Thursday, January 30, 2014

a year of silence


  What people think of me, this piece, or any of my art work, matters very little to me. As i have mentioned earlier, i believe in art more than anything else, and i am very content to devote the rest of my life to it, whatever the cost. I have no qualms over compromising my social life, financial stability, health (and maybe my sanity) for the absolute ecstasy of basking in the light of Art. Whether my own art is of any quality is debatable, but it will always be absolutely honest and sincere.
  That being said, i had to break my silence last night.
  One of the various things i do for income is provide exercise instruction for a married couple i know. I have had them as clients for years. It is safe to say, at this point they are more close friends than clients. As is our custom, some time ago they purchased a package of 10 training sessions. Due to their busy schedule, a surplus of 2 sessions has been lying dormant for  awhile. My suddenly not speaking in the course of redeeming these sessions was not part of our original agreement. Subsequently, i used my voice while instructing them yesterday evening, and will do so again for the final session of the package.
  It is important to note that i am doing this out of my own sense of obligation and under no pressure from them whatsoever. They have kindly supported me for years, and are willing to try and continue our training regiment when i will no longer use my voice.
  Other than that transgression, things will proceed accordingly. I will continue my silence in all other aspects of my life, but will not consider the year officially started until i stop speaking altogether. I do not feel i can continue documenting this piece until that time.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

a year of silence


  It's been 2 weeks since i embarked on my year of silence. This is the longest period of time i have ever been quiet, so far.
  The first day i was kind of nervous and panicky. It was as if i was about to embark on a long journey to a foreign country. But those feelings quickly gave way to a contemplative determination.
  I have had dreams in which i accidentally spoke, and became angry with myself for doing so. In others i tried to speak, but it was as if i was under water, my voice garbled and barely audible.
  The encounters i have had with the general public so far, have been quite varied. In an ironic twist, a librarian became loudly impatient with me because i wouldn't speak. A checkout person at the supermarket started to amiably chat with me, and continued non-stop the entire time she rang up my groceries. She never noticed i had not uttered a single word. For the most part, i think people assume i'm hearing impaired.
  A friend suggested i learn sign language to facilitate my being able to communicate. While i think learning sign language is great idea for anyone, this project is not about learning how someone with a hearing impairment experiences life. It is about silence and its effect on people (myself included).
  Some gestures i have employed include, waving my hand in front of my throat in a cutting motion to let people know i do not speak, and pointing to my ear while giving the thumbs up sign, to let them know i can hear.
  I have found that when people think you have a disability, they are often extremely kind and go out of their way to help you. If they realize you are intentionally forgoing the "gift" of speech, the reaction can be just the opposite.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

a year of silence


  I began experimenting with long periods of personal silence about 3 years ago. I would not speak for periods of 24, 48 and 72 hours. The initial insights gained from these short experiences has proved valuable in my effort to remain silent for an entire year.
  During the first experiments with silence, unconscious noises on my part became glaringly apparent. Much to my dismay, i discovered that i was one of those people who makes that annoying "ahhhh" sound after a refreshing drink. While driving alone with all the windows rolled up, i would wave and verbally thank someone for letting me into traffic, even though it was virtually impossible for them to actually hear me. If i burped or hiccuped, i said "excuse me" even if there was no one else around. I would conduct deep philosophical discourses with absolutely no one except myself (and still manage to be boring...).
  In the early stages, i needed noise so badly that i would find surreptitious ways of slipping it into my quiet stretches. I found myself unconsciously breathing louder, clicking my tongue, and drumming with my fingers. I would close doors harder and shuffle my feet more intentionally. I was uproariously "quiet".
  As these loud little habits began fading away, it enabled me to think more clearly. I became much more tranquil. It felt like i was slowly turning down the volume on a radio that has suddenly become a noisy distraction.

Monday, January 27, 2014

a year in silence


  Although it seems almost impossible to be entirely, peacefully, present in a single moment, being silent has had a very calming effect on me so far.
  At first, i thought not speaking would make me tense. I worried that i would have no outlet for any frustration that might arise. But not being able to yell and carry on has actually had just the opposite effect. Instead of winding myself up with angry talk, spiraling deeper into greater rage, my anger quietly dissipates through silence. If a difficult problem arises, i no longer throw my arms up in loud frustration. I now calmly think it through. Loud noises, mine, or from my environment, have become noticeably more jarring and unpleasant.
  I no longer have any urge to speak whatsoever. I don't want to disturb this quiet i have discovered. I smile more, to silently express gratitude for extended courtesies. I learn more from those around me by quietly listening. I no longer regret words spoken in spontaneous anger or ignorance. It is still very early in this endeavor and things may change, but i feel more at peace now than i have in a long time.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

a year of silence


  To cease speaking is not to cease communicating, sometimes a lot is gained by being silent.
  I was visiting a couple i know recently and found that just silently mouthing words was a very effective way of conversing. Of course, it involved more effort on their part, as they had to closely watch my mouth and decipher the words. As a consequence of this, i found myself intently staring into their faces as well. This mutual attention to countenance made the conversation a much more intimate experience.
  So much emotion is expressed in the human face. It makes me realize that we have lost a lot by making face to face contact so unnecessary in the world today. Facial expression and tell-tale vocal intonation are abandoned for the convenience of email and text messaging. We would rather employ cloying smiley faces for emotion in our electronic exchanges, than actually communicate to another human one on one and experience the real thing.
  I think many of us use text messaging as a means to do more, all at once. We are always busy trying to multi-task more into our lives. Why engage in a face to face conversation (or make a simple phone call) when you can text someone, watch t.v., work on a project and microwave dinner all at once? Technology has given us the wonderful ability to do so much and actually experience so little.
  We are no longer where we are anymore. Try looking at a sunset, a flower garden, a piece of art or one of your own children, and concentrate solely on what's in front of you. Instead of immersing yourself completely in the color, smell, taste, sound and feeling of the experience, do you find part of yourself thinking about work, what's for dinner tonight, the jerk who cut you off, how your hair looks..........or any of the millions of noisy thoughts that clutter our heads?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

a year of silence


  Verbatim, the text message "conversation" i had with someone yesterday:

          -"How is not talking?... Was thinking and the hardest part has got to be
            when you have a conflict over something with someone, right?"

          -"not talking makes you think more.....that seems to avoid a lot of

          -"Great point"

  Another person's response when i had informed them that my year of silence was already underway:
          -"Omg....I'm annoyed already."

Friday, January 24, 2014

a year of silence


  I have come to discover that remaining silent and having to write or act out (i'm becoming very good at charades) what you wish to communicate, involves a much more deliberate thought process than just speaking out. Although, the ability to still be able to spontaneously text message someone is still an ever present danger....
  We can be so eager to express our opinions while ignoring everyone else's. Brilliant and salient insights are lost, due to the noise of our own voices. I have been guilty of this many times, and it is to my own detriment.
  Two big mistakes you can make in life are having too strong an "opinion", and thinking anyone else wants to hear it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

a year of silence


  A good friend of mine asked if being silent so long might get lonely. I think we naturally associate silence with isolation. Human beings are generally social, "pack" animals by nature. We relied on one another for survival in our hunter gatherer stage and communication was an essential ingredient in  this interdependence. To separate oneself from the herd by ceasing to communicate would be almost certain suicide.
  But now, in this age of email and text messaging (not to mention sign language, etc,) actually speaking is no longer necessary. You can communicate perfectly well without it. In the eyes of many however, ceasing to speak is "social suicide", and that holds every bit of terror as the real thing.


  Human beings have a more highly evolved and complex means of verbally communicating than any other species on the planet (as far as we know). We have countless different languages each with many unique words of description and subtle nuance.
  The majority of time we spend using this intricate, highly evolved means of communication is spent discussing social hierarchy (talking about other people or ourselves). The next time you are a part of any conversation, listen, and the truth of this statement will be readily apparent.
  Our gift of speech can just as easily become a curse. I find rationally discussing ideas and theories to be pleasant, invigorating, and yet "quiet" in some way. But the banal rancor of gossip is noise of the worst kind.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

a year of silence


  Finding a quiet spot in our noisy world has become almost impossible. Museums and libraries, once safe havens of silence, are now abuzz with barely hushed conversations and cell phone din. Even when wandering in the rural outdoors, peaceful solitude is broken by the noise of jets overhead and the loud exclamations of our fellow hikers as they marvel at how peaceful it is.
  Why are we so uncomfortable with silence? A lull in any conversation is met with general panic. The minute we arrive home, the T.V. or radio is switched on. The hills are "alive" with the sound of music. Heaven forbid there be "dead" silence.
  I've had many people tell me they can't stand silence. They can't bear being quietly alone, so they fill the void with their phones and other electronic devices in order to distract themselves.
  Distraction. Isn't that what what most of this noise is? Maybe a lot of us need that distraction. Without it we might start to think, to reflect....... That possibility seems to scare a lot of people.

Monday, January 20, 2014

a year of silence


  I think we human beings in general, have come to associate noise with life and silence with death. From the moment we enter the world we are induced to make noise as an affirmation we are alive. From that point on, making noise is a quickly established (instinctual?) way for us to get what we need to survive.
  Long after making noise was essential for survival, we continue to employ it as an affirmation of life. From well worn sayings like "the squeaky wheel gets the grease", to pop stars urging the crowd to "make some noise", noise is firmly associated with having a good time and being alive. Simply yelling "wooohooo!" at a party, out a car window, or at any social event is generally accepted as an affirmation that you are having the time of your life. In many cultures we clap our hands to show our approval and enthusiasm over a presentation or event. The louder the clapping (and accompanying whistling, etc,) the more strongly our approval is demonstrated.
  We alter our cars and the stereo systems therein to make more noise. Are we "roaring" to establish our territory? Does the vibration of an elevated bass provide an enjoyable physical experience? (it does feel kind of cool.....) Is making your vehicle louder a way of ensuring other drivers are aware of your presence, and thereby a good way to avoid accidents? All of the above? Or are the people that do this kind of thing just being selfish and annoying?
        -As an aside: When in the history of humanity has a male yelling out the window of a car,
        "Hey, baby!"(or something to that effect) been received warmly by a female and resulted
        in a subsequent romance?
  In virtually every retail establishment there is music playing over a speaker system. Is it to make you feel more pleasant and put you in a buying mood? Or maybe it is to distract you and take your mind off of the fact that paying $80.00 for a shirt might be a little ridiculous?
  At times we seem almost desperate to avoid silence. Why.......?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

a year of silence


  The silent condition that i'm imposing on myself will extend beyond just denying myself the use of my voice. Since silence is the focal point of this piece, i have to "hush" in all aspects of my day to day life.
  Incessant noise is ubiquitous in the modern world and to avoid contributing to it will involve constant vigilance. Headphones must be used on any noise generating electronic devices. The indiscriminate use of my car horn (unless in an emergency situation) must cease. Although trying to sneeze quietly without blowing my eyeballs out of my skull may seem impossible, i'll attempt it. Little things like saying "thank you" to someone who holds a door and yelling "ow" (or more accurately, a plethora of obscenities) when hurt, will be among some of the most difficult noises to avoid.
  Short of killing oneself, (sometimes a shrewd career move for an artist) no one can be absolutely quiet. This is an attempt to live life and be as quiet as possible without resorting to such drastic measures. But is making a lot of noise essential to living life fully in our modern world?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

a year of silence


  As an artist, i have the gross annual income of a paperboy. So in order to avoid becoming one of the starving variety, i do odd jobs and walk dogs.
  I love animals and enjoy spending time with them. I have dutifully informed all the "owners" of the pets i care for of my intention to remain silent for an entire year. While a voice is extremely helpful in managing an animal, i have found it is not essential (so far...). Dogs are very bright and seem to respond quite readily to physical gestures and even slight modulations in breathing.
  It is important to mention that i absolutely will not risk the health and safety of any of my animal charges for the sake of this endeavor. If i perceive them to be in any danger of harm, in any way or form, i will make noise (and lots of it!).
  Life, all life, is extremely important to me. I will not allow harm to come to any living thing as the result of my silence.
  Of course, it would be easier to just discontinue caring for animals, and decline any opportunity for income if not being able to use my voice would make it inconvenient. I'm very skilled at not making money and this would be an opportunity to really shine...
  Art is a record of the social, political and historical context in which it was made. If you alter the context to fit the art, then you have negated the art itself by making it disingenuous and contrived. This would be an anathema to everything i hold dear, so it is completely unacceptable. Therefore, i will not intentionally alter any of the other aspects of my life to fit this project. I will just shut up and see what happens...

Friday, January 17, 2014

a year of silence

  While i dislike using labels of any kind, you could say i'm an artist and this is one of my pieces. The only benefit i can see in referring to oneself as an artist, is that it seems to afford you a great latitude of behavior in the eyes of the general public.
  I began making art years ago in the form of anecdotal photography. This soon progressed into constructing photographic assemblages, then photographically based sculpture, outdoor installations, video and performance art. If i want my art to keep progressing, the next logical step seems obvious...i need to become art myself.
  Unfortunately, one of the qualities necessary for something to be art is that it needs to be seen. Art is didactic, and in order for it to fulfill this aspect, it has to be experienced by others. I am not a social person and i would be very content living in a cave, happily making stuff in complete anonymity until my inevitable demise. Due to the nature of art, this is an impossibility.
  For someone who values isolation and anonymity a wiser career path might have been monk or life insurance salesman. But i make art out of compulsion not choice. Everything else seems like a crushing waste of time to me. I love, respect and believe in Art more than anything else. Whether the art i create is of any quality, remains to be seen.
  You can pee in a coffee cup and call it art........... but is it good art?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

a year of silence


  Friends are merely people who put up with you far longer than any stranger ever would. is just the opposite.
  The news of my intention to spend a year in silence was met with diverse reactions from friends and family. These reactions ranged from utter disbelief to unbridled enthusiasm.
  Some reacted as if i had told them i was dying or that i was going away on a long voyage of some sort. One friend said goodbye and then wished me a happy birthday in advance (my birthday is months away). A couple of people called me the night before i embarked on the beginning steps of this project to wish me well even though they seemed a little pensive about the whole thing. A few friends were excited and fully supported my plan (i admit that my shutting up for a year might be a great relief to many who know me...). Two  of the people i told of my intentions have informed me that they are planning to trick me into talking.
  A couple members of my family expressed outright concern over my endeavor. A reaction i was not prepared for and has truthfully made me feel guilty and a little selfish...
  I am not telling some friends and family about this project because i'm interested to see if i can go the whole year without speaking and have it pass unnoticed.
  I honestly did not think many people would be interested in my plan, much less show any strong emotion over it. Whether this interest waxes or wanes over the coming year remains to be seen.
  I am just beginning my art project and have already uncovered a valuable insight. The confirmation of my belief that we love our friends not because of their personalities, but in spite of them.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

a year of silence

  All i want is a little peace and quiet.
  I will be spending one year in silence. I will not speak and i will make every effort to be "quiet" in all aspects of my day to day life.
  This is not an exercise in non-communication, it is an "experiment" with silence. I will be exploring the effects of silence on myself and those i come in contact with. I will still be able to communicate through various electronic means, as long as they are all "silent".
  Everything i write over the coming months is strictly my opinion and through my personal viewpoint. It should not be taken to be an absolute truth of any kind (quite frankly, i don't want that kind of responsibility). I shall be honest and open about my thoughts and experiences to the best of my ability. That is my pledge.

  My decision to be quiet for a year has been met with a rather suspicious enthusiasm by many friends and family.....