The Films of Fern Silva

Artist in person!

Fern Silva (b. 1982, USA/Portugal) makes what are ostensibly travelogues, but these travelogues ain’t your grandparents’ travelogues. Often filming throughout the Americas, Europe, North Africa and West Asia, Silva strings his footage together into poetic amalgams that are marked by a formalist approach to landscape, a coloristic brilliance, a profound sense of editing—rhythmic but never rigid—and, most importantly, a puckish wit all too often lacking in this genre. A moment from Concrete Parlay (2012) sums up Silva’s own practice, albeit negatively: in a darkened theater, somewhere in the world, the opening montage of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (2011) flickers by, with its cliché, postcard images of tree-lined avenues and cafes practically nailed together by the lilt of Sidney Bechet’s saxophone. Silva’s films are entirely about place, but they never stoop to such naked sightseeing. Rather, he gives us dead horseshoe crabs on a dusky, garbage-strewn beach; an automated lawnmower outside a pyramid; a monstrous, silo-like complex bearing the words WELCOME TO CONCRETE; or the gestural dip of a whale’s tale merging seamlessly into that of a woman’s arm, as she draws soap-sudded figure eights on the glass expanse of an urban storefront. The “wayward fronds” with which Silva is obsessed are not the product of some ahistorical, timeless time; they coexist uneasily alongside the televisual landscape, the technology of modern travel, the ecological and political struggles of our age. —Seth Watter

Program: approx. 70 mins, followed by Q&A.

In the Absence of Light, Darkness Prevails, 2010, 13 mins, color/sound, 16mm to ProRes

Peril of the Antilles, 2011, 6 mins, color/sound, 16mm to ProRes

Passage Upon the Plume, 2011,  7 mins, b&w/silent, 16mm

Concrete Parlay, 2012, 18 mins, color/sound, 16mm

Tender Feet, 2013, 10 mins, color/sound, 16mm

Wayward Fronds, 2014, 13 mins, color/sound, 16mm to ProRes