Posted by on February 27, 2012

I like my furniture to have a story. Pretty much everything in my apartment has history. My computer sits on a desk that my grandfather made in the 1920s; my television sits on a console that my grandmother bought at an estate auction and used in her home for decades; my sofa is a designer sample from the set of big brother; my coffee table is a re-purposed piano bench that was in my parents’ home when I was young enough to sit under it.

One of my favorite stories belongs to the dining room chairs. There are four, but they are two sets of two. They ‘go’ without matching.

The first set belonged to my mother’s Godparents. Their house, and all their furniture, was destroyed in a tornado. The plains of Nebraska can be treacherous, and tornadoes are so fickle. They can level one house, while the house next door is spared without a scratch. After the storm, community members gave them extra furniture to help with the recovery. They ended up using some of the most uncomfortable wooden chairs. As soon as they could, they bought new dining room chairs, those chairs are now mine. They are oak, super sturdy. They could survive a tornado, although thankfully they have not been called to show their strength in that way. They are also surprisingly comfortable.

The second set I bought at an estate auction. The sale was for a wonderful woman that I had the pleasure of knowing in the last 20 years of her life. She passed away at 104, had she lived for a few more weeks she would have lived in three centuries. She was an artist, mostly self-taught. I don’t know the whole story, but I do know she was at least 70 before she started painting seriously.

Doris Salcedo is a Colombian artist who often uses everyday objects (like chairs and tables) in her pieces. In this case, the piece is meant to represent “a topography of war” where war and everyday life are intertwined. The chairs are empty and jumbled, stacked on top of one another, familiar and yet chaotic. You could certainly take that is a whole bunch of different directions. I like the simple complexity of the images. These are not new chairs, they have history, we all have history, they are installed on a street with history and in a country with millennia of history.

This piece was part of the 8th Istanbul Biennial in 2003. She filled the gap in a row of buildings with 1600 wooden chairs. I would like to know more about the process, there does not appear to be anything holding them up and they don’t look to be screwed or nailed together. It is just a wall.

first photo by Muammer Yanmaz  from here

last three photos from here

there is a video of Salcedo talking about the piece here

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