In the early 1990s, Salcedo researched the lasting effects of violence through extensive fieldwork across Colombia. During this time, she learned that female victims were treated with particular cruelty and that shoes were often used to identify remains—especially in the context of los desaparecidos (the disappeared).
In Atrabiliarios, worn shoes—primarily women’s—are encased in niches embedded into the gallery wall, covered by a layer of stretched and preserved animal fiber, and affixed to the wall with medical sutures. The empty boxes are also made of animal fiber and seem to anticipate more deaths to come. The semitranslucent surfaces of the niches obscure their contents, alluding to the fraught relationship between memory and time.
“In Atrabiliarios, for example, you are looking at something through skin. You’re looking at history . . . at memory through a veil. But because it’s the shoes of those lost, [they] relate to the Holocaust, to the concentration camps.”