Silence by Theda Tammas

Multifaceted and ambiguous

There is something strange with silence. Silence can be linked with both incredible peace of mind as well as incredible suffering of that same mind. Being multifaceted makes it hard to characterise silence as good or bad only. Peace of mind is I guess the ultimate silence. It makes all fuss and noise inside your mind disappear. But finding silence in your mind  is much more difficult than finding the more ‘tangible’ silence outside our minds. Actually that already can be incredibly hard, finding silence in the world that surrounds us. Noise always seems to be our siamese twin we cannot disconnect from. Actual sounds and noise like thoughts, feelings and emotions. We live in a non-stop world with the Internet not having added to silence as well. When regular moments of silence are missing, it is not strange to me people experience fatigue and exhaustion all the time. We need deep relaxing silence moments in and outside our mind to function well. That kind of silence is precious and good, no doubt about it.


But there are other kinds of silences as well. The unwanted ones causing more noise than any sound can do. The silence of loneliness. The silence treatment as tool for psychological abuse. The silence of authorities on urgent matters. The silence of someone you miss. The silence of someone who cannot be found back after disappearing suddenly. The silence of losing connection and sense with someone or something. The silence of being not heard. The silence of injustice not being done justice. The silence of death.


This leaves no other choice than to call silence ambiguous. If silence were a creature it would have many presences totally contradicting with each other. But alas all these presences cannot be traded as goods to buy and apply. Silence is not the general plug and play device you can activate or deactivate without effort. Silence plays you and throws the plug away once it has settled as your default configuration. And no automatic updates or refreshed screens to reset all. It can be bliss or hell, depending the kind of silence you are plugged in with.




Theda Tammas’ Silence installation

Theda Tammas made a beautiful installation on silence. When visiting it is is best to be alone. That will be hard during an opening possibly, so you should return for the more intimate experience of the installation is my advice. When visiting it myself these questions popped up:


  1. How to visualise /show silence? Silence is invisible in itself.
    You cannot grab it, move it around or change shape and colours.

  2. How to not break the silence when visiting silence as visual object?


There is only one answer on both questions. And those questions should not have been asked in the first place at all. Asking explanation on something you can only feel by being present creates noise. It activates your mind to analyse and think (too much). Analyse and think I in general encourage. I do all the time myself because  I like a a fair amount of noise when it is not too intrusive. But to generate (mental) noise in a silence space feels like telling Einstein to silence his mind. Totally not the nature of things. So, all you should do is be there. You sit or walk or cam or fly, whatever makes you feel in line with the scene and then watch and experience it as it is for you. A bit like this ZEN approach:


Upon meeting a Zen master at a social event, a psychiatrist decided to ask him a question that had been on his mind. “Exactly how do you help people?” he inquired.

“I get them where they can’t ask any more questions,” the Master answered




My experience

As whole blood pure-bred hermit I feel at home with silence. This means I can experience the presence of other people as disturbing ‘my’ space, even if it is not my space officially and legally. Not always, mood and occasion do matter as well, but in general I like to have the space to myself when visiting an installation. Not because I dislike people, but because I dislike a space being contaminated with too many distractions. It destroys how I want to connect with what I see. Like that yelling kid or barking dog all of sudden when you try to read a book in the garden. Or those people in the way at a panoramic view you wanted to take a shot from. It is confetti  . . .  messy and not  improving the scene by adding themselves to it, except when it is interactive. I can be in the way to others as well like that, yup. I also never understand so well why people often make selfies at someone’s installation. As if their face is part of it or should be part of it. As if their face defines the installation. It’s not a crime and most mean it as a tribute to having visited and appreciated the installation, but still, that also can be done without a prominent selfie.


Anyway, I indeed made sure I was alone. And it gave me a feeling of being in a story. A story of searching silence through many pathways, ladders, spinning arounds and directions, showing windows on the possible presence of silence. Like scanning the environment for silence by going through it by movement. A symphony of people making a composition without sound on their quest for silence. The pale blue misty windlight (Nacon’s Fog) makes it feel very enclosed. You will see how elements appear and disappear around you. Like we cannot experience silence so easily as well, fading in and out of us. Thinking you have it but then stumble upon another interference making it go away again. No beginning, no end. More like growing into it and walk back and forth to see if you did not miss a part. Mesmerising movements of sculptures fading away into their invisible infinite silence at the end of their quest. The installation also reminded me of silence as strategy, marching it into someone’s space and destroy it with ignorance. But for me the overall impression of the installation is that it breaths more the peaceful silence than a hurtful silence. Maybe because the pastel colours, the soft contours, and relaxed movements. Theda regularly showed us the more suffering sides of life, but lately I spot more lightness in how she expresses herself into her work. I like it :)  I am sure my own experiences with silence and how I respond and interact with it, shaped my experience on this installation. Your experience will be different and should be different. Closing your eyes a while and imagine yourself as part of the installation may help to activate your own stories on silence. But don’t take a selfie after that, ok ???  Below some other views on silence.



Short machinima


The words I speak in the video are:

Silence is an absence of noise.
Silence is a think tank of your soul.
Silence is not being absentminded.
It is being unaware of everything else.
If someone does not understand your silence
they probably also will not understand your words.
Silence is cleaning up your mind and knowing what you really need.
This is silence.



Endangered species

You also could see silence as a species  . . . an endangered one.
That makes silence a victim of our bad behaviours in this world  . . .
It makes sense does it not? Gordon Hempton sees it like that:


Silence is an endangered species, says Gordon Hempton. He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. The Earth, as he knows it, is a “solar-powered jukebox.” Quiet is a “think tank of the soul.” We take in the world through his ears.





If you can be absentminded by having a presence of mind that filters noise away to have more silence, I consider that an art in today’s world. It can happen to you maybe, on rare moments, as a kind of phenomena that takes your mind in a certain setting, but some have this mindset as way of life. They can position themselves in a big bubble of being ‘away’ in the middle of sounds or even noise. They don’t need an expensive guru to know what silence is. They ‘just’ filter all that is not relevant away,  including the guru’s. We often experience silence as awkward when it happens in a social setting. But silences, well chosen, or appearing in a natural way, can intensify the meaning of what is said. It shows someone takes or needs a bit of empty space to get to a point of understanding and expression. A meaningful silence can be as important as a meaningful word.


I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else. — G.K. Chesterton


He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words. — Elbert Hubbard



When and where?

Saturday, September 26
Dixmix Gallery
TP:  Theda Tammas  – Silence 






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