QUESTIONS: Doris Salcedo

The following questions can be used to spark conversation before, during, and after viewing the artist's film segment. They were compiled from our Educators' Guides and Screening Toolkits. We strongly encourage active viewing strategies that involve audiences in discussion in order to anticipate and set-up the ideas in the film, clarify content, or further the ideas while watching, and gives viewers the opportunity to process and re-consider their ideas after watching. Additional resources and strategies for teaching with films and working with contemporary art can be found in Teach.


Installation view of "Unland" at SITE Santa Fe, 1998. Front: "Unland: the orphan's tunic," 1997; Wood, cloth, hair and glue, 31 1/2 x 96 1/2 x 38 1/2 inches; Collection of Fundaci√≥n "la Caixa," Barcelona. Left: "Unland: audible in the mouth," 1998; Wood, thread and hair, 29 1/2 x 124 x 31 1/2 inches. Right: "Unland: irreversible witness," 1995-1998; Wood, cloth, metal and hair, 44 x 98 x 35 inches. Collection of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA. Photo by Herbert Lotz. © Doris Salcedo. Courtesy the Alexander and Bonin, New York .

Before Viewing
What are the benefits and challenges of collaborating on art projects? In what ways can context shape collaboration? Does a contemporary context demand cooperation?

In what different ways does our society remember current and historic events? In what ways do monuments, textbooks, or works of art convey history and historic events?

Define the terms modernism and modernity. What is the difference? Discuss the historical context in which modernism developed, and give examples of artworks that can be described as modern. How does contemporary art relate to its modern antecedents?


SEGMENT: Doris Salcedo in "Compassion"

While Viewing
Discuss Salcedo's explanation of the word experience, including the Latin root that means "going across danger." How does Salcedo's definition relate to specific works of art and her working process?

Salcedo describes her process and art as a collective effort. Describe the specialists and the skills that are needed to complete one of her works.


"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.

After Viewing
Salcedo says that the word that defines her work is impotence. Why do you think Salcedo chose that word, and how does it relate to her work? What word or words would you use to describe Salcedo's work?

Salcedo describes her work as an attempt to rescue a memory. What do you think she means by this? What kinds of memories is Salcedo trying to rescue? How does she do this?

Discuss the different ways in which a society remembers important and/or historic events, such as through monuments, public narratives, and artworks.


"Atrabiliarios," detail, 1992-93. Shoes, animal fiber, and surgical thread, dimensions variable. Collection of The Pulitzer Foundation, St. Louis, Missouri. © Doris Salcedo. Courtesy the Alexander and Bonin, New York.

Doris Salcedo says: "The memory of anonymous victims is always being obliterated; that's why my work does not represent something; it's simply a hint of something—trying to bring into our presence something subtle that is no longer here." How does the artist expose, reveal, or rescue marginalized or hidden histories and perspectives? Why might these histories and perspectives be important?


Installation at 8th International Istanbul Biennial, 2003. Photo by Muammer Yanmaz. © Doris Salcedo. Courtesy the Alexander and Bonin, New York.