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José da Silva

MA work

The Elephant: Movement, Time and Meaning

My major project is an attempt to encapsulate the indefinable quality of the Elephant & Castle shopping centre in south London. Built in 1965, this remarkably unremarkable building didn’t even have the audacity to be the first American-style mall in Europe. (It was beaten by a few months by one in Birmingham.) Below is an extract from a chapter titled ‘Fragments of Ordinariness’:

It is difficult to capture the Elephant: it is fragmented. It embodies multiple things at once: an everydayness mixed with a rough élan; an unintentional satire on what Robert Smithson writing about Passaic called the “jejune advertisements of science fiction movies”; an indefinable quality that is both local and international. It inhabits a conventional non-place but is completely of its locale. It is linked to the immediate area but isolated on its island. It’s a dichotomy, a mystery. It can be completely fascinating but can also be incredibly dull.

You are easily bored there, but not the type of boredom born of shiny surfaces and internet click, click, clicks in search of more titillation – that is the boredom of Westfield Stratford City, an over-stimulated boredom. The Elephant is the boredom of unease; of strange lighting; of everyday objects found in chance positions; of staring at walls and seeing patterns; of hearing conversations you can’t understand; of not finding what you want. 


  • Eye
  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA Critical Writing in Art & Design, 2014

  • A Selection of Writing

    The Hecklers’ looks at the ‘heckle’ as a device that has the potential to rupture a one-way monologue and create a dialogue. The essay takes its name from a little-known BBC documentary – by New Wave director Joseph Strick – that followed the 1966 British General Election campaign trail. The vociferousness of the public attending the hustings, and the way they perceptively challenged politicians, makes for a refreshing and at the same time poignant film as many of the issues and problems still preoccupy us today – little seems to have changed. This essay is included in Ends Meet: Essays on Exchange.

    The Leaning Tower of Venice’ introduces Ralph Rumney’s photo-story of the same name. Rumney, the only English founding member of the Situationist International, was commissioned to make the work for the first edition of their journal. However, due to personal circumstances, the piece was rather controversially left out but found a new home in ARK, the Royal College of Art’s magazine. The introduction and spreads of Rumney’s work can be found in ARK: Words and Images from the Royal College of Art Magazine 1950-1978.

    A Diacritic Tortoise’ explores the importance of accents (or more correctly diacritics) in ascribing meaning in the Romance languages (Portuguese, Spanish, French etc.) and how the addition or omission of these can lead to unfortunate (and obscene) outcomes. Published in Arc 18: accent issue.

    'Interview with Billy Childish' is just that. The artist, writer, poet and self-anointed 'punk rocker' opened up about his love of Edvard Munch ('sex and life running right through the brush'), his disdain for contemporary authors ('Martin Amis or Will Self write like Reader’s Digest when you compare it to the real thing like Dostoyevsky') and even recited a poem he was working on ('art cunt'). The full interview is in The White Review or here with the original ending.

  • Degrees

  • BA History of Art & Literature, University of East Anglia, 2007
  • Experience

  • Arts festival organiser, Art Licks Weekend, London, 2013-present; Listings Editor, Art Licks, London, 2012–2013; Exhibition assistant, Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2010–2011
  • Exhibitions

  • Curator, As is the Sea: An Anthology, Darwin Foyer Gallery, Royal College of Art, 2014
  • Publications

  • 'The Hecklers', Ends Meet: Essays on Exchange, Royal College of Art, 2014, pp.101–10; 'The Leaning Tower of Venice', ARK: Words and Images from the Royal College of Art Magazine 1950–1978, Royal College of Art, 2014, pp.104-11; 'A Diacritic Tortoisé', Arc 18: accent issue, Royal College of Art, 2014; 'City Column: Manchester', Art Licks, 14, 2014; 'The Devilfish A Story of the Slandered Octopus', As is the Sea, 2014, pp.127–42; 'Interview with Billy Childish', The White Review Online, 2013; 'Good Morning (w/ Tom Saunderson)', Art Licks, Issue 7, 2012; 'Archaic Stele', Kettle's Yard: House Guests, catalogue, 2013; 'Media of Contemporary Art: Stephen Willats & Liliane Lijn', Sirkel (Oslo), 2012; 'DIY Press Release', Art Licks, 1, 2010