[October 6 2015]
The first step I take in the making of a work of art is to orient myself toward the victim to whom I address the piece, and whose experience is a prerequisite for the very existence of the work. The experience of an individual is always my point of departure. But during the process of making an artwork, I must maintain a distance in order to leave that person intact, untouched. And from there, as soon as I begin working, everything enters into the paradoxical terrain of art.
My work departs from the singularity of a lived experience but en route, effaces that experience. As Paul Celan wrote, “The man whose eyes and mind are occupied with art . . . forgets about himself. Art makes for distance from the I. Art requires that we travel a certain space in a certain direction, on a certain road.”
The experiences I attempt to address are not anecdotes. My work is about the memory of experience, which is always vanishing, not about experiences taken from life. It is the vacuum generated by forgetfulness, an attempt to grasp what is no longer present. The work of art is concerned precisely with that which is not an event. It points toward an event, or, as the philosopher Jean Luc Nancy said, in a work of art, an event and eternity coincide in the intensity of its image.
Text Doris Salcedo and photo Alexis Dahan