Shelly Silver’s work is never autobiographical but it is always first person. “Stories, Cities, Makeshift Structures” at the Slought Foundation surveyed seven of Silver’s films. Each film was experienced from the point of view of a different fictional character: a gay man returning to Chinatown after an absence of 50 years to care for his dying mother (TOUCH, 2013), a woman who advertises for people willing to let her take intimate pictures of them (What I’m Looking For, 2004), a depressed filmmaker—played by the artist herself—wandering through foreign malls and train stations (Suicide, 2003).
The films were shot between 1989 and 2013 and the differences in presentation were as marked as the differences between Silver’s characters. Watching Getting In, an amusing one-liner from 1989 that offers the sounds of hetero sex as the camera approaches various doorways, one can’t help but think of artists’ first forays into video with Sony Portapaks. What I’m Looking For, on the other hand, is a story of desire and control compellingly conveyed through the device of a camera phone.
Watching seven films at one go is time consuming, but Silver’s work is captivating. As each film was an exploration of another person’s viewpoint, this may have been the closest one could ever get to being in someone else’s head.
A version of this story originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 89.