Mind Candy: The “Birds” of Rick Silva

Posted on April 14, 2015, 10:19 pm
3 mins

The Pacific Northwest is known for a lush natural environment, but in the air above there is the invisible flux of data and radar and the constant roar of airplanes (especially near Boeing field). What if the rarified digital world crossed into the natural world, especially as a bird passed through…?

Well, you might get something along the lines of The Silva Field Guide to Birds of a Parallel Future. Eugene-based artist Rick Silva has created an imaginative series of 18 short videos of theoretical birds that don’t quite fit in our universe: two-dimensional planes with segmented wings; cubes of erupting feathers; orbs of metallic, alar structures. Similarly, the sounds of each video range from soothing mechanical hums, to purring and whirring, to grating static.

It seems instinctual for humans to create imaginary creatures, more often an exaggeration or chimera than a truly novel invention. Ancient bestiaries depicted mangled versions of real life creatures, and frequently attached a moral meaning—e.g. ostensibly self-wounding pelicans as symbols of Christ, the mythical leucrocotta (based on hyenas) as symbols of false prophets. In other words, the animal world was contingent on the world of humanity, especially in relation to the divine which had given dominion over the animals to Adam. Divorced from this myth, we still have trouble sharing the planet with nonhumans, still make their existence contingent on ours, still adorn and mangle them.

Silva’s abstract aviary, however, is pure delight, sans moral strings. The mere fact that he names these geometric forms “birds” jars one into thinking about how we think about and delineate between living and nonliving things. In our culture, we cannot fully disengage the idea of “birds” in art with ideas of freedom, escape, transcendence, swiftness. Silva’s “birds” do not conjure these qualities in toto. Some seem to implode or struggle in stasis. They are enigmatic, unaccountable, just as any living species ought be in the final assessment (considering how strange all existence is).

But this is a parallel future, so all our reckonings go out the window. Rather than just imagining how they fit into our own strange world, we are invited to imagine how parallel worlds (or universes with different rules) might look. It’s a curious peek behind the veil…on your screen.

You can check out all the birds here.

T.s. Flock is a writer and arts critic based in Seattle and co-founder of Vanguard Seattle.