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Paige Silverman, Pleasure Pest, 2022, installation view, 5 Florence Street, Glasgow. Photo: Sean Patrick Campbell

A shudder of crimson rose blossoms against a white picket fence beneath a cobalt sky, fades to a street scene with passing firetruck, then to tulips, lemon-yellow, stalks wavering, to children walking, dutifully, at the red+white stop sign held by the crossing guard signalling, to the house, quintessential, suburban, magnolia, with roses behind the white picket fence, cut to the back yard, a man watering a lawn, cut to a woman on a sofa, cup in palm, watching a gun in a hand on a television set, cut back to the man, then the hose, wrapping around a branch, tension, a snap, an injury to the neck, the man falls, water flails, an infant staggers into the background, a dog comes to quench its thirst, pan to the lawn, track through the grass, burrow past the blades to the insects scuttling in the soil of the garden with the roses and the white picket fence that looks especially pristine on the days when there is a clear blue cobalt sky.

This sequence, the opening minutes of David Lynch’s 1986 film Blue Velvet, reeled through my head as I sat with Pleasure Pest. The exhibition presents a tangle of motifs embedded in sculptural arrangements made from building materials and recognisably household articles (fly traps, curtain tassles, shelving units) that insinuate the domestic but refrain from intimating home. This space, which still bears the reminders of its former use as a schoolhouse in corners, contains fracture, strangeness and infestation. It harbours a Lynchian tone. There is the untowardness of the overlooked. The distortion and distortedness of the overly close. It carries the malevolent tinge of the unfamiliar but, also, the strains of perplexity and beguiling that can be coaxed from such oddity, which may in fact not be so malignant.

A trampoline net, detached from its springed base, hangs—like a bad feeling might—in the air: ‘Cavity 2’ (2022). Nestled diffidently in the miniature corners of a shelving unit which has been placed on the ground inside the suspended circular net, are casts made from the concave contours of small bodily orifices—bellybutton, gaps between fingers—which could easily be the cast-offs or detritus of something else. They do not disclose themselves as corporeal but, then again, they no longer are.

This question, of what we consider human, and not, and how the two invariably exist together, permeates the show. The work courts a particular sympathy with matter, those inert substances that surround and shelter us and that we are so reliant upon. Encouraged by the latticed fabric of the net rendered redundant as a safety device, this brings to mind Timothy Morton’s idea of the ‘mesh’. He says, ‘All life forms are the mesh, and so are all the dead ones, as are their habitats, which are also made up of living and nonliving beings’. [1]

Pleasure Pest is a kind of habitat hosting the idea of the synanthrope, a species of animal or plant that might be called wild or ‘undomesticated’ and that benefits from close proximity to humans, usually in the artificial structures we have built for ourselves. Syn: ‘together with’ + anthropos: ‘man’. This might suggest harmony but these relations are often more acrimonious. You know this if you have ever found a bed bug. We lay poison, use deterrents, exterminate. We build walls to keep creatures outside. I see fly traps everywhere. There is silence yet fecundity. After all, ‘so are all the dead ones’ even if we attempt to weed them out.

We are confronted with what gets stuck in the sticky, what leaks and protrudes, what lurks behind and might come unstuck in the feebly constructed, or give way to the wares of infestation or infection. Wood could be soft as putty. It could have been gnawed at by little teeth and tenacious claws. There are little dints like the beginnings of bigger holes that will threaten its structural integrity: ‘Belly of the Wall’ (2021). Rats run through the lumber. Inside their scurrying is nefarious but here their silhouettes are ornate, their presence benign. They are the result of fine and fastidious work. They make a tableau of the frame where the knots in the wood have been worked around, unlike those knots that curdle in the stomach when we are unsettled and sense something sinister is at play.

Branches, isolated from their bough, extrude from tassels, absented from the curtains for which they were designed, just as buddleja breach the walls of buildings that may or may not be abandoned: ‘Pest Control’ (2022). The wild is frequently untameable and the outside invariably makes its way in, no matter how much we try to insulate ourselves from this fact. The holes, be they crevices or cavities, are there and they make themselves known. One might say that the body is the first place we reside. It is permeable and perforated by pores.

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Paige Silverman, Pleasure Pest, 2022, installation view, 5 Florence Street, Glasgow. Photo: Sean Patrick Campbell

The body’s most obvious orifice is the mouth. Here there are four, rectangular details of sections of anatomical drawings blown up and rendered in ferrous and bloody hues: ‘Mouth 1, 2, 3, 4’ (2022). There is levity in the literality of parts of mouths drawn out in paint, passing tongue and cheek to the dimples of fleshy gums, tonsils, prone to inflammation, the epiglottis managing the passage to the body’s interior and its viscera via the gutter of the throat. It is a precious place, the mouth, the locus of love and language, pleasure and pedantics. The artist Dorothy Cross once tried to mould two mouths and seal up a kiss in substance. Of sixty casts, only three survived. The rest crippled, crumbled and cracked under the pressure, the pleasure of passion, so fragile. When you see them, you would never even know there was a kiss.

These ‘Mouths’ nod to the ‘Cavities: 1, 2, 3’ (2022), two of the largest and the smallest works across the two rooms, which encapsulate the dual perspectives that inhabit the work: the pests and the person who looks down on them. In the mouth, a cavity would be the result of neglect or excess but here they are central nodes that connect the two spaces of the exhibition. It begins and ends with a shell, each manifest on varying levels of scale. And with this it draws attention to the shell as the sturdy structure that is a home to many creatures and the shell as skeletal remains or ruin, here a shiny pewter relief that exudes the incipience of an outline or the mark where something once nestled in the ground.

Pleasure Pest elucidates such traces and lays out tracks to attune to the layers that constitute our surroundings, revealing and revelling in the amplitude of the peripheral, minute and occluded.


Sara O’Brien is a writer based between Dublin and Glasgow.


Paige Silverman is from Los Angeles, California. They received their BFA in sculpture from Rhode Island School of Design in 2012, and their MFA from the Glasgow School of Art in 2021. Paige’s work has been exhibited in the UK and internationally in both group and solo shows. Working in sculpture, painting, moving image, and text, Paige’s work questions orientation and structures of power, playing on material tensions to pervert the viewers experience. Their work straddles our presumptions about the power of industrial materials to subvert expectations of an object’s intention and highlight the impotency of the controlling human hand. Paige is preparing for a show at the Royal Scottish Academy in early 2023.


Paige Silverman, Pleasure Pest, in collaboration with GUSH Residency, 5 Florence Street, Glasgow, 2-18 December 2022.


[1] Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2010, p.29)