Unland

Unland is comprised of three distinct yet related works: Unland: the orphan’s tunic, Unland: irreversible witness, and Unland: audible in the mouth, completed in that order. All three were made in response to interviews Salcedo conducted in northern Colombia with orphaned children who witnessed the murder of their parents. Each of the works joins together two different tables, creating one elongated form, with human hair and raw silk laboriously sewn through thousands of tiny, follicle-like holes drilled into the surfaces. These fractured, dismembered tables allude to an interrupted, broken family and home—resulting in a life held together by the most precarious of means.

The title, Unland, is a word invented by Salcedo to suggest a sense of displacement. She was inspired by the poetry of Paul Celan (Romanian, 1920–1970), whose own words are appropriated for the subtitle of each sculpture. Celan is known for his writings in the aftermath of the Holocaust, a time when language seemed insufficient to address the traumatic events of that era and thereby required reinvention.

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Installation view, SITE Santa Fe, 1998–99
Photo: Herbert Lotz

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Wooden tables, steel crib, silk, human hair, and thread
44 × 98 × 35 in. (111.8 × 248.9 × 88.9 cm)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase through the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Fund and the Accessions Committee Fund
Photo: David Heald

unland View larger

Wooden tables, steel crib, silk, human hair, and thread
44 × 98 × 35 in. (111.8 × 248.9 × 88.9 cm)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase through the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Fund and the Accessions Committee Fund
Photo: David Heald

unland View larger

Wooden tables, silk, human hair, and thread
31½ × 96½ × 38½ in. (80 × 245 × 98 cm)
“la Caixa” Contemporary Art Collection
Photo: David Heald

unland View larger

Wooden tables, silk, human hair, and thread
31½ × 96½ × 38½ in. (80 × 245 × 98 cm)
“la Caixa” Contemporary Art Collection
Photo: David Heald

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Wooden tables, silk, human hair, and thread 31 1/2 × 29 1/2 × 124 in. (80 × 75 × 315 cm) Tate: Presented by the Patrons of New Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1999 © Tate, London 2014

unland View larger

Wooden tables, silk, human hair, and thread
31½ × 124 × 29½ in. (80 × 315 × 75 cm)
Tate: Presented by the Patrons of New Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1999
© Tate, London 2014