International Biennial of Contemporary Art Ljubljana,
23 June - 24 September 2000
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The Silence that Invites

 

no Interpretation
Ventsislav Zankov

In how many languages can one keep silent? Do we need to translate silence? Is it that silence belongs to the realm of articulation, to the air pregnant with word strings? It's only silences that encompass language; there is the stillness before, and the stillness after... Silence does not impose its own media, it's a part of the sound. The silence that invites no interpretation versus the generation of languages. The generation of languages implies the negotiating of territories, the adoption of lands: territories to be inhabited, the limits of existence, the paradigm of survival, the terms of preservation, articulation, fusion and emanation. The foreign language marks the alien's land, warns an unknown territory. It introduces a different context, alien to your own. It is the Sesame cave you are trying to get into with the magic power of your mother tongue awareness. Going into the alien's land is being on the alert. Just being there, your casual presence generates chaos, and your own measure can only accept it, invite it... There's the silent presence, there's the silent absence ... what makes our silences possible, anyway? Language is the order that fills in the absence of sound and gives birth to silence. I can't help interpreting silence, pushed by my vanity, my fear that keeping silent may turn out to be nothing more than keeping quiet. I need to explain my silences in words: how can that be? Why should I speak? Why do I keep silent: how is it that I want it? As long as we talk we don't speak our language, it's our desire to be understood, to be approved by our newly come big brothers; these are the rules of the game that we call modern art. Or imagine we find the courage to keep silent: how to express our refusal to speak, what is the way to make them know that it's not just that we donít speak the language, or it's not that we havenít learnt our lesson. How to make them know this is our story? Pretty difficult... How can we render silence: our refusal to reach them is already in there. For what sake should we then need to interprete silence? Perhaps itís because thereís a response hidden in silence; itís a response that refers to the helpless and useless articulation, to the ever- failing effort to bridge languages... itís a response to previous effort. Obviously silences should be recognized as efforts to gain the strength of 'active stillness'. Silence is presentation: it pre-sents, pre-supposes distance, pre-serves what the words can destroy, it's the air-cushion that guards the attacks of words (silences of pre-logic origin, that we presently refer to as 'love'/'hatred', are an exception here). Silence should be recognized within and via language in order to leave the realm of stillness. Can you imagine silence without an audience, silence without somebody's presence, as fictitious as that presence can be? There's response in silence, there's the lack of response in it, there's the lack of response as the response itself... As long as there is silence, there should have been a question asked. . .

Dear Ö..
Had my answer reached you, let's say a couple of weeks ago, I would have answered your letter:
The process of gaining one's self identity is an inner one. Or to be more precise, it ends inside one's inner world, thus completing a full circle; and we can find Lacan's concept of the 'looking glass' stage as a part of this same round movement. Lacan claims there is a stage in the growth of a child when, in answer to the question of where his mother is, the child confidently points to his reflection in the looking glass. It is the authority of the mother which gives him the ultimate guarantee that the reflection he sees is himself.
We have been trying really hard these last years to grasp the West as the ultimate authority that would guarantee our own identity for us, without knowing that what we perceive as our true identity is only our reflection in the looking glass... Ten years will hopefully be enough to know better what is 'home' and to dismiss, once and for all, the idea of being an 'outsider', the misery of feeling like one. We, having put on the shoes of outsiders, turned out to be in the middle of nowhere, homeless, hoping for the charity of passers by, dependent on their moods, their philanthropic whims and 'generosity impulses'. That is a tiny step away from prostitution: be it intellectual, virtual or real.
We tore out the roots of our world and placed them outside of us with the pretence of making them convertible. We try hard indeed to make our existence convertible, our thoughts Ė convertible? And the burden of our past keeps dragging behind. This is the past we cannot just ignore or leave, the past we can neither bring back to life or change. The only thing we can do about it is to 'reinterpret' it, i.e. to grasp it and hold it gently. The past is a personal holding, after all. It may not be placed elsewhere, our past is inside us: our birth, our love and passion, our effort to grasp the world, free of ideology, ... all these belong to OUR past.
The last step in the strenuous effort to 'construct' the self is to come back home. The reckless adventure that we undertook to replace our home with the swanky hotel named EUROPE turned out to be useful, in the end. Come to think of it: what happened? We were invited to stay as guests there. The first visitors were the dissidents (thatís what they called them). What came out next was that we were to make 'belated' payments for our stay at the hotel. Since we were out of funds, we had to put our future for up sale, then our past up; we even put our souls for sale in the end ... In the end they kept us as lower staff at the hotel, with the miserable job description to cleaning up the remorse of the West...
Anyhow, the utopia called 'Go West' fell apart, all around us. The only thing we were left with was the way back home. We had one single option only: to go back to our abandoned and devastated home inside, to find the roots of our world, the fireplace in the heart of the house.
How to recognize ourselves and to know ourselves better? How to grasp our true selves, how to seduce our dark side and find the password to the unconscious of the self, and further, to the collective unconscious which some time ago pampered Communism towards its full bloom. (Communism itself has been 'extensively explored', enough is as good as a feast). We need to break the looking glass, and see what lies hidden behind. We need to say 'no' to our misleading multiplied reflection. Because what you see in the looking glass when you shave in the morning (or make up in the evening) does not give you (sometimes) the tiniest clue about the world hidden behind your eyes. The authority which tells you that what you see in the looking glass is YOU tells you lies, backed up by appearances only. The looking glass in this story is not useful anymore... you can still use it now and then, though, to meet certain cosmetic needs ...
At this point, I would have claimed 'the West' as being irrelevant to us: as I come to think of it, I don't care much about this. Because to me the West now remains in the background; it's not the focus, yet it is present somewhere behind as a part of the landscape which we usually refer to as life. To put it a different way, the West is neither turned down, nor accepted; it needn't be for it is just where it belongs.
Whether the others find me interesting or not, I don't know, it's their concern. It might have been my deepest concern if I had lost my interest in myself... this feels a bit suicidal, doesn't it? I am not very happy with the idea jumping out of the window at the EUROPE hotel room... it feels much better to go back home instead. Just to go back home, feel the coziness of our mother tongue, the comfort of our body, the high tide of personal integrity.
Just come back to ourselves, fill in our size, find the window to the world and have a look through it.

 
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