His body is coming apart and falling together. But not quite like before.
This is a different type of slow motion disaster to the one that befell Rory in 2009, and then again four years later. Now the legacy of his body is an exploded terrain. Its atomised remains occupy a space somewhere between life and death and speculations of what might lay beyond. Projected amongst a damaged landscape, it mirrors the fate of the ground from which it’s crafted. This is an assemblage of aftermaths.
Silver’s objects are things to be felt and read against a remembered likeness. Sculptural replicas of his body have figured in his work for a while now. They’re always made from a variety of mutable materials and designed with inbuilt flaws, which ensure their rapid decomposition or erosion. In some ways, they act as intimate reminders of his own mortality and existential proxies of us all. And when these bodies disintegrate, it’s the fragments of the surrounding landscape that often stand as surrogate witnesses to the event, narrative remainders waiting to be pieced back together again.
Except that’s never the end of the story. In Silver’s work things forever rise again from the dead in aberrant ways, their zombie-like resurrection frequently occurring through the spectral eye of filmic and photo- graphic imagery. In this quietly fucked-up space of terminal transformations and seductive schlock, images and objects appear destined to change places in strange plays of mimicry. It’s a recursive process, with the body cast against a relentless trauma of time. This time, though, the context is a little more localised, and the remnants of the disaster are closer to home.
Travelling around the south-east coast of the Australian mainland and further afield in Tasmania, Silver makes moulds of the “scar tissue” embedded in trees, where the signs of broken branches, long healed, are still visible. He subsequently casts the traces in black relief, like blind indexes of remembered wounds. On another trip a few hours north of Sydney, he collects a rock along a lakefront. It’s washed ashore as a readymade skull, a memorial in advance of what’s to come. And when visiting his family home in the Tasmanian town of Eaglehawk Neck, he takes impressions of burnt out tree stumps in the ashen landscape – markers of the devastating Dunalley bushfires, which spread across the island’s east coast in 2012-13. Sometime later, he casts them in pairs of steel and patinated bronze – each set of “monuments” a coupling of permanence and change.
In these sculptures drawn from Tasmania, the body and its connection to specific sites of trauma is more deeply embedded, although it’s not a detail he makes explicit in the work itself. On the surface things seem more restrained, more distant. His symbolic use of the monument and its figurative counterpart – the portrait bust – evoke a formal aesthetic of commemoration and loss.
These restraints, however, belie a history of place that links the violence, regeneration and materiality of the works together (the bust, for example, is made of Huon pine dust from a local sawmill). Together the works chart a series of residual shocks, echoes of personal and collective memories still somehow bound to the land. They form a site of provisional ruins. And as things fall to pieces, he keeps gathering them up, only to let them fall again.