back to


March 22nd 2002: Interview: Rick Silva

[March 22nd 2002]
Rick Silva himself

The 2nd generation - Interview with net.artist Rick Silva

Rick Silva is one of the up & coming net.artists. He recently became represented in Rhizome's ArtBase with the work Swound and he is participating with two works at the - an internet based alternative to the biennial show at the Whitney. Rick was born in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1977, and moved with his family to the US in 1986. Rick just graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder. exchanged e-mails with Rick Silva to hear about his works of art and his views on By Kristine Ploug.

I first heard about your work in Rhizomes newsletter. You were presented as one of the new, young net.artist in the tradition of JoDi and Superbad. How do you feel about that presentation - do you see yourself as following in somebody's footsteps?

My net art work Swound at it's base is very much like or, that is, it uses linking screens that share similar differences. As far as following in the footsteps, I guess it depends on whether we are talking about following in the footsteps of the medium or of the message. As far as the message goes I think I'm offering something new to the net which is more akin to artists like Bruce Connor or Bill Viola, but as far as medium goes, yes, i see myself as following in the footsteps of the early net.artists.

How did you get in to

I studied film at the University of Colorado where the vibe is very experimental with teachers Stan Brakhage and Phil Solomon being the core of the program there. I strayed away from celluloid my second year and started to do live video scratching using a computer and a homemade video mixer, that got me thinking about how traditional film and video use the computer as a filter rather than as the means. In 2001 I set up as a vehicle for my video scratching, but the site went through five redesigns in the first couple of months, and each time the focus became less and less about the offline video I was doing and more and more about the possibilities of the moving image online, the interface, and the interaction with the site visitor. There is still a corner for video streams on the site, but the works are definitely the feature presentation.

Will you explain, in your words, what goes on in your work Swound?

The opening screen triggers a soundscape and you can choose from three blind (black on black) buttons, when you press one of them, another screen opens up which triggers a new soundscape and once again you have to feel your way to the next screen. You can skip around 40 screens by way of 120 links.

You initially started as a DJ - is the music in Swound your own work or is it sampled?

Elements of both are included, I've always loved a good song cover or remix, or when an old rap record is mixed in with a new breakbeat record. I made all the sounds in Swound using virtual instruments or by sampling downloaded songs from Napster or Morpheus. Music is still the main commodity of file sharing and the soundscapes in Swound are inspired by these compressed packets of music spiraling inside our phone lines.

JoDi once said in an interview that they consciously aim at getting the user confused. Swound's black on black confused me at first. Do you deliberately work with the user's confusion?

Yes, the good confusion, the one that begs a second look (or listen) from the user, but becomes clearer in time.

Theorists like Lev Manovich (that you interviewed…) believe that speaking about interactivity when it comes to computers is tautological, as a computer is interactive. However, interactivity seems to have fascinated a lot of net.artists (e.g. the user typing a word that the work of art reacts on). How do you - as a member of a new generation of net.artist - feel about interactivity?

I agree with Manovich that interactivity is a given. If we follow his line of thought, computer and net interactivity, like linking, becomes a simplifying/mirroring of our individual mental structure/process; like making associations and daydreaming. if we think of interactivity in those terms, there is still a lot to be done and explored in the net art to interactivity relation because interactivity becomes even more about the evolution of individuality and creativity than about technology.

Mark Tribe of Rhizome has said that works like Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries' flash animations might very well be the future of with the coming of broadband connections etc. What do you think is the future of

I feel that a branch of the tree will definitely grow and bend in that direction. Have you seen flash's new version, flash mx? It's main upgrade is the ability to incorporate video into it's palette. There's also a exhibition going on right now, and it'll be interesting to see the impact of that show. I personally have never let the lack of broadband limit the size of my work. I know that that is a concern for many net artists but I've never really cared. I still have a 56k and I'll go to a big flash or video stream site and wait... it's not that I'm a patient person, I just like to multitask, so while the media is loading I'll just go to some other app or e-mail I'm writing.

[While we are e-mailing Rick asks me to ask him about the scene based in Boulder, Colorado, where he lives, so here goes…]

What is special about the scene in Boulder?

Boulder has an interesting recent past with the arts, in the eighties Allen Ginsberg's stay here brought a lot of poets and writers to the area and Stan Brakhage's long residence has had a major influence on the local film scene. can be found here now by way of Mark Amerika's and the University of Colorado's digital art department which houses the histories of internet art: fictions and factions site as well as the Techne Lab which features top that comes out of the program. Other artists like John Vega of and many up and comers live, work and/or go to school here. In late April artist John Hopkins will be directing a 24hr digital festival here called <di>fusion that will feature local work as well as work from Lloyd Dunn of the tape Beatles, London's Ambientv, and Berlin's Oima. Aside from all that, I'm also getting together a night called bar_code where boulder's digitally inclined can premiere their works, listen to music by local lap top technicians, and screen/stream films.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a sequel/addition to Swound called Snow, where you navigate through variations of mfsb's (Mother, Father, Sister, Brother - a 70's soul band from Philadelphia - ed.) 12 minute early disco anthem "Love is the message.", You'll be able to listen to the song with the pitch altered from +50,000 all the way down to -50,000 (which would take over a year to listen to the whole track at that speed)

Will you recommend three places on the Internet (aside from your own site ; ) )?

Yes -
- John Cabral's Ground Zero came out in early 2001, and is a masterpiece. It's a 24hr animation that works like a web cam when you visit it at different times of the day. - Poem by Nari is Ted Warnell's online poet persona and Relization is his digital Cantos. - Different themes explored in 5 hr long sets, I recommend the lp show (June 8, 2001), the Hawaiian war chant (February 2, 1993) and the Planet of the Apes (July 27, 2001) shows.

More Rick Silva

Silva's two Frame works, which are currently part of the
Frame 1995
Frame 175


© 2001-2007
artificial at artificial dot dk