writing style and clarity, even when dealing with difficult theoretical concepts. Bal also has incredible respect for Salcedo and her work, as this book models a process of investigation akin to a dialogue with art, rather than a clinical dissection of it. Essential.”

Jonathan Culler
“After illuminating the work of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Louise Bourgeois, Balthus, and other modern artists, Mieke Bal again demonstrates her extraordinary flair for cultural criticism in taking on the work of Doris Salcedo, exploring the philosophical and aesthetic stakes of this committed political art and the relation between beauty, violence, and memory. A tour de force.”

Hanneke Grootenboer
“Seen against Bal’s magnificent oeuvre, Of What One Cannot Speak is the next innovative and brilliant book that will once again push the field of visual studies into unexplored areas. A fusion of monograph and theoretical essay, the book is best described as a demonstration of Bal teaching. She crucially teaches her audience how to make an encounter with an artwork productive—not by applying theoretical ideas, but by working through the object’s resistance, by allowing the object to speak back to you. Bal does not simply take Doris Salcedo’s work as her starting point, and neither does she argue that the violence of the political is somehow merely ‘reflected’ in it. Instead, she embarks on a much more ambitious and original project—initiating a discourse by allowing a work of art to take the lead.”

Andreas Huyssen
Of What One Cannot Speak offers a brilliant theoretical challenge to our understanding of the political in art after Adorno and after trauma theory. Mieke Bal gives us the most insightful and comprehensive reading to date of the work of Doris Salcedo as a new kind of ‘world art’ that cannot be relegated reductively to local color or to thematic dimensions such as memory and violence. Equally attentive to Salcedo’s materials as to her handling of metaphor and figuration, space and time, Bal’s book stands as a model work on the threshold between art criticism and interpretive analysis—truly interdisciplinary in the best sense.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226035802
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
03/15/2011
Series:
NONE
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
296
File size:
6 MB

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