8 x Silence

Silence is used in many ways in art, design and education. This is also the case in Anna Iphigenia Siradakis’ art education degree project. Painted on porcelain, sentences that leave us speechless await their lustful destruction. Photograph: Robert Aebli.

What role does silence play at an arts university? What evokes silence in dance, design or music? Eight individuals from as many disciplines at ZHdK break the silence andexplain what they associate with it. Shush! Things are going to get forceful, powerful and loud.




“I love that bristling noise in the cinema when a character takes a breath to speak … and then remains silent. Countless noises are faded out in sound design, so as to make only those audible that can move a person emotionally or inspire them to act. Selective listening, also called the ‘cocktail party effect, ’ is one of many psycho-acoustic ways of immersing oneself in the inner world of actors. It is precisely this power of omission that, for me, is part of the magic of cinema.”
Maurizius Staerkle Drux, Lecturer in Film and Sound



“For me, silence is very contradictory. I can offer guidance on letting go and continuing to breathe. Or I remind one person to maintain contact, to wait for their counterpart’s reaction, to feel the space, to feel themselves. I know how vulnerable people become in silence and how strong savouring it can feel. Silence is musical in the sense that it plays a significant role in determining the rhythm of the text, and the speaker determines this along with all other participants. Such a composition can only take place on stage, in expression and through connection. Silence belongs to theatre like water to an aquarium.”
Julia Stanoeva, Lecturer in Speech



“Writing about his legendary ‘silent’ piece ‘4’33”’ (1953) in 1972, John Cage wrote (and I paraphrase) that it had marked an attempt to expand consciousness with possibilities that differ from those we are familiar with and from those we already feel at ease with. We need to free ourselves and our memory from our preferences. Cage felt that in the field of music a very long performance of this piece would be needed.In 1964, György Ligeti gave a lecture on the future of new music by remaining silent.Music measures itself by silence.”
Felix Baumann, head of Composition and Music Theory



“How can curators and art educators make silence take effect? The Jewish Museum Berlin provides one answer to this question: Thousands of faces with open mouths, welded from round iron plates, cover the museum’s floor. Visitors can step onto the work and, as they do, the wobbly ground underfoot creates a sense of unease while the clanking of plates breaks the silence. This work by Menashe Kadishman raises the question of how we can com­municate the Shoah as a shared experience. It makes me fall silent and cry out at the same time.”
Bruno Heller, Assistant, Master in Art Education, Curatorial Studies



“Logocentrism is not a dance.

The bodies pulsate. The bodies sweat. The bodies vibrate.
The bodies excite. The bodies sway. The bodies flow.
The bodies oscillate.


Infatuation. Rapture. Bliss.
Delight. Exhilaration. Devotion.


The bodies speak.
Body talk.

In silence.”
Friederike Lampert, Professor, and Jochen Roller, Lecturer, Bachelor and Master Dance



“700 hours of silence: In 2010, Marina Abramović staged a performance entitled ‘The Artist Is Present’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. The artist sat silently at a wooden table opposite an empty chair and waited for visitors to take turns to sit on the chair and to look into her eyes. For almost three months, eight hours a day, she met the silent gaze of 1675 strangers. Encounters lasted until participants decided to get up and leave. Although communication was limited to the minimal movements on participants’ faces, the individual experiences sometimes evoked strong emotional reactions in museum visitors. The artist described this performance as one of her most difficult ever.”
Swetlana Heger, Director of the Department of Fine Arts



“White pages, seemingly unused areas or white spaces are often interpreted as silence. But in visual communication, white space is used quite consciously. Depending on cultural backgrounds and teachings on emptiness, reduction, void or white space, white spaces are by no means silence but the attitudes that articulate the space associated therewith. Put differently: ‘White space in visual communication is like football — only those who keep spaces tight win.’”
Jonas Voegeli, head of Visual Communication, Bachelor in Design



“Silence, the other sound

The sound of expectation.
The silence in letting go. The silence in immersion.

The expectation of common ground.
The silence in diverging. The silence in overcoming.

The common ground of trust.
The silence in not understanding. The silence in drawing closer.

The trust of dialogue.
The silence in perceiving. The silence in extending.

The silence of pain. The silence of oblivion.
The articulation of shared silence.

Silence is an important element in the dialogue between the disciplines. Currently, for example, in artistic projects on chronic pain and dementia with institutions in the fields of medicine, basic research and ethics.”
Irène Hediger, head of artists-in-labs program


Gianna Bärtsch (gianna.baertsch@zhdk.ch) ist Projektleiterin in der Hochschulkommunikation der ZHdK.
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