Shelly Silver (b. 1957)

getting in. (1989)
Meet the People (1986)
Things I Forget to Tell Myself (1989)
We (1990)
The Houses That Are Left (1991)
Former East/Former West (1994)

“To watch the moving-image art of Shelly Silver is to understand that, among other messy civic values on which democracies rely—free access to public space, for instance, and a willingness to transgress comfort zones⎯democracy relies on empathy. And empathy relies on fantasy, and fantasy is always partial, entwined with misperception, unpredictable, perverse. “Being-for-others,” in Silver’s feminist sense, amounts less to the alienating instrumentalization of the individual by a masterful observer, and more to the feeling that civic space is a matrix of hallways, doorways, rooms and streets, glimpses and confrontations, in which to see is to acknowledge and co-create, because everyone is looking all the time.

Silver has been making films since 1980. She works with actors and non-actors alike, and has interviewed extensively on the streets of Berlin, Tokyo, New York; she has a writer’s ear for the idiosyncrasies of unrehearsed speech, and a painterly eye for real-world color. Monologue, voiceover, and onscreen text interweave in her collaged narratives, and the oneiric precision of her editing allows the long take to shatter into split screens, to fold in time to repeat itself from other angles, or to speed into jump cuts, almost without the audience being aware that anything radical has occurred. This visual and verbal fluidity, in which points of view shift constantly into each other—so that no lulling cinematic suture ever captures us, but no traumatic rupture shocks us either—correlates to Silver’s vision of what it means to be a person in a city in the late twentieth century and the early twenty-first. For Silver, living in the existential apartment-house with fellow citizens means looking out the window, scoping on the street, eavesdropping, quoting, meeting strangers and having awkward, excited, unexpectedly candid talks. To look, and to let oneself be seen, is to feel the Other present everywhere, becoming and failing to become the self, and it is not a nightmare. It’s a pleasure⎯and like all pleasures tinged with ambiguity, with risk.” Frances Richard

Shelly Silver is a New York based artist utilizing video, film and photography. Her work, which spans a wide range of subject matter and genres, explores the personal and societal relations that connect and restrict us; the indirect routes of pleasure and desire; the stories that are told about us and the stories we construct about ourselves.

She has been exhibited widely throughout the US, Europe and Asia at venues such as MoMA, the ICP, MoCA, The Yokohama Museum, The Pompidou Center, The Kyoto Museum, the London ICA, The London, Singapore, New York, Moscow and Berlin Film Festivals. Silver has received numerous fellowships and grants from organizations such as the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, NYSCA, NYFA, the Jerome Foundation, the Japan Foundation and Anonymous was a Woman. Broadcasts include BBC/England, PBS/USA, Arte/Germany, France, Planete/Europe, RTE/Ireland, SWR/Germany, Atenor/Spain.

Shelly Silver was born in New York City in 1957. She studied at Cornell University and attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York. She is Associate Professor of Visual Arts, School of the Arts, Columbia University.


These titles and others by Shelly Silver are available for exhibitions, screenings, and institutional use through Electronic Arts Intermix, NY, USA; Video Data Bank, Chicago, USA; ARGOS, Brussels, Belgium and Arsenal Experimental Berlin, Germany.

These titles are available for exhibitions, screenings, and institutional use through Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), NY. Please visit the EAI Online Catalogue for further information about this artist and work. The EAI site offers extensive resources for curators, students, artists and educators, including: an in-depth guide to exhibiting, collecting, and preserving media art; A Kinetic History: The EAI Archives Online, a collection of essays, primary documents, and media charting EAI's 40-year history and the early years of the emergent video art scene; and expanded contextual and educational materials.