1550 Chairs

November 25, 2018
Istanbul, Turkey

1550 Chairs Stacked Between Two City Buildings (2002) by Doris Salcedo.

Doris Salcedo created an installation titled “1550 Chairs Stacked Between Two City Buildings” at Istanbul Biennial. In 2002, Salcedo placed 280 chairs at the Palace of Justice in Bogotá “to pay homage to those killed here in a failed guerrilla coup seventeen years earlier.”

In 2003, she filled the Istanbul Biennial space between two buildings with 1,550 chairs “evoking the masses of faceless migrants who underpin our globalised economy.”

Salcedo’s work provokes many questions after a first look, but she does provide answers to the mystery. The approach she takes to portraying these messages are unique and bold although she is using everyday objects like chairs.

Her idea with this piece was to create what she called “a topography of war.” She clarifies this by saying it is meant to “represent war in general and not a specific historical event”.

Salcedo is quoted saying “seeing these 1,550 wooden chairs piled high between two buildings in central Istanbul, I’m reminded of mass graves. Of anonymous victims. I think of both chaos and absence, two effects of wartime violence.” Salcedo explains, “What I’m trying to get out of these pieces is that element that is common in all of us.” “And in a situation of war, we all experience it in much the same way, either as victim or perpetrator. So I’m not narrating a particular story. I’m just addressing experiences.”

In 2007, four years after Salcedo’s installation in Istanbul, another artist, Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, used chairs to create a memory effect in his piece Fairytale. He installed the set of 1001 Ming and Qing dynasty chairs at Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany, one chair for each of the 1001 Chinese travelers displaced. His piece focused on Chinese displacement, a similar topic to Salcedo.

Photo by Muammer Yanmaz.

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