11th Gwangju Biennale
2. 9. – 6. 11. 2016



Mariana Silva

A coin meanders on top of a plinth in the animation Coin of the Fountain of Regeneration (2014), part of Mariana Silva’s (b. 1983, Lisbon/New York) ongoing project Friends of Interpretable Objects (2013–ongoing). The image, part of a series of computer-generated animations, shows a coin that is one of the few known representations of a fountain erected during the French Revolution for the inauguration of the Louvre museum in Paris. This state-sponsored performance, hybridizing religious rites and cultural appropriation for the experience of democracy, was symbolically intended to baptize visitors as citizens of the French republic, and paradoxically accompanied the laicization of art that would occur with the Louvre museum. In her practice, Silva uses mainly video formats dispersed spatially within an exhibition, allowing for different stories to structure a theme cumulatively. Friends of Interpretable Objects (2013–ongoing) attempts to question the mechanisms that frame the historical boundaries between objecthood and personhood, that cite case studies of objects, artifacts, specimens, or artworks that “come alive” through processes of interpretation and reframing that their museological context allows. A chaise longue seat in For More Information (2015) invites the viewer to listen to a short interview with Miguel Tamen, author of the book from which the project takes its name, Friends of Interpretable Objects (2001) and which expands on vandalism and preservation in relation to culture.The video Digital Specimens: pointcloudfallout (2015) reveals the raw data (point cloud) files of scanned monuments, such as Rapa Nui in the Easter Islands, a ruin from Pompeii, the Xochicalco temple in Mexico, or the Neolithic monuments of Orkney, Scotland while two characters ponder how culture and nature are being perceived within instances of so-called “digital preservation.” That is, the growing phenomenon of “backing up” objects sanctioned as culture through high-resolution scans due to fear of sea-level rise or geopolitical conflict. Both of these manmade actions alter the climate and make us question how we organize notions of culture and nature within it. Silva asks what changes are happening to the side of culture in this dichotomy, its histories, embodiments, and future.


“Come the revolution, Comrade, everyone gets to eat roast beef every day.”
“But Comrade, I don’t like roast beef.”
“Come the revolution, Comrade, you’ll like roast beef.”

So goes the joke. Art objects and artifacts are sometimes this roast beef, but the dish can be served in many ways—some hilarious, some not, some medium rare. In the book Friends of Interpretable Objects (2001), Miguel Tamen talks in subtler terms of the mechanisms that frame the historical boundaries between objecthood and personhood, and how museums appear within this axis. The same factors, in a different equation, appear in Fred Moten and Stefano Harney's 2013 book The Undercommons, where the authors write on race and shipping. With them I realized that monuments, be they Greco-Roman antiquities or colonial and neocolonial pillaging, are constituted by their shipment in order to become objects of the West's appreciation. Some claim that the distinction between nature and culture is becoming increasingly blurry. That is: Is the shifting concept of beef (nature) changing the plate (culture)? Or vice versa. And what is this shift doing to how objects appear to us as culture?