Candida Höfer photographed a library with no people but full of books; Hai Bo took photographs of the dreary loneliness in a landscape empty of people. Joseph Beuys’ Das Schweigen makes us aware that without observers, a work of art is damned to silence; Gerhard Richter’s large, grey monochrome canvases represent the silence of an artist’s ideas hatched during a personal low in which all figurative pictorial statements are impossible. And in Jan Schoonhoven’s uniform, clinically white motifs, any conceivable message is replaced by sublime aesthetics.
In Gregor Schneider’s ‘Raum ur’ we encounter a loneliness, which just as in Micol Assael’s ‘Vorkuta’ signifies human isolation. Richard Long arranges circles out of branches whose absence of life is not immediately apparent owing to their aesthetic composition. Carsten Nicolai reduces art to silence by making the picture itself disappear in a work of art. Finally, in ‘Electric chair’, Andy Warhol emphasises a conclusive aspect of silence: another term for killing somebody is to ‘silence’ a person – and the work tackles the desire for the definitive conclusion of any dispute.
The culture of the Etruscans underwent an equally definitive conclusion of exchange. It initially formed an important link between Greek culture and Ancient Rome before being almost totally eliminated by the hegemonic Romans. Nowadays everything we know about this Etruscans’ once prominent culture comes solely from their enemies’ sources – and the silent monuments of their tombs.
Nowadays Etruscan culture is mysterious and veiled in silence and ignorance. So distrustful were the main archaeologists of the sketchy sources (such as Herodotus’s report on the origin of the Etruscans) that biochemical and genetic analyses were required to prove the Etruscans had indeed come from the Middle East.
As well as two sarcophaguses decorated with figures, the exhibition also displays painted vases and urns, now the only direct evidence of this silenced culture. These exhibits represent a historical backdrop to recent history.
The result is an arc dedicated to silence and emptiness spanning European civilisation from its early days to the present.Other artists
Micol Assael, Samuel Beckett, Heinz Gappmayr, Manfred Hoinka, F. Laudage, Marvin Lazarus, Manfred Leve, Hans Schabus.
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