Rick Silva | Discussing Digitalizing the Physical


Written by

Liam Kozak

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BLOOMCORE 1, Rick Silva, 2023.

Feral File, curator and exhibitor of digital art, presents BLOOMCORE by artist Rick Silva. The innovative showcase delves into the complexities and brilliance of plant life. By employing 3D scanning, pruning, and digitization techniques, living plants and flowers are transformed into a perpetual hyper-floral spectacle. Within a mist of atmospheric lights, this surreal display revolves and cuts through the boundaries of representation and abstraction, merging the digital and organic realms while evoking both familiarity and otherworldliness. These plants, originally sourced from Silva’s explorations across the Pacific Northwest, university greenhouses, coastal redwoods, the high desert, and the Cascade mountains, retain their mysterious sentience and possess an enigmatic, somewhat ominous presence. 

Rick Silva is a Brazilian-American artist whose work delves into the realms of virtuality, futurology, and speculative ecologies through his captivating videos, websites, and installations. Silva lives in Eugene, Oregon where he's an Associate Professor at the University of Oregon. We sat down with Silva to learn more about his process and satisfy our own curiosity. 

BLOOMCORE 2, Rick Silva, 2023.
Rick Silva, Bloomcore 3, Images courtesy of Feral File.

What role do you believe technology plays in our understanding and appreciation of nature, and how does BLOOMCORE explore this relationship?

At its best, technology extends our humanity, it allows us to connect and understand nature in ways beyond our senses. In Bloomcore, I try to hold a fleeting moment of a Spring bloom in a 3D scan. 3D scans are almost like a memory, a mental image, a surface with no “real,” solid, interior. 

How did you approach the process of 3D-scanning and digitizing living plants and flowers, and what challenges did you encounter along the way? 

I use a small lidar scanner that allows me to navigate around gardens, forests, and greenhouses without disturbing the plants. Throughout the 250+ scans I did for the project I learned which plants scan best, broad leaves and big petals do well, very thin stems are basically invisible to my scanner. I search out these moments where the technology can’t quite keep up and creates these glitchy visual ruptures

Can you discuss the themes of representation and abstraction that are present in BLOOMCORE, and how they relate to the natural world?

Yes, in my work I’m always fascinated by that moment where something oscillates between representational and abstract, that sort of snapping back and forth that happens when you look at an impressionist painting and you see the paint daubs one moment, and the landscape the next, and back again. It’s similar to how I think about our relationship to Nature, I  feel a part of it, and also feel apart from it, there is no fixed position, always in flux. 

How do you hope spectators might respond to BLOOMCORE, and what do you hope they will take away from the exhibition?

In the exhibition essay Claire L. Evans talks about horror and sci-fi films where plants have weird intelligences and strange agency. I was thinking about this also in relation to mind control narratives and Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire book - how we think we are using plants, but maybe really they are ‘using’ us, manipulating us with their beauty, flavor, and intoxication to propagate them. Here I think about how perhaps it’s the plants that are knowingly entrancing me into placing them on the internet. 

What role do you believe technology plays in art, the trade between spectator and creator, and how does this affect BLOOMCORE?

Technology and art have always been intertwined, and together become a clear reflection of the times we live in. In Bloomcore, I digitally graft two or more plants into one form, a reference to both early technologies like cross pollination and horticulture, as well as current ones digital remix and gene splicing.

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Art, Rick Silva, Feral File