The idea of an absence: ‘Silence’ at Berkeley Art Museum

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol: Big Electric Chair, 1967; acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen; 54 x 73 1/8 in; The Menil Collection, Houston, gift of the artist. © 2012 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Hickey-Robertson, Houston

The works in the exhibition Silence, which opens today at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, span a century of artistic practice and explore the question of silence, and whether this intangible can be represented.

Silence is, by definition, uncommunicative and peaceful. It is also mysterious, threatening, meditative and explosive. It is simultaneously a state of quiet and a deafening absence of noise. This conundrum is addressed by the multidisciplinary works in the galleries and in film and video programs that have dispensed with representational imagery to depict the idea of an absence.

Some works use sensory triggers; photocells transform light frequencies into audible frequencies in an interactive synesthesia and paintings translate the timings of a musical score. A solitary dancer performs a constant meditation on the gallery floor. Political and social disorder nestle in the silence that precedes and follows upheaval.

The exhibition includes work by Joseph Beuys, Giorgio de Chirico, Rene Magritte and Andy Warhol. However, it revolves around, and takes its inspiration from, John Cage’s composition 4’33”, the centenary of Cage’s birth, and his assertion that there is no such thing as silence — “There is always something to see, something to hear.”

Silence is co-curated by Toby Kamps and Steve Seid.

Silence at BAM/PFA runs through April 28. For information on Silence and all other exhibitions and programs visit Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive online, or phone (510) 642-0808.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

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