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
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?
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.