One Question About 'Can You Hear the Silence?'

“Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear.” 
-Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)

Is the exhibition Can you hear the silence? an escapist detour or a critical interruption?

Silence, often being associated with indifference, passivity, or submissivenesseven death—is more commonly interpreted as a sign of weakness or an escape from the traumas of reality. However, scholar Mary Joanne Church Farrell* argues that silence, particularly in the context of women’s discourse, can also be a “rhetorical strategy” that gives agency to the person who holds it.

It would then be too easy (and insolent) to call the works included in Can you hear the silence? as emo-surreal-escapist type of art, considering that silence, which is and will always be an important component of art-making, can also be a powerful communication tool.

Artistic production may conventionally be perceived as an individual contemplative activity, like in the case of the artists who participated in this exhibition, but meaning-making, being an inherently political activity, can be taken as a collective enterprise. Even if the artist wouldn’t want him/herself to be associated with anything political, in the end the one who holds meaning-making sovereignty is the one who views or reads art, the one whom art is for.

There will be times when silence becomes a necessary interruption. At the most basic, most individual level, it is when we are silent that we are able to reflect on the events that have transpired during the day. And at the most critical point, silence can also be utilized as a critical interruption, an opportunity to stop, look back, and think forward, a way for both the individual and the people to meditate about the what we’ve become or where we’re now. Silence can be a means to convey discontent. And finally, even in one’s death, silence can still be a powerful sign of protest.

*Read more about silence as an agency in women’s discourse in Mary Joanne Church Farrell’s 1999 essay titled “The Rhetoric of Silence” here: http://bit.ly/2eFzNXm.