A Different Silence – Michael Importico


In this video, Slow Dance, I wanted to expand the idea of silence.  I see silence as a lack of communication, or even a lack of interaction that reaches far beyond the idea of auditory silence.  Each person, each situation has its own baseline of silence.  Silence from sound is only one aspect of this lack of sensory perception.  I want to, with this video, highlight a silence that is more encompassing; or perhaps more consuming of the human spirit.

I came across a public domain video, A Day in the Life of Donny B and I was immediately struck the visual content and the character Donny;  the original context of this video was a Public Service Message condemning the life of the drug addict.  I wanted to use this video humanize the struggle and experience of the addict through a re-contextualization of the stock footage. I want to show through video that addiction has a silencing effect on human behavior and the lives of those who suffer from it.  The long-term negative effects of addiction slowly silence every aspect of ones life. .  I wanted to approach this silent work in a way that could tell of the emotional desolation, the loss of ones ego, the loss of time, and the loss of his identity

After seeing Tristan Perich’s silent work, I felt the visual representation was best suited for this work.  The visual can represent silence in many ways.  I wanted to express the loss of reality for Donny through a series of time warps and repetitions that could represent the cyclical nature of abuse and additction.   I chose to remove the sound for a few reasons, but mainly they didn’t speak to the message I am attempting to bring to light about the many facets of silence.   I hope the interplay of scenes captures the pain, the struggle, and silencing effect addiction has on ones spirit.


Silence Influences


The work Empty Circles by Akio Suzuki is a silent work of sound art.  More specifically it is a visual instruction to listen.  I think the idea of instructions, either written, or graphic – as is the case with this work, is intriguing.  This work approaches the topic of silence in a way that is not entirely silent. As human beings, I wonder if we truly know silence, or do we simply assign the descriptive of silence to all the sounds that are not in the forefront of our attention.  I believe this is what makes this work interesting.  While the work itself is visual, the experience is about focusing ones attention on the sounds one might not ordinarily pay attention to.  In a way, this work is similar to John Cage’s 4’33” in that it forces the audience to focus their listening on what’s there around them, what’s always been there around them.  Forcing the audience to allow the background, baseline sounds to come to the forefront of their attention.  I also see a similarity of this work to that of Sol Lewitt.  He created many Wall Drawings that didn’t necessarily have to truly exist as drawings; rather they existed as a set of instructions.  Despite the graphic nature of Suzuki’s Empty Circles – which are of an ear and a pair of footsteps morphed in a single graphic, it functions as both a notation of pace, and as a set of instructions.


Silent Sound by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard is an interesting work utilizing technology, a sound score performed by an orchestra, and a Silent Sound Machine in which the artists subliminally communicate with the audience under the cover of the orchestra’s performance.  This is interesting because the art is less about what you hear, and more about what you don’t hear.  I like this piece for many reasons.  I think this work has an underlying covert/espionage element that has been employed by art rather that war; in a similar way the vocoder was declassified by the military in the 1960’s, then used in popular media for the robot voices we have come to know and love.  In opposition to the work of Suzuki, this work attempts to divert ones attention with sounds, so that the sounds they want to implant and infiltrate the audience psyche can get delivered unknowingly.  While this work is not silent, the important elements of it seem to be.

Tristan Perich’s Breathing Portraits are a series of silent sound artworks that utilize speakers to re-create the motion of someone breathing.  It is very interesting to use an object (speakers) that is normally associated with making sound to express the motion of breath.  I think it’s rather poetic because the main function is to move air, something that mostly remains unseen.  We see chests heave with each breath, but never see the breath, we can hear it, but never see the breath itself, and just the evidence is present.  Similarly, this client sound sculpture uses subsonic frequencies to move the speaker cones to replicate the motion of breathing.  I like the fact that each sculpture represents a single individuals breathing patterns during sleep.  This element of representation is powerful and gives each sculpture its own identity.

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