Vicki DaSilva’s Light Graffiti Promotes Campaign for Syria

Vicki DaSilva, Act #withSyria for OxFam (2015).

Since the Syrian crisis began on March 13, 2011, 83 percent of the country’s electric lines have been cut, leaving the Syrian people in darkness. To promote awareness of the country’s suffering, OxFam International enlisted light artist Vicki DaSilva to create one of her signature ephemeral light graffiti works (see Artist Renders East River Flows in Light Graffiti) to highlight the #withSyria campaign and their Syrian Refugee Crisis Fund.

Anonymous British street artist Banksy, who makes graffiti of the more traditional variety, has also created art in support of the #withSyria movement (see Banksy-Backed #withSyria Vigils Coming to Dozens of Cities), marking last year’s third anniversary with an updated version of his iconic Balloon Girl stencil and vigils held around the world.

Last week, DaSilva met with a group of Syrian activists and British actors committed to the cause, including The Leftovers star Christopher Eccleston, at the rooftop bar at London’s Trafalgar Hotel. There, with the iconic London Eye looming in the background, DaSilva got to work drawing with light in the darkness, creating a piece that could only be captured in its entirety by the camera’s lens in a single-frame, long-exposure shot.

The image required three different light sources: an eight-foot long fluorescent lamp, used to create the rippling gold curtain behind the activists; a flashlight shined briefly on each person; and a 40-watt incandescent lamp, with which DaSilva wrote the words “act #withSyria.”

“It’s kind of like a performance because you have to get everyone to stand perfectly still,” DaSilva told artnet News of the process, which takes under a minute to complete.

DaSilva nailed the final image with only three takes, which worked out well because she only had an hour to shoot.

Because of their specific focus on the country’s lack of electricity, which hinders the operations of schools and hospitals, as well as the regular activities of every day life, OxFam wanted a light-based art piece to help publicize the issue, and to encourage world leaders to act. DaSilva, who has a history of supporting human rights issues and other social and political causes, was a natural choice.

Until the shoot began, DaSilva wasn’t aware the focus of the Syria campaign was specifically electricity-themed, but it immediately became clear how perfectly her practice dovetailed with the issue at hand.

“We were all in the dark, just being in the moment thinking about this horrible situation with the lights being out in Syria,” DaSilva recalled. “They don’t have any electricity and yet I’m drawing with a light.”

Check out this video of  DaSilva creating her Act #withSyria for OxFam light graffiti piece:

For more artnet News coverage of the crisis in Syria see:

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