Vicki DaSilva interview continued from episode 49
Carey: Unlike painting or even a straight photograph, you have to actually do the action and then I imagine check it digitally, is that what happens?
DaSilva: Yes, I’ve been shooting film up until 2008 but since 2008, I’ve been shooting primarily digital. And so that has helped a lot in the ease of filling images instantaneously and being able to really refine the goal of readability and what-not and composition and all that. So yes, writing a phrase kind of like a headline or something like that and the end result looks almost like neon and it’s all done in a single exposure.
Carey: You’re approaching these spaces because you want to work with architecture, and it sounds very straight forward and simple. With the Armory, do you go directly to whoever is running it or in charge of the space and ask for permission—is that how it works?
DaSilva: Yes, that’s exactly how it works. I go to the powers that be, and I ask for permission. I’ve done that in front of the Whitehouse; back in 2008, I was inspired to write, “Obama in the house” in June of 2008 for the Obama campaign—not specifically for them, but in support of the Obama Whitehouse before anything, before he got elected.
So that was a process of about three months of getting secret service clearance, getting permission from the film department of the city of DC and getting the permits, because you’re not allowed to even setup a tripod on Pennsylvania Avenue. So when I got there I had my permit and the secret service met me there. I didn’t even have a real meeting time. I just showed up and they were on me with their mountain bikes as soon as they saw somebody getting out a camera and a tripod, and then I had my permit and they were like, “Oh great, we’ll be right here with you the whole time.”
The art of right now that interests me the most is from artists that are working to kind of call out the government through their work. And I find that extremely interesting—and the Edward Snowden days—and I think it’s a great calling for artists.
Carey: And so what is next for you?
DaSilva: I’m not quite sure. There is this festival called the Transmediale in Berlin, it’s happening right now and they have art, they have technology. It’s kind of like this group that comes together and what is now known as the post digital world and how everything was so exciting and utopian in a way when the internet came around and we were going to solve all these problems, but in fact the internet and the digital world that we live in has created the most dire circumstances for the poorest in the world.
So that kind of thing of kind of waking up in this post digital reality and being an artist who is interested in using digital things but at the same time knowing that my computer and my phone, and even the artwork that I’m making and mounting—where’s that going to go to and when I’m going to need a new one, who are the little kids that are slaves right now that are making this happen?
All that stuff really kind of came to a head for me when I went to Snap! Orlando which I was invited to participate in last May. And I met with the director who explained to me that there is a girl who is nine years old from California named Vivienne Harr and she had seen a photograph by Lisa Kristine, who has for thirty years been documenting the world’s indigenous peoples. And she saw a photograph of two Nepali children who had these big slabs of rock on their back. And this nine-year-old girl, Vivienne Harr, looked at her parents and said, “What is that? What’s going on?” And they explained to her that, “Yeah, this is child slavery.” And she decided at that moment, she told her parents I want to start a lemonade stand to try to help them.
It went on to be a big giant project that her parents jumped into with both feet. Her father, I believe, used to work for Care so he had experience. And they put together this enormous lemonade making process where almost like a Paul Newman type format where all the proceeds would go towards helping to free children. And she’s raised enough money to free over five hundred children at this point. There’s been a documentary that was down there in Orlando because she had been given the city Key during this photo festival because her main inspiration had been this photograph by Lisa Kristine that jump-started the whole idea.