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Silence Is Hardcore, Boris Eldagsen

How many people can stand silence nowadays? Most of us try to keep ourselves busy, embrace dumb and empty chatter and increase the background noise to avoid this one uncomfortable moment of silence. For meeting the silence means being alone with yourself, thrown back to who you are and what this is all about. It is in these moments of silence, that the big questions come to light, and we feel small, very small. But laughing doesn’t help. Some questions cannot be answered by a reply, only by silence.

There is a black void in human existence that can only be acknowledged and never removed. It might be easier to numb this feeling – and for some moments it works. But it always returns.

There is a trap for everyone. And art for everyone. The traps for artists are design, entertainment and beautification. It is difficult, especially in Australia, not to fall for one of these sooner or later. But Meg Andrew and Sherry Mclane belong to a small but growing new generation of Australian artists and curators that believe that art ought also to be confronting and challenging and that the audience has been underestimated for years.

Recent graduates from the VCA, Meg and Sherry have developed a unique and distinct language that doesn’t play around. Their work examines the relationship between silence and power; and in their first collaboration ‘Violence Sentimenta’ they push us towards the eternal, without giving in to easy consolation. Forget ‘Death and the Maiden’ and Renaissance Art, Freud’s theory of ‘Eros & Thanatos’ and the Aesthetics of Power and Religion. ‘Violence Sentimenta’ embraces all of them and simultaneously manages to go further. We enter a world of extreme, a world that is now and forgone, and a world that is yet to come.

At first sight, one might be tempted to think, that in Sherry’s work the extremes have fallen into one. In a sophisticated way, she puts them so closely together that they nearly touch each other. It is these little moments of stillness that determine her work. Sherry’s installations manage to transport this very moment after the bang, the second when the noise has just disappeared and you start to feel the silence kicking in. Violence, power, destruction and ecstasy are mere echoes, they have left the scenery to make space for the infinite absence. Instead of turning away from this void, Sherry creates a ritual worship around it, turning the unease into a grandeur of silence. Awkwardness becomes seduction and flows into an erotic moment that merges the feeling of absence with surrender and desire. How long can a silence go on without losing its beauty?

Meg Andrews answers this question in her work: silence is here to stay, and the longer it stays the more it grows into an expanding black hole that is going to eat us up. It might – if Meg wouldn’t stitch and embroider the edge of this void and thus make it visible.

For her, sewing is an introverted meditative practice that makes silence become the soundtrack to her work. While the needle is penetrating and piercing the image, she is binding together the bits and pieces that we all shy away from. In her work she examines power as a useless attempt to escape the meaningless of existence. For Meg, power in its various forms as sexuality, religion or regime is just a drug, a substitute that is not enough to fill the void. Within this exploration of power she keeps the antipodes alive. The genders, the divide between body and soul, and the gap between sex and the promise of love become the playground where violence represents the noise that covers the silence. Violence becomes eternal and takes over the role of an absent creator. ‘War is the father of all’ stated greek philosopher Heraclitus in a time when the greek sky was full of Gods and Jesus Christ wasn’t yet born: “All things are an interchange for fire, and fire for all things, just like goods for gold and gold for goods.”

2500 years later, Meg’s work shows that sex, power and gold burn quickly and that their smoke can only rise up to the sky.

Digging deep into the psychological disposition of the powerless, Meg highlights that ‘I am worthless’ still implies that something else may have value. A ‘something’ that is yet to be found. Thus self-loathing becomes an expression of hope; a longing for an option that we do not believe in (anymore) - but haven’t stopped to desire yet. We still all rise up to sky, if we believe in it or not. It is the longing for love that makes us do so. The longing for something pure, absolute. And it is most difficult when we cannot be sure that there is something that will reply to our love. It is here, where silence becomes hardcore.

Written to companion ‘Violence Sentimenta’ by Meg Andrew and Sherry Mclane: 29 January-15 February 2008. Boris Eldagsen artist and lecturer at the Centre for Ideas / VCA Berlin / Melbourne.