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Doris Salcedo, Atrabiliarios 1992, 1997. Mervyn Horton Bequest Fund 1997, Art Gallery of NSW collection © Doris Salcedo

History and memory

In recent years, artists have taken up the subjects of time, place, history and memory in interesting and often moving ways, motivated perhaps by the need to preserve personal and cultural stories in the age of globalisation. Many of these artworks have been shaped by the artist’s own memories of the cultures they grew up with, as well as the history and contemporary reality of the country in which they now live.

Atrabiliarios 1992, 1997 by Doris Salcedo is a powerful work that memorialises the countless victims of violence in Colombia – including members of Salcedo’s own family. Encased shoes act as traces of these kidnapped citizens, confronting us with this brutal past and present.

Simryn Gill grew up in Malaysia and her photographic series Forest 1996-98 transplants strips of text torn from books into decaying tropical gardens, suggesting how culture has become an almost invisible part of our environment and alluding to her own youthful sense of identity.