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date: 04 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The notorious “silent piece” 4'33 (1952) by John Cage is a seminal point of convergence for visual and acoustic arts: each performance of the piece offers an acoustic and visual uniqueness, which defies repetition. The equivalent in visual arts is Robert Rauschenberg’s White Paintings (1951), credited by Cage as inspirational. Around the same time and without knowing the works by Cage and Rauschenberg, Yves Klein and Guy Debord also created works related to silence, emptiness, and void. This chapter reflects on the similar and different types of absence, reduction, and various kinds of “nothingness” involved in these historical works. The legacy of the “aesthetics of absence” to the present day is presented in a typology of performing, recording, and remediating silence in works by Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, Manon De Boer, and others. The chapter also analyzes the complex relation of silence and void in these contemporary practices.

Keywords: visual art, silence, void, absence, painting, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Yves Klein, Guy Debord, Nam June Paik

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