SUSAN SILAS
     

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© 2011 by Susan Silas
           

recent work


Wildbillboard, 2015

still images

aerial drone footage

text of a talk delivered at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on 10 December 2015

Wildbillboard, 2015 evolved out of my photographic project, flight, 2014 (proposal for a billboard). My image of a vulture, photographed in Everglades National Park, appeared on a billboard located on I-195 in Miami's Wynwood district during Art Miami Basel and throughout the month of December, 2015.

I spent August 2013 as the artist in residence, under the auspices of AIRIE, in Everglades National Park photographing crows and vultures every day. When I returned home to New York City I found that I missed the company of these large birds and I began to imagine what it would be like to encounter them in my day to day environment. I thought about how interdependent we are even though I didn't see them any longer. I took a series of photographs of billboards in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, and I began to insert their images over the advertising space on the billboards, making them a part of the urban landscape. Wildbillboard is the realization of one of these images on an actual billboard in Miami.

A four minute video about the project shot by Art Loft on the occasion of the talk at the Perez Museum can be seen here. (LINK)

(Wildbillboard, 2015 was sponsored by AIRIE, and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Everglades National Park.)


flight (proposal for a billboard), 2013-2015

This body of work, flight (proposal for a billboard), 2013-2015, and its concept, introducing Everglades wildlife into the urban context through the use of existing urban billboards, is the inspiration and driving force behind a grant proposal by AIRIE (Artists in Residence in the Everglades) to the Knight Arts Challenge for the realization of a group of artist billboards "rewilding Miami" to be produced by AIRIE fellows that will appear in South Florida at the end of 2015 and in 2016, the centennial year for the National Park Service.


THE SPECIMEN DRAWER, 2013

The South Florida Collections Management Center is tucked inside Everglades National Park at the end of Research road. Inside its temperature controlled and darkened drawers, birds that inhabited the park as far back as the 1960’s are laid out, each with a handwritten tag carefully tied to its feet, in much the same way that corpses are labeled at a morgue. Some of these birds were road kill, and a few sad specimens have labels indicating that they starved to death. They are, collectively, a part of the record of upheavals and changes in management techniques that have beset the park for over a century. While the park may seem abundant in nature, with careful inspection one can see that no corner of it has not been subject to the intrusive plans of politicians motivated by development interests, the demand for water in the ever more populated pockets of South Florida and the follies wrought by the Army Core of Engineers. At first the park disappoints. It is a scruffy landscape without the obvious glamor of Yellowstone or Yosemite. A rise of 4 feet in elevation is mountainous here. But with repeated exposure to the "river of grass" the eccentric and subtle beauties of the place begin to impress themselves on the psyche. Opening one of the Center's drawers, I momentarily imagine Lenin resting in his glass mausoleum in Red Square in the middle of Moscow or Ho Chi Minh's tomb, in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi—a place from which he was con- spicuously absent during my visit to Hanoi—he goes for a makeover to Moscow once a year, where the technol- ogy exists to spruce him up for future visitors. Some of the birds at The South Florida Collections Management Center, their bodies stiff and their eyes stuffed with cotton, have resided here as long as Ho has sat in his tomb at Ba Dinh Square. And like their human counterparts, these specimens may be as arbitrary a sampling of their kind as Lenin and Ho are a sampling of ours.


Crow, 2013

Crows, like their Raven cousins in the Corvus family, are considered to be the smartest birds. Some observers have concluded, according to Colin Tudge, the author of The Bird, that these birds may have "theory of mind." According to Tudge: "They may realize that other creatures also have minds, that other creatures may know some things that they do not know, and may not know things that they do know." Crows have family networks, mate for life and mourn their dead. In Everglades National Park, I generally encountered crows in pairs. I never really knew which was the male and which was the female. They tended to stroll a few yards apart from one another, but they always seemed aware of each other and of me. They, together with the vultures, were the most populous birds in the park in August.


Eastern Hungary in 106 bus shelters, 2009

These images were shot in the winter of 2009 while tracing the course of the Tisza River in Eastern Hungary. Bus shelters dot the roadways in the towns and villages along the Tisza, which runs from the northernmost border of Hungary next to the Ukraine to the southern border of the country where the river spills into Serbia.


Re unifications, 2001

Re unifications is a suite of 10 - 30" x 40" archival ink jet prints housed in a portfolio box covered in German iris book cloth. Each print pairs an image from the Olympic Stadium, in what was once West Berlin with an image from the Jewish Cemetery at Weißensee, once in East Berlin.


September 11, 2001

9/11

This series of images represents one roll of film shot as the "North" Tower at the World Trade Center exploded and collapsed on September 11, 2001. The images were taken standing at the corner of Canal Street and West Broadway. One image in the sequence was part of the exhibition, The September 11 Photo Project, organized by Michael Feldschuh which opened at 26 Wooster Street in Soho on October 13th, 2001. It was reproduced in the book, The September 11 Photo Project, published by Harper Collins in May of 2002 and is part of the archive of images exhibited at Wooster Street that are now in the collection of the New York City Public Library. More recently, one still image was included in a documentary film by Brook Peters that premiered at the Tribeca Film festival in 2011.


Aftermath

These images were taken in New York City in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. I spent several days wandering around my neighborhood in Brooklyn. I walked across the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. I wandered around in Chinatown, Soho, and Union Square. I walked through several neighborhoods in Queens. On one of those aimless walks in Queens I walked into a fireman’s funeral. Two images taken at that funeral were a part of the ad hoc exhibition Here is New York; a democracy of photographs that began immediately after 9/11 at 116 Prince Street.