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Silence

What's the value of silence today? Or the value of something that is untitled, and does not ask to be named? “Untitled” as a way of naming/non-naming an artwork not only signifies and denies a name as such, but unsettles the plurality of meanings and consequences that might have otherwise been conveyed, linguistically at least. Silence, and its subsequent ambiguity, may be something sorely missing today, with the onslaught of noise that dominates the information sphere. With the following texts from the e-flux archive, we can ponder negation, the progressive verbalization of society, the chaos of noise, and the necessity of silence in titles, discourse, and meaning, broadly considered. 

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Compiled by Chiara Ianeselli
9 Essays
There was once a typist from Texas named Bette Nesmith Graham, who wasn’t very good at her job. In 1951 she started erasing her typing mistakes with a white tempera paint solution she mixed in her kitchen blender. She called her invention Mistake Out and began distributing small green bottles of it to her coworkers. In 1956 she founded the delectably named Mistake Out Company. Shortly after, she was apparently fired from her typist job because she made a “mistake” that she failed to cover...
One could say that everything begins and ends in Marcel Duchamp’s studio. His first New York studio is perhaps best known from a series of small and grainy photos, some of them out of focus. They were taken sometime between 1916 and 1918 by a certain Henri-Pierre Roché, a good friend of Duchamp. Roché was a writer, not a professional photographer, clearly. He was the same guy who would go on to write Jules et Jim , arguably a far better novel than these are photographs. But their aesthetic...

“How can we talk about private events,” Gonzalez-Torres asked, “when our bodies have been legislated by the state? We can perhaps talk about private property.” Among the most pervasive idioms for describing Americannness, private property held further implications for artists whose national and ethnic origin, racial background, and sexual orientation compromised their acceptance as Americans. As one of the few domains where cooperation occurred regardless of political preference or personal identity, the market held untapped potential as a political site. Deeply aware of how precarious life was for an openly gay, nonwhite artist living with AIDS, yet adamantly unwilling to capitalize upon his identity by wearing a metaphorical “grass skirt,” Gonzalez-Torres stated it was “more threatening” that “people like me operate as part of the market.” Through certificates that embodied rather than represented ownership by metabolizing elements of copyright and contract, he navigated market conditions and art-world protocol. Eventually shifting his works away from the metrics of supply, Gonzalez-Torres recast them as dynamic sources of doubt according to the legal frameworks to which he and they were unavoidably subject.

Working in the early 1990s on the book As a Weasel Sucks Eggs: An Essay on Melancholy and Cannibalism (published in English in 2008 by Sternberg Press), we exchanged a few letters with the late Jacques Derrida, who was then working on what he referred to as the “cannibalistic tropes” in hermeneutics and German Idealism. He was grateful for a little fragment by Novalis that we had sent him: All enjoyment, all taking in and assimilation, is eating, or rather: eating is nothing...
Last year, Triple Canopy published Alix Rule and David Levine’s “International Art English.” 1 As a broad critique of globalized artspeak semantics, the essay has since sparked many debates around the exaggerated claims and imprecise promotional language of contemporary art. In this issue of e-flux journal, Martha Rosler and Hito Steyerl each respond to Rule and Levine’s essay. *** If one examines Lacanist obscurity, one is faced with a choice: either reject capitalist...
In 2009 the Centre Pompidou in Paris opened an exhibition called “Voids: A Retrospective.” Through works such as Yves Klein’s The Specialization of Sensibility in Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility, it explored a tradition of radical curatorial and artistic interventions touching on the “art of nothing.” The exhibition consisted of empty spaces in which nothing was on display, apart from the white walls and wooden floors that constituted the architecture of the rooms....
Images don’t have to be descriptive; they can be concepts, and Deleuze and I often discuss this point. Concepts are mental images. —Paul Virilio 1 I am thinking here of a number of divergent works sharing a form of architectural thinking concerned with the potentialities of space. Without suggesting a narrative or illusionary effects, they touch on the virtual by involving everyday material from nearby social and cultural locations in the creation of a moment of...
Backstory Ethnography’s reach into the pluriverse of the contemporary moment has no shortage of surprises. In the summer of 2011, my interest in the anthropology of outer spaces drew me to Prague, where I participated as an official “observer” in an international conference on “space security.” The purpose of the event was to bring together space policy professionals and experts from the United States, Europe, and Japan, in support of drafting an International Code of Conduct for the...
The “social media” debate is moving away from presumed side effects, such as loneliness (Sherry Turkle), stupidity (Andrew Keen), and brain alterations (Nicholas Carr), to the ethical design question of how to manage our busy lives. This Foucauldian turn in internet discourse sets in now that we have left behind the initial stages of hype, crash, and mass uptake. Can we live a beautiful life with a smart phone, or is our only option to switch it off and forget about it? Do we really have to...
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