Miskatonic University Press

Silence is so accurate

art quotes

From Silence in the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge, translated by Becky L. Crook (New York: Pantheon, 2017), pp. 26–27:

High-pitched noises can have many modes of expression, but the most powerful scream that I have ever experienced is one that is void of sound: The Scream by Edvard Munch. I fell silent upon looking at it. There passed a communicative silence between the painting and me. Yes, I know that I cannot hop into the painting and be the person who lays a hand on the screamer’s right shoulder, yet I feel just as strongly connected to the experience of the screamer.

The philosopher Denis Diderot believed that one who observes interesting art is like a deaf man watching mute signs on a subject known to him. The formulation is a bit cumbersome, but it’s accurate. You are deaf when you stand there, attempting to interpret what is placed, hung or presented before you. The strange thing is that such a supposition also applies to Marc [sic] Rothko’s far more introspective paintings. His large, rectangular fields of colour in bold, often dark, hues are in a way the opposite of The Scream. They seem to house an enormous battery of energy. “Silence is so accurate,” said Rothko, when he refused to explain his images. Had he been able to simply reply with words, then perhaps he would have written an article instead of making a painting.