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Inaugural Speculative Play and Just Futurities Artist-in-Residence: Artur Silva

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Artur Silva, the inaugural fellow of the Speculative Play and Just Futurities residency program at the IAHI, recently completed his residency and is preparing to exhibit his work in London. When reflecting on his return to Indianapolis from his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Silva agreed that the city is like a magnet: “It just keeps pulling you back.” The Indianapolis community has already benefited significantly from Silva’s ties to the city, from his work with the Indiana State Museum to installations at the Indianapolis Airport and public artwork on Mass Avenue. The IAHI had the privilege of bringing Silva back to Indianapolis and funding his work in the month of September.

Silva’s work focuses on networks of exchange, interrogating both capitalist and imperialist narratives. Growing up under a dictatorship supported by the United States played a major role in his early life, economically and culturally; childhood experiences opened his eyes to the problems caused by capitalism, power struggles, and autocracy. When asked to identify the central question that his current work addresses, Silva replied: “How do we come to have things in front of us?” Recent work has focused on forms of colonial exchange that are embodied in fruit—lemons and pineapples, specifically. Noting that lemons were imported into Europe through colonial exchange between the Roman Empire and China, Silva explained his interest in making sculptures with the plastic netting with which lemons are packaged: “The lemons don’t come from China anymore, but the packaging does.” Photographs of pineapples in Lisbon at the Monument of the Discoveries point to a network of natural things that were taken from the South American continent and brought to Europe to generate wealth for Europeans, not for the people in whose land the fruit was “discovered.”

During his residency, Silva presented his work to classes in a number of departments, including the Herron School of Art and Design (with Cory Robinson), the department of Africana Studies (with Joseph Tucker Edmonds), and the department of English (with Sarah Layden). Silva worked on a project that ties together the work of Giovanni Belzoni—a nineteenth-century figure responsible for “importing” Egyptian artifacts into the UK—and images of laborers at the Saara market in Rio. In this project, Silva considers the movement of artifacts: the relationship between Belzoni’s work, which won him medals and international notoriety, and the visual representation of people moving the goods that circulate around the giant Saara market. “Who gets documented?” Silva asks. “Who gets the prize? Who gets the title?” During this residency, Silva has created visual narratives that plot a course to a different future: “investigating what is not quite there yet, but the possibility of a future that is more just for everyone,” as he puts it. This goal reflects the broader mission of the SPJF residency program, which holds that speculative writing and design allows us not only to imagine alternative worlds, but to reshape the world in which we presently live.

Finders Keepers, Silva’s solo exhibit responding to Belzoni’s pilfering of Egyptian artifacts, will open at the Lullo Pampoulides gallery in London on November 16th.

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