Is there an end to our existence? Can we be separated from our bodies and be transformed into something else? Adriana Salazar's work has continued to revolve around these questions in different ways. This is why the realm of mortuary customs appeals to her: it presents numerous ways to approach the ultimate unknown.
Her past series of works have attempted to bring inanimate objects to life; crystalize human actions into mechanical devices; worked to blur the line that separates the natural and the artificial. Death has been an ever-present part of her work, understood in a broader sense, in her own words, "I want to address death as a dare to the certainties of knowledge, and as a challenge to deeply rooted traditions. Thus, my work has taken its course transforming mechanical actions, obsolete objects, fading plants and passing life into installations and objects that could become questioning situations themselves."
For this current series, created during a two-month residency at Grand Central Art Center, the artist desired to go deeper into that moment of transition between life and death, finding out as much as she could about what happens with our bodies, with our consciousness and with everything we build around the death of others. In her words, "I found, amongst other things, that there is an aesthetics of transition, that there are rituals trying to maintain life after death, and laws which govern our bodies, even when we are not fully present. I also found out that there are transitional techniques and an intricate industry around them."
Some of these techniques of transition have the purpose of dematerializing the body - its physical presence, associated to life and its impermanence - replacing it with a different kind of immaterial presence. In the crematory, a compartment ignites at a very high temperature until the body is almost entirely dissolved. In order to secure the transparency of this transition, all particles of bone are carefully separated from any other solid object that might exist in our remains. These foreign bodies - implants, replacements, metal bodily parts, and every sign of our artificial self - must be removed. All that is left are bones, which are then reduced to the size of grains of sand. These remains are kept in homes, spread at symbolic locations, interned at traditional burials site, or used in other creative manners. The artificial parts, on the other hand, are usually recycled for their metals or tossed away.
Salazar has decided to rescue as many cremated artificial body parts possible. These parts remain as solid as they were inside their bodies and are nevertheless considered residue. She found their value in this very ambiguity. They embody the question of the status of our own existence on a physical level: their materiality creates confusion between those objects as parts of a physical body and our own body, thus opening the gap between our certainties and uncertainties, beyond the matter of human death itself.
The simple presence of these objects puts the status of life into question, allowing us to see, on one hand, the death of usage and value as something applicable to our own bodies. They allow us to see, on the other hand, the possibility of our existence as purely impermanent, earthly and physical. They allow us to see our possible becoming.
Bogota, Colombia based artist Adriana Salazar, GCAC Artist in Residence, May 6 – July 7, 2013.
Thursday, June 27th, 7-9pm
2013 CALIFORNIA-PACIFIC TRIENNIAL, ARTISTS PANEL
The Yost Theater, Santa Ana
Thursday, June 27th, following panel
NOTHING ELSE LEFT, GCAC SNEAK PREVIEW TOUR
Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana
Sunday, June 30, 2013, 11am-5pm
2013 CALIFORNIA-PACIFIC TRIENNIAL, PUBLIC OPENING
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach