A group of larger than life statues of bearded figures watched over a flooded underworld, accessed by walking along wooden planks laid over the muddy ground. Hundreds of other sculptures and fragments, seemingly more recent, were laid out on wooden tables or grouped in families of artefacts. Like unearthed objects from an unfamiliar culture, Silver’s sculptures did not give up their secrets easily.
Presented in the guise of a quasi-archaeological project, Daniel Silver’s Dig was an excavation of the role of figures of worship, idols and fetishes in different cultures, ancient and modern. It alluded to the evolution of sculptural forms across time and place, losing old powers and meanings and acquiring new ones as the forms fragment and multiply.
Following the closure of Dig in London, part of the project traveled to the Gennadius Library in Athens, Greece as part of the group exhibition A Thousand Doors, curated by Iwona Blazwick, from 4 May – 30 June 2014.
Image: Artefacts from Daniel Silver's Dig (2013). Image treatment: Modern Activity. Photograph: Marcus Leith.
Shortly following its opening, Daniel Silver discussed his project Dig with Artangel Co-Director James Lingwood at the artist's studio. Here is an edited transcript of that conversation.
James Lingwood: Daniel, I want to start by asking you about your first memory of looking at sculpture.
Daniel Silver: My parents grew up in South Africa and Zimbabwe. We had some African sculptures, and there was one, which my parents still have, which is a mother and child. It’s wood, very totemic. I remember throughout my childhood just playing with this, pushing it over, standing up with it, moving it around. It’s probably from the seventies and it’s a kind of modernist version of an African sculpture. Whenever I go back home I always see it. If there is anything I want from my parents, it’s this sculpture.
Did you know as a kid growing up in Jerusalem that this was an African sculpture? Did it feel different, alien to the environment you were growing up in, not the domestic environment but the cultural environment?
The domestic environment was brown wood so it sort of fitted into the aesthetics of the house, but it was very different from anything I saw outside.
Were you in the Old City?
I went to an experimental school in the market in Jerusalem. Throughout my childhood, one of my mother’s friends used to take us to archaeological digs, which was a very strange thing to do on the weekend.
Image: Daniel Silver, Dig (2013). Photograph: Marcus J Leith
The three experts encounter the split-level work for the first time and explore its many layers of possible meaning: from Freudian visions of Rome and the subconscious to the iconography of unknowable utopias.
Producer: Peter Meanwell
Image: Detail from Daniel Silver's Dig (2013). Photograph: Marcus J Leith
… there are also vestigial traces of the grand picture palace: in the car park’s sloping floor, where the auditorium once stood; in the remains of the proscenium arch and the plasterwork of the orchestra; and the bright green terrazzo floor of the former entrance hall. – Christopher Turner
In a series of texts variously written before, during and after a visit to the installation, four writers respond to the literary, psychological and occasionally whimsical notions of art and artefacts unearthed by Dig.
In this talk Iwona Blazwick, Ian Jenkins and Adam Phillips discuss Silver's sculptures as objects from an unfamiliar culture.
Recorded at The Slade Research Centre, 29 October 2013.
Also available to hear on Soundcloud.
Edited by James Lingwood, with an essay by Tom Morton
Daniel Silver is a sculptor born in London in 1972, raised in Jerusalem, moving back to London in 1994. He has exhibited extensively across the UK and internationally. Solo presentations include Coming Together, Kunsthaus Glarus, Switzerland (2011); The Smoking Silver Father Figures, Frieze Sculpture Park, London (2010); Frieze Art Fair, London (2009); and Heads, Camden Arts Centre, London (2007). Group exhibitions include We Will Live, We Will See, Zabludowicz Collection, London (2011); Savage Messiah, Rob Tufnell at 1 Sutton Lane, London (2011); No New Thing Under the Sun, Royal Academy, London (2010); and Newspeak: British Art Now, State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg and Saatchi Gallery, London (2009). Silver is the recipient of numerous awards including the Henry Moore Artist in Residency (2005), Rome Scholar in Fine Arts (2002) and Credit Suisse First Boston Award (2001). He holds a BA Fine Art from Slade School of Art and an MA Fine Art Sculpture from the Royal College of Art.
Images: (both) Daniel Silver in his studio (2013). Photograph: Marcus Leith
Who made this possible?
Commissioned and produced by Artangel with the support of The Henry Moore Foundation. With thanks to University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.