miércoles, 10 de octubre de 2007

The Crack


If you happen to walk into the Tate Modern one of these days, fear not, the uneven crack opening under your feet is the result of no earthquake or faulty construction.

It is Doris Salcedo's work "Shibboleth".

The meaning of this term is the usage of language indicative of one's social or regional origin, or more broadly speaking, any practice that identifies members of a group. It was originally used by the Hebrews to distinguish the members of a group whose dialect lacked a particular sound from the members of another group whose dialect did include that particular sound.
A shibboleth is a kind of linguistic password: A way of speaking (a pronunciation, or the use of a particular expression) that identifies one as a member of an 'in' group. The purpose of a shibboleth is exclusionary as much as inclusionary: A person whose way of speaking violates a shibboleth is identified as an outsider and thereby excluded by the group.

Doris Salcedo said in an interview that she wants people to forget the "technical" aspects - how on earth did they drill that? sort of question - and think of the MEANING of her work. This reminded me of the impression I had when visiting the last ARCO fair in Madrid. Everyone poking at the works, apparently far more interested in the canvas, plotter, metal or digital whatever being used than in the actual work. Container prevails over content.

Back to semantics, the chasm brought to mind the lines of a poem by Seamus Heaney:

"by God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it."

The son lives in a different world, uses a different language, yet both tasks are related. Both dig beneath the surface of things, cultivating the possibilities of what may grow under.
Green weeds are bound to sprout from Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth.

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