Spatial and Temporal Suspension in Doris Salcedo’s Untitled at The White Cube Gallery, London 2007 To suspend, is to hang

up, debar, make inoperative. Suspension is a floating state of ceased time, limbo, the uncertain. On entering the clinical white cube gallery space, the Untitled series appear to be indistinguishable. Visually they look alike. They are of the same 'species', hybrids from the same type of dark wooden domestic furniture, and are united in their vacant namelessness. To be untitled, is to be given no distinguishable characteristic. Even the drawers, the “foundations of the human mind” (Bachelard, Poetics of Space 1958) are blocked and its contents and respective identity has been drowned by a vertical floodplane of concrete. We are confronted with nothing but vagueness and an unsettling feeling because inspite of a solid and reliable wooden frame, here, the powers of gravity seems to have been reversed. The concrete- once liquid, and skimmed to the smooth likeness of a liquid, has filled the cracks of the oak furniture and seems to be supporting it upright; at the same time however, as though it were the calm before the storm, we are given the impression that at anytime it could burst and flood the gallery floor. The latter is only an illusion. The concrete is solid. What could be perceived as a climactic silence has turned into a white wash. The wardrobes, chairs, and tables, once steeped in identity, memory, human contact, have been silenced. Like a cancer, the cold industrial concrete has overcome the warm age-old wood from the inside out. The purity of the gallery space is violated by the sullying feeling of intervention as a bed frame is inserted into a concrete-filled wardrobe; the concrete mass robs the chair of its purpose. These sculptures are mostly referred to as “hybrids” which connotes the idea of machination and scientific creation. It is as though the artist herself has taken the role of the suppressor, and she too has disturbed the expected reality and function of the furniture, which, like the people of Columbia under military regime, have become akin to the chewed, maltreated pop-eyed dolls of a child. There is a disturbing sense of pleasure in the smoothness of the concrete, in the deliberate compositional decisions made both in the sculptures and then by the curator, of where they are to be placed in the room. A play between the creation of a beautiful object, and the sinister undertones of violation. A play between natural and man-made, familiar and unfamiliar. The furniture seems to be ripped out of its original context and placed in the coldness of the gallery for our voyeuristic eyes. A hybrid of the past is made to make contact with the present transitional flow of visitors. However despite the violation, Salcedo’s untitled drowned sculptures stand defiantly- they refuse to be forgotten. To be silenced, is not to become identity-less, or have no presence. Even after a person has departed, the smallest object associated with them becomes more than just a loose memory, it becomes a physical proof of their existence; it almost becomes a presence or relic in itself. As Salcedo said, her work is “the giving of a material gift to the being who makes his presence felt”. It is almost as though Salcedo takes on the role of a global doctor who creates life support machines for the souls of the deceased victims, which at first seems like a paradox to her earlier artistic role as a suppressor. However it is in taking the role of the violator in her art that she physically understands the situation, almost re-living the life and experience of the victim. Past and present and in fact even future are intertwined. They no longer are separate entities, they become one whole- all temporally suspended.

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