In John Cage's 4'33" the musical piece asked of the audience an appreciation for silence in music, and gave them time to acknowledge and analyze: "what's in a pause?" by elongating time.
In that silence what do you notice about context in listening to music, especially in a setting such as an auditorium that requires the active participation of listening.
“Silence is not acoustic. It is a change of mind, a turning around,” John Cage
It seems to me that it isn't a change of mind, but rather silence is a change in time. In silence, the only way to understanding it is through time.
Robert Rauschenberg, who worked intimately with Cage, paralleled these ideas in his series of White Paintings. The audience in a museum are active viewers and in the context of a museum they are "forced" to view this whiteness, not as the space between paintings, but the painting itself. I feel it important to acknowledge that I do not believe whiteness is synonymous with silence, and that there is an argument to be made about why whiteness is the start of painting/drawing in the western world. But in a return to the White Painting, Rauschenberg is calling towards the acknowledgement of the context of viewing art, the light that affects the surface, and the dust, the shadows of other viewers. In that manner he is saying white isn't silence, or absence but rather a space to acknowledge subtleties.
"Silence, similarly, is relational rather than absolute" Susan Sontag
“The art of our time is noisy with appeals for silence. A coquettish, even cheerful nihilism. One recognizes the imperative of silence, but goes on speaking anyway. Discovering that one has nothing to say, one seeks a way to say that.” Aesthetic of Silence
And I have to point out that although these ideas are often met with mockery, they, these artists, acknowledge their own banality. But it is that acknowledgment they are intending to highlight in their own work. The audience must acknowledge themselves in the way they actively participate with art. And in this way they have built on Duchamp's Toilet's pointed critque of the museum as a decider of "what is art". One might argue that art is active viewership, the motivation of an audience, and that context can manifest this, but is not necessary. And pausing is in its own way an active experience. So mirrored in the inability to be completely silent for 5'44". It is not in our nature to be quiet.
Turning to design,
a place that often works to destroy pauses, or to erase the dust, shadows, and light that appear in pauses, how might these ideas ripple into addictive design? Or design that intrudes into our daily pauses? When we discuss the needs of the user, are we prescribing activeness or "productivity" (an action I've come to greatly dislike). And if we are truly considering the needs rather than simply the wants, how are we considering the need to pause? Or is that too forceful.
Current studies are showing how truly detrimental a lack of eight hours of sleep can be. But places like the United States admire the lack of sleep (return to commentary on productivity). And phones, apps, conversations are designed(1) to prove our business. Our dedication to work. Is this serving the wants of the needs of the user? Trends often show themselves as unethical...
(Philosophy of Technology)
Details, and subtlety, can be an encouragement for silence. They create active focus on nothingness.
The call for a paradigm "Art, itself a form of mystification, endures a succession of crises of demystification; older artistic goals are assailed and, ostensibly, replaced; outworn maps of consciousness are redrawn." Susan Sontag (S.S.)
Instagram: "by silence, she(he) frees himself from servile bondage to the world, which appears as patron, client, consumer, antagonist, arbiter, and distorter of his work." S.S.
In my desire for a lack of servile bondage I have taken a break from instagram, however short lived it might be, so I can create without a distortion which in reality could be quite beneficial (productivity).
"the gesture of silence in abdication from society is still “a highly social gesture." S.S.
"Modern art’s chronic habit of displeasing, provoking, or frustrating its audience can be regarded as a limited, vicarious participation in the ideal of silence which has been elevated as a major standard of “seriousness” in contemporary aesthetics." S.S.
"There is no neutral surface, no neutral discourse, no neutral theme, no neutral form. Something is neutral only with respect to something else — like an intention or an expectation." S.S
These two quotes begin to resonate with ideas of design research as a critical expression (speculative design).
"If only because the artwork exists in a world furnished with many other things, the artist who creates silence or emptiness must produce something dialectical: a full void, an enriching emptiness, a resonating or eloquent silence." - Sontag
How might that work in interaction design? Is it turning off the phone. Is it destroying it with a baseball bat? Should the designer be handing you a the bat?
The theory of context...and how designers use silence for hierarchy and trickery.
Good and bad design? Moral and immoral? In a world altered by definitions by technology, how can morality of a thing be judged when that thing is creating new definitions of morality? Special Relativity, we are moving at faster speeds and therefore we must reevaluate the speed of things from our faster speed (convoluted). Designers, the ultimate hypocrites.
"Art is a technique for focusing attention, for teaching skills of attention… Once the artist’s task seemed to be simply that of opening up new areas and objects of attention. That task is still acknowledged, but it has become problematic. The very faculty of attention has come into question, and been subjected to more rigorous standards…" S.S.
Today's art (and deisgn) must be aggressive in order to elicit response thus solidifying is being as art. In a world full of art, "true" art must be louder, losing its chance to be silent. And loudness is best expressed through multiples.
“The impulse to create begins… in a tunnel of silence,”
How can people be creative, if we tell them silence isn't creative.
I remember being a young child, I think my creativity came in a battle towards boredom. My boredom, which in many ways was self-created from my displeasure with others and impatience, was filled with creation. I'm not sure if I have evidence that creativity needs boredom, but I think we would be wrong to assume it is only a negative.
Another fucking paradigm shift, this time of pain points. (Paradigms are a pain point for me)
"perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive."
1. the action of meaning