Picts: Nicole Hakim – Text: Natalie Sánchez
The longest war in Latin America was a flare that advanced through the Colombian fields, destroyed villages, filled them with victims, razed energy sources, broke families, razed sacred precincts, pulverized educational centers, ruined hospitals, destroyed villages and dismantled justice. However, the violence did not heterogeneously affected all geographical areas or the different social strata; it was concentrated on the margins of society, those areas and groups less integrated into the centers of economic and political power of society, for example, women.
According to the report The war registered in the body of the National Center for Historical Memory, in the last 60 years of war, more than 13,000 women have been victims of sexual violence. They carry silently in their lives and memories the worst parts of the conflict, as Svetlana Aleksievich says in her book “War has no woman’s face”:
In what women tell about war there is, or hardly is, what we are used to read and hear: how some people kill others heroically and finally win. Or how they are defeated. Or what technique was used and what generals were there. Women’s stories are different and talk about other things. The feminine war has its smells, its illumination and its space. It has its own words. In this war there are no incredible heroes or feats, there are only human beings involved in an inhuman task.
When a society has gone through violent and repressive periods such as wars or dictatorships, in its process of reparation it has a very important place to remember and commemorate the past in order to study, understand and clarify historical events. For this reason Doris Salcedo wanted to give a voice to the victims who have long been silenced by the conflict. The work “Fragmentos” is an installation made by 17 women who, with hammer blows, shaped tablets that cover an exhibition hall.
However, it is difficult for visitors to feel any connection to the monument. Being the main piece of the work the floor of the enclosure, it is a challenge for the artist and the viewer to achieve empathy or generate questions without having elements alluding to war and given its minimalist nature, it runs the risk of not be valued in all its dimension.
Although there is no universal or standardized way to repair through a work of art, there are references to places and people whom tried to do so. A good example is the Holocaust Memorial located in New England, a monument of 6 glass towers forming a path. Each tower symbolizes an extermination camp; Majdanek, Chelmno, Sobibor, Treblinka Belize and Auschwitz-Birkenau. On their inner walls they have phrases written by the survivors of each camp, outside are engraved groups of numbers representing the 6 million exterminated jews. As they travel, from the dark floor steam rises up and envelops visitors.
In fact, many monuments in honor of the victims have been object of the same controversy, for example the memorial to the fallen in Vietnam in Washington DC, a black marble mole that contains the name in alphabetical order of those soldiers who did not returned home, annoyed veterans who claimed the construction insulted the dead. After many negotiations and explanations the congress decided to add a flag and a statue to the side.
All commemorative monuments are always subject to controversy. Why does an artist use 37 tons of steel, that is, 8,994 weapons between machine guns, rifles, and guns that the FARC handed over to the government to melt and decide to create a minimalist work? The answer to that question is only known by the artist and it is something closely related to her creative process, but was it the best way to remember or raise awareness about violence in Colombia?