These days, it’s harder than ever to find a quiet place, so much so that scientists have coined a term: “noise pollution.” We’ve grown to expect background noise and to feel uncomfortable when we find ourselves without it. Silence is, after all, an absence, and we’ve learned to fear absences and voids.
There are a few strongholds of silence left, places that also command universal respect: libraries, mausoleums, cemeteries, museums. But what role do these silent zones play in our current world?
One such space, The Menil Collection in Houston, recently chose to explore such concepts in its new exhibit, “Silence.” Says the museum: “A prerequisite for contemplative thought, silence has become a scarce commodity in today’s media-saturated world.”
The Menil explores the ways in which silence can be wielded as a powerful force. The exhibit, which runs through October 21, 2012, features work from Joseph Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers, John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, David Hammons, Tehching Hsieh, Jennie C. Jones, Jacob Kirkegaard, René Magritte, Mark Manders, Christian Marclay, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Max Neuhaus, Robert Rauschenberg, Doris Salcedo, Tino Sehgal, and others. One of Silence’s core works is John Cage’s “4′33,” known for its experimental pause (during which an entire orchestra played absolutely nothing) that lasted three movements. Cage’s piece forces his audience to become hyper-aware of the noises of their surroundings.
“Silence” explores the ways in which silence permeates–it’s served as a focal point in work of almost all renowned artists–and the way it affects us, the audience. It forces us to reflect on the world and ourselves.