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Maureen Dowd, the waspishly wicked op ed writer at the New York Times, has periodic moments of reverie between her excoriating defamations of politicians. In a column that appeared in December, she touched on a theme that has been a steady leitmotif of this blog: silence.
As fiendish little gadgets conspire to track our movements and record our activities wherever we go, producing a barrage of pictures of everything we’re doing and saying, our lives will unroll as one long instant replay.
There will be fewer and fewer of what Virginia Woolf called “moments of being,” intense sensations that stand apart from the “cotton wool of daily life.”
“In the future, not getting any imagery or story line or content is going to be the equivalent of silence because people are so filled up now with streaming video,” said Ed Schlossberg, the artist, author and designer who runs ESI Design. “Paying attention to anything will be the missing commodity in future life. You think you’ll miss nothing, but you’ll probably miss everything.”
Schlossberg said that, for a long time, art provided the boundary for silence, “but now art, in some cases, is so distracting and intense and faceted, it’s hard to step into a moment. Especially when you’re always carrying a microcamera and a screen all the time, both recording and playing back constantly rather than allowing moments of composition and stillness when your brain can go into a reverie.”
Focusing on the newly released “silent” film The Artist, Dowd addresses the power—and risk—of using silence in an artistic statement. The film’s director, Michel Hazanavicius, participated in an early screening of the film by teenagers. Afterwards they approached him and thank him for letting them “hear the silence.” “I compare it to the zero in mathematics,” said Hazanavicius. “People think it’s nothing, but actually it’s not. It can be very powerful.”
Thanks to my friend and artist Tim Rice (who I met through Slow Muse) for flagging this article.