In ‘Uprooted’ by Doris Salcedo, a House Made from Hundreds of Trees Morphs into an Impenetrable Thicket

Source Colossal  

“Uprooted” (2020-22), 804 dead trees and steel, 300 x 65 x 50 meters. Installation view at Sharjah Biennial 15, Kalba Ice Factory, Sharjah Art Foundation, 2023. All images © Doris Salcedo, shared with permission. Photos by Juan Castro

We use the phrase “to put down roots” to express a desire to make a place our own, whether purchasing a house or deciding to live in one location for many years. A sense of community, family, being surrounded by one’s belongings, and feeling safe and secure all help to form the idea of home, which evokes myriad emotions and associations—especially if any of those fundamentals are missing. In Colombian artist Doris Salcedo’s monumental installation titled “Uprooted” at the Sharjah Biennial 15, the concept remains nebulous.

Salcedo is known for sculptures and installations that incorporate quotidian, domestic objects like tables or garments. Her practice often takes historical events as a starting point, focusing on the effects of major political actions on people’s everyday mental and emotional experiences. “Conveying burdens and conflicts with precise and economical means,” she once cataclysmically cracked the floor of Turbine Hall in London’s Tate Modern and lowered more than 1,500 chairs between two buildings in Istanbul to address displacement caused by war. In “Uprooted,” the theme of migration continues in the form of hundreds of dead trees that have been shaped into the recognizable silhouette of a house, its meticulously constructed walls and pitched roof gradually morphing into a thicket.


Salcedo contemplates transformation and loss that can be interpreted in many ways, especially in the context of Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine and the devastating earthquakes in Syria and Turkey that have displaced millions of people. By utilizing trees that are colorless and lifeless, she also references a rupture between humans and nature, examining how our connection to the environment is dissolving.

Visitors can walk around the installation, but the impenetrable tangles of the wood prevent them from going inside. Gnarled roots protrude from all sides, densely clustered trees obscure the entrance, and in place of an inviting front door is a forebodingly dark and impassable juncture between the domestic structure and the wilderness.

“Uprooted” is on view in Sharjah Biennial 15Thinking Historically in the Present at the recently converted Kalba Ice Factory in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, through June 11.


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