Community Public Art

The Skin of Memory Revisited – MDE11 Biennial at the Museum of Antioquia, Medellin

Flickr – Collection MDE11: Suzanne Lacy & Pilar Riaño, The skin of Memory. Museo de Antioquia.

In the period between 1998-2001, Medellin went through another period of conflict and violence. At the same time, various social movements and organizations were engaging a broad spectrum of people –barrio residents, activists, scholars, and educators– to find alternatives to violence and strengthen civil society.

In 1999, a group of NGO’s came together with residents of Barrio Antioquia to develop youth leadership through workshops in theatre and poetry; local celebrations; memories and historical archiving; and – the subject of this exhibition—a public art installation, The Skin of Memory.A team of youth and women from barrio Antioquia gathered five hundred objects symbolizing memory for local residents. The strategy of a “museum” as a space for neutral and non-partisan display of memories was employed, a bus that could move from one place to another within the barrio, transgressing local territorialities of conflict. The project emphasized the processes of mourning and reflection through the selection of artifacts that carried a significant personal memory for their owners.The Skin of Memory, named to evoke the organic and physical texture of memory, existed for ten days locally and then moved briefly to the center of Medellin. This museum of memories, for a brief time, broke the stasis of localized, privatized grief, becoming a place of community commemoration and local pride.

The installation represents both that earlier project and the present moment, as participants from 1999-2000, and others, reflect on the past projects and its relationships and impacts, continuing violence in Medellin, and the importance of memory work to repair broken social relations and build a broad and equitable participatory democracy.

The Skin of Memory / La piel de la memoria. A Community Public Art Project (Medellin, 1999). For images, videos and texts on the 1999 project, see:


Skin of Memory, La Piel de la Memoria. A Documentary about a Public Art Project in Medellìn, Colombia. Produced by Dorothy Kidd; Associate Producer: Pilar Riaño, Commoners Productions