Silence

For some reason or another, I’ve had this long-term fascination with the idea that art, the visual, can be an expression of the audible – it can make sound. More than making sound, it could deliberately omit all sound and be silent. What a dichotomy? We take for granted that in seeing, we also hear. For hardly ever in life do we have one sense working alone. We assume the sounds that art makes. What is it then for art to make no sound at all? What is its impact?

 

Now here’s an extension upon an old thought: maybe, as contemporary modes of thought tell us, silence can exist in all media (that is, all media of the arts). A realisation, that surely comes from a desire to find peace, to find remedy to a world constantly in conversation. Could painters, musicians, film-makers, photographers and artists of all other kinds, be seeking to say nothing at all?

 

Russolo argues in his manifesto on Futurist music that primitive life was silent. At what point, then, did people need to start talking to one another? When did signs – something visual – no longer suffice? This is the influence of nature upon people. It was humans that created sound, through their expressions, and through their machines, and so pure, primitive, intimate and spiritual art, must be silent.

 

It is no coincidence after saying this, that I find the art that is most heartfelt, is the art that imitates nature – the painting that lingers close to its model. Russolo and the Futurists felt quite the opposite – they longed for sound, and not music, but in descript noise – manmade, industrial and ironically, destructive. This movement’s art is innovative, but it is not quietening – it doesn’t have the power to calm a room or to make its viewers stand in awe of the work’s aura. Silence requests of people to stand still – for movement creates sound – and in standing still, we adore.

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