2004 Rakow Commission Artist: Silvia Levenson

Silvia Levenson (2004)

It's Raining Knives - Silvia Levenson

It's Raining Knives

Silvia Levenson (Argentinean, b. 1957)
Italy, Vigevano, 1996–2004
Cast glass; artificial grass, nylon line
H: 213 cm, W: 121 cm, D: 121 cm
2004.3.29, 19th Rakow Commission

My art is about my life. Everyone has anxieties and fears, and I try to resolve some of these feelings in my work. It's Raining Knives could be any suburb. The piece is about us, and family, and what is happening now. We may feel safe and secure in our houses, but the truth is that we can never be sure.

Glass is not a neutral material, but a very powerful medium of communication. I see it as a metaphor for transparency, for feeling and revealing emotions. It is a wonderful material that is both beautiful and treacherous. I use knives and scissors in my work because they are ordinary, everyday objects that can suddenly become dangerous. For me, knives symbolize the possibility of violence, rather than violence itself.

—Silvia Levenson


Silvia Levenson was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She fled the military dictatorship of Gen. Jorge Rafaél Videla, and she moved to Italy with her husband and children in 1981. Videla, who rose to power amid Argentina's political and economic unrest in the 1970s, led the military coup that deposed Isabel Perón on March 24, 1976. He retired as head of the military junta in 1981, but civilian rule was not restored in Argentina until 1983.

Thousands of Argentineans were imprisoned, tortured, and murdered during Videla's dictatorship. Levenson, who was a political activist, remembers this period of her life as being very intense and frightening. "Thirty thousand people disappeared during the dictatorship," she says. "Two of my cousins and my uncle's wife disappeared, and my sister was imprisoned." Much of Levenson's art is an attempt to resolve the difficulties of living with threats of violence, both political and domestic, that are out of our control.

The installation, It's Raining Knives, was conceived in 1996 in response to Levenson's personal experiences during the Videla dictatorship. It has since become a thought-provoking commentary on the threat of terrorism in general, and on the culture of fear that has rapidly spread in the United States and abroad since the events of September 11, 2001. It's Raining Knives "is not supposed to make people feel anxious," Levenson says, "but to make them feel better." Rather than making a political statement, her art work is about coming to terms with fear by revealing and facing our most uncomfortable emotions.

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