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Artur Silva's cultural cannibalism

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Artur Silva's cultural cannibalism

Streetwear by Cultural Cannibals

Artist Artur Silva is a

moving target. From collaborating (with Matt Eickhoff) on a vending machine

that sold portable works by local artists, to the creation of psychedelic

storefront installations, the Brazilian-born Silva seems in a constant quest to

find new ways to put his work in front of eyeballs – and the brains that

lurk behind them. Over the past two years, Silva, together with collaborator DJ

Kyle Long, has produced a series of dance parties in different locations around

the city, featuring a blend of international music – most notably

Brazilian Tropicalia and Bollywood – and atmospheric mixed media visuals

aimed at creating a cross-cultural experience Silva calls "cultural

cannibalism." Now, under the aegis Cultural Cannibals, Silva and Long have

launched a streetwear fashion line. NUVO met with Silva and Long in Silva's

Harrison Center studio to learn more about this foray into wearable art.

NUVO: What is the

connection between fashion and visual art?

Silva: The way I create

is based on ideas. I walk away from aesthetics, unless it's representing an

idea. These ideas take all kinds of shapes and forms and, I guess, that is the

connection. It's not so much what my work as a visual artist looks like and the

clothes look like, but the content. The images we are reproducing on this line

of clothes, and the content of my work, intersect at some point.

NUVO: What does fashion

mean to you? Is it a subversive idea? Or is it just another venue?

Silva: The easiest

thing for me to answer is that, yes, it is a new venue. But fashion, definitely,

is subversive. It can be. It's watered down 99 percent of the time, but how you

represent yourself to others in streetwear, which is more likely the category

we fit in with our clothing line – there are a lot of really tired

themes, themes that are, to me, superficial. They deal with very banal, mundane

things. Oversexualized ideas or ideas that deal with a culture of drugs and

money-making. Those can be interesting if they are used in the right context.

I'm not dissing on any of those ideas, per se, but when they're used in shallow

waters, it's not interesting to me.

We're trying to add

intellectual content that observes culture in a more active way and create

something from these observations and present them in a way that can be

attractive to people. I think people sort of yearn for that content because

there really isn't much out there that presents these ideas the way we do.

NUVO: What are some of

those ideas?

Silva: One of the

things we worked with first was the Naptown Funk shirt. We selected images of

Indianapolis musicians because we wanted to make an impact outside of Indy, in

a larger realm of culture and some of these musicians did precisely that. Like

Wes Montgomery, David Baker, the Highlighters. It's a cool part of Indianapolis

that, quite often, is forgotten. We're putting these people together in one

composition. It's like a powerhouse of Indianapolis culture. We're constantly

on the move with ideas like that. We want to dignify their vision and the

impact that they had.

We call ourselves

Cultural Cannibals and that idea is, to us, very basic. It's very natural. The

world does not come to us from a single perspective. That amplitude of

possibilities is what makes us do these things, throw cultural events and make

clothes that encourage experiencing culture in a more active way.

NUVO: Iconography has

played a big part in your work. Is that what drives these designs?

Silva: Iconography is

the simplest way of communicating. You don't have to speak the language to talk

iconography. If you take an image of Elvis Presley to central Africa, they

might know who he is. I've always been intrigued by that power. It's so easy,

it's difficult to work with – and I want the work to be difficult to

accomplish. Easy is boring. I want to explore and dissect iconography to the

point where it's no longer easy, and put it back together so people can still

understand it as icons, but it's completely processed, modified, torn and glued

back together so you have this other thing made from the appropriation of


NUVO: Is the shirt the

medium, or is it the body?

Silva: The shirt alone,

unworn, couldn't happen. The medium has to be the life that is going to be

hating it, enjoying it, whatever. It's a collaboration between the person

wearing it and us. It's basically a group performance.

NUVO: Is there a

connection between the fashion statement and the dance parties you and DJ Kyle

Long have been producing?

Silva: We're trying to

cut all the barriers, whether it's to a gallery or a museum or a store. We want

to put these interpretations of culture in front of people directly. How these

parties happen is exactly that. We're not connected to any radio station or

other media. It's the music, the people and these visuals we create. The idea

of Cultural Cannibals is to reevaluate the word "diversity." We need to

reevaluate that word, or even erase it. It no longer makes any sense. It comes

from a biased perspective, saying there is a difference, there's other people,

and then there's us. If you look around the city, it's no longer like that. If

you look around your computer, it's no longer like that. When a kid in a favela

in Rio is sampling a garage band out of Seattle called Nirvana, that's cultural

cannibalism. That's cool. It's natural.

NUVO: You're playing on

the boundaries where art and commerce meet – Commercial Cannibals.

Silva: I'm comfortable

with the ideas of trading and commerce and mercantilism. I deal with them

conceptually in my work as an artist, but I don't just point at them and

criticize because, inevitably, I partake in them. It's a way of trying to

understand this fascination with trade and money and capitalism and how the

whole thing fits together and makes the world move. Sure, it's an unlikely way

to move art. I'm never concerned about that. Ever. I'm concerned about art

itself. What is this art going to be?

Info Box:

Cultural Cannibals will

present Indianapolis' first Balkan Beats dance party with music by DJ Kyle


Where: White Rabbit

Cabaret, 116 Prospect St.

When: Saturday, July 17,

11 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Admission: $5