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A Strange New Beauty

Shelly Silver

2017 00:51:00 United StatesEnglishColorStereo16:9HD video


In an upmarket house surrounded by an idyllic garden, there is no trace of human presence, even though a family obviously lives there. Voices, sounds and superimposed text create a feeling of disquiet whose origin continually escapes us. “A house can feel pain”… Playing on a doubling of vignettes against a black background or on a sound design that brings the off-screen world to life, Shelly Silver resuscitates the memory of this space, if only because a “house is a subconscious… a body…” And what if all this opulence and comfort were based on the exploitation of others? Several voice-overs tug the spectator in two directions: the spur to self-fulfilment and the insistence of an awareness that cannot turn a deaf ear to the tumult of a world home to 7.5 billion people. The film draws its discreetly convulsive “strange new beauty” from the way it instils in these marbled interiors an animality that is less and less easy to repress. The stag antlers set in a large stone vase convey the macabre burden of the hunt. A past is lurking there, “a wolf at the door”, shouts, the memory of a less happy time when war knocked at the window. The sharpness of the framing, which focuses our attention on detail, transforms the commonplace into an open wound – an armless statue, once extirpated from its conventional disability, bears the trace of a real mutilation. Fragment after fragment, savagery – our own – irremediably bursts in upon civilisation, undermining once and for all its peace of mind.

— Charlotte Garson

Quoting from the established genres of experimental, documentary, and fiction film and television, Shelly Silver’s work is funny, poetic and formally beautiful, seducing the viewer into pondering such difficult issues as the cracks in our most common assumptions, the impossibility of a shared language, and the ambivalent and yet overwhelming need to belong—to a family, a nation, a gender, an ideology. Exploring the psychology of public and private space, the ambivalence inherent in familial and societal relations and the seduction and repulsion of voyeurism, Silver’s work elicits equal amounts of pleasure and discomfort.