Each of these three sculptures is made of woven raw silk and nearly 12,000 needles. They developed out of years of research into what Salcedo perceives to be society’s inability to mourn. At the core of this investigation is a lack of empathy that pervades public life, in which one person’s loss is not registered by others, and instead those in mourning become stigmatized, adding to their pain.
When viewed from different angles, the details of the sculpture oscillate between visible and invisible: the glint of the nickel and the sheen of the silk appear and disappear simultaneously like a fading memory. The work thus embodies a sense of paradox. Beautiful yet dangerous, it is unclear whether these sculptures, with their thousands of needles, are intended to protect or to harm.
“It is untouchable but it’s still incredibly loving. It’s all of the contrasts that I find especially in the mothers who have lost a child. It’s an unbearable pain.”
“Doris hangs a shirt made of normal cloth and makes a sketch, which we use to develop how it has to fold so we know where to put the needles and where not to put them. Each piece of the shirt is woven on a loom that had to be specially made because the commercial ones broke, so we had to develop a special process. When we start weaving we can do about half an inch a day . . . I think it takes about two months to do the weaving. Then we have to assemble the shirt, which is takes about another month, using very small knots.”