If someone asked you to describe your experience isolating in lockdown because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, how would you answer?
Berlin-based sculptress, Débora Silva, might describe this fraught pandemic-era time as a never-ending loop. In Work from Home (2021), the artist digitally created a sexual paradise, a place of solace and refuge for herself and viewers, who are carefully guided through as if on a roller coaster. The artist acts as the conductor, transporting onlookers throughout the interior domestic settings, requiring in turn that they take on the role of the voyeur, there to witness the full extent of the sexually liberating ride. Strapped in, the digital expedition generates a sense of confinement and unease, emotions Silva herself grappled with throughout lockdown. This discomfort is sharply contrasted by the fleshiness, roundness, and suppleness of the titillating beings, fetish accoutrements, and sleek environs viewers bear witness to along the tour, which tow the indelicate line between abjection, desire, and mortification. The way the camera navigates the space, in such a contorted way, aligns with the equally disorienting new world of sex and cruising in a culture in isolation, where nightclubs and first dates were potentially replaced with anonymous chatrooms, virtual hangouts, and isolated self-gratification. In another sense, the crowded and jumbled masses of humanesque forms (also known as Femmes, according to the artist) suggest a yearning for touch and togetherness, rendered impossible during the early days of the outbreak.
Silva wholeheartedly embraces the characteristic forms of her Femmes: variegated body types, melded from various shades of human skin tones, only to be “finished off” with a waxy gloss, exaggerated breasts and sunken eye sockets. These Femmes are her signature characters that often reappear throughout her practice. Once familiar with the peculiar and particular stylistic vernacular of her figures, Silva’s work becomes quickly identifiable, even amongst the crowded and loud marketplace of digital creators vying for more eyeballs and hearts. Her Femmes are never animated, and never will be, according to the artist who believes that sculpture is a mode of making that reigns above all else (even when those forms exist purely in the digital realm). Diverging from her Catholic upbringing, and her childhood growing up in Northern Portugal, Silva projects a divine and pointedly irreverent significance onto her Femmes, which can be understood as reverential icons and sacred personnages. By Silva’s own accord, she knows that she cannot hide from her Catholic guilt and can always imbibe from those beliefs whenever convenient for her. The artist’s Femmes, however, heed no adoration to religious ideoloogy, and instead, are devoted to life immersed in sexual fantasy.
Control the Virus Vol 03 is a year-long digital exhibition curated by Martin Mayorga, Vanessa Murrell and Zaiba Jabbar from DATEAGLE ART and HERVISIONS. Both online organisations share a commitment to increasing the visibility of emerging artists from underrepresented groups around the globe, as well as accessible, equitable and transparent professional practices. The exhibition is conceptualized as an episodic series to highlight the practices of twelve artists Molly Soda, Pinar Yoldas, Natalia Stuyk, Crosslucid, Kumbirai Makumbe, Taína Cruz, Corie McGowan, Sofia Crespo, Débora Silva, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, Maria Mahfooz and Sybil Montet with newly commissioned works debuting on the website each month as of April 2021.
The minimalist and experimental sounds of music producer and artist Mau Ventura accompany the viewer in their tour of Silva’s universe.