The Hushed Silence

An abstract by Tina Rahimy & Parisa Yousef Doust (Oxford University)

 

Silence

What we see is a staged silence in Parisa’s film with the working title “Mist” … a silence framed through the limitation of an image … Saba’s eyes almost touches us … the tangible expression of an image of silence… an unhushed silence … allowed to experience its own cacophonic nature …  The girl is decisive, forcing her viewer to hear something that they were not planning to do… there is a fleeting moment of hesitation …  then she is sure again… please be silent … be silent in the chaos of noises …

Silence is noisy…

The soundlessness of silence is merely a myth.

In his 4’33 John Cage forced his audience to experience it. A reversed performance. The orchestra listening while the audience is trapped in its own unintended performance of cacophony … silence is filled … tangible. … chaos, unformed and unintended expression … It is not a moment in speech, It is not a moment of not speaking. We rather argue other way around: speech is a moment in silence, a moment that expression forms itself in words, sounds and images. Nevertheless, no matter how certain one speaks, no matter how clear words seem to communicate, the chaos of silence is always present, always decisive in the sensation of its omnipresent … It is not the word that gives rise to a permanent thought but silence is the plane upon which multiple thoughts can manifest themselves momentary …

Silence is expression …

Don’t look at me as if I have gone mad … silence may not be speech, a language … silence is there whether humans define it as such … silence is communication … the girl and her eyes enunciate a life-story …. silence is interaction … interaction is expression …  expression is life …

Intermezzo

Robert Ashley, Automatic writing

Speak

This was Robert Ashley, and a fragment of his Automatic writing

People would say that Robert Ashley suffers from the disease Gilles de la Tourette … He suffers because he makes sounds without intending it, without meaning it. Involuntary sounds.

You are probably wondering why we think of silence in such a mad way … or even what the hell we are doing in a multicultural conference … well we tell you … multiculturalism is a cacophonic milieu and people say that we migrants are suffering from speechlessness … we say what we do not mean … we are incapable of communicating what we intend to communicate … 

Are we also the victims of involuntary sounds? … 

Please do not underestimate the consequences:

You see my father, a true man of honour, once intended to tell the benefits officer that he had trouble paying his rent… and instead he said: “But madam how could I pay my whore with this amount of money …”

And if you think that my farther is a strange man, well my mother is similarly fascinating… just last week she formulated in the first glance a very ordinary sentence containing 4 words … nonetheless this sentence was, in its dailyness, in 4 languages: one word in Persian, one in Turkish, one in Dutch and one in English…

While we do not want to generalise this … nevertheless we could argue that migrants often make this type of slip-ups … make sounds, using words without meaning them … But do Robert Ashley and my parents suffer? …

Let us freeze this experience of suffering for a moment and argue that migration is indeed an experience of involuntary noises … Let us say that we migrants have this condition called global aphasia …

There are different moments of aphasia …  the first concerns the connection between word and image. For example one sees an apple and calls it an orange … The second is that between different words that are from the same family, for example one wants to say arm but says leg … Aphasia can also happen when words have almost the same pronunciation… that is what happened to my father. The term rent in Dutch is huur, and the term for whore is hoer … huur/hoer … my father was not the first and most definitely not the last …

Aphasia can also appear purely in writing, for example writing true: as a reference to reality, instead of through … as reference to moving from one side to the other… aphasia could also have effects on the manner in which one construct sentences … the order of words … saying “the wrote text William yesterday”, instead of “William wrote the text yesterday”.  In our research we even want to add a last form of aphasia, namely that which is caused due to the disorganisation of images, the order of images …

Aphasia thus affects the syntax as well as the semantics in ones use of language, and by the dictionary defined as a “disability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage” … it is also compared with aphonia …  but in our case also with agnosia, “inability to interpret sensations and hence to recognize things, typically as a result of brain damage.”

Comprehension, or rather a clear comprehension is at stake here. This experience could be found and related to migrants, to multiple migrant’s studies and migrant’s artworks. The incapability to construct and pronounce words and images as ‘they were meant to be” is a commonality in this global world of migration … thus we speak of an global aphasia, aphasia to express ones thought in the manner that it is ‘ought’ to be expressed …

Nevertheless we rather neither speak of inability, shortcoming nor any form of suffering. Ashley does not need to suffer from his condition of Gilles de la Tourette. My parents do not necessarily experience an inability to express as such…

In our research we rather reverse the problem. It is a certain understanding of expression and language that disables us to hear the cacophony of silence around us. For example in the sound fragment of Ashley, two voices are hearable.. a man’s voice as an unformed sound and a women’s voice that gives the impression to pronounce some words understandably … we are immediately drawn to her. Our sense of hearing is suddenly, in this multiplicity of sounds, minimalized by focussing on the few words that may say something clearly… something comprehendible …  while the immensity of the expression is lost in our mind. What we minimalize is the expression itself, although we have the pretence to be the only living being with language, we are often incapable of understanding of the vitality of language. Understanding language as a clear form of communications, is a reduction not a clarification. The multiplicity of expression is here reduced merely to language, and even more so language is merely reduced to clarity of information. Only through such form of reduction men in their aphasic state of mind, migrant or not, are defined as beings that suffer due to physical or psychological brain damages causing inabilities.

In our research however we rather emphasis the productivity of aphasia. What we call aphasia is the ability to visualise the cacophonic underground that we call silence, releasing language from its illusion and demand of clarity, not as a banal form of confusion for the sake of confusion, but rather in order to create a space in which subjects are not excluded from life and the vitality of expression.  … we rather give back the suffering to single-minded ordinary men … we are mad just because we do not believe in madness nor shortcoming …

Listen

This was Nahid, Parisa’s aunt… her image is defined by an everlasting tension between the multiple forms of politics, between the unintended politics of silence, the excluding politics of clarities and a third form of politics, politics of involvement. While the politics of clarities defines itself through unambiguous speech and thus is sensed in the binary world of good and bad, right or wrong, adequate and inadequate, politics of involvement is defined by another act, the act of listening. While the comprehensible speech is defined by moral judgment, the act of listening is the ethics of involvement … involuntary unintended involvement  … where chaos becomes cacophonic … where speech becomes poetry and where silence is not viciously hushed … listen …

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