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9Sept2012 S2: Light&Silence

ishin's picture

When looking at Jomaira’s images, I was actually a little startled.  Not because their image reflects a dimension of silence I seldom imagine, but because several years ago, I would have likely put up a very similar image of silence.  What startled me was that I didn’t realize how my first-gut connotations of silence have shifted in recent years.  Before, my initial thoughts and feelings of silence would have been ones that were associated with oppression, the inability to speak, absence, dark—concepts that I think are evoked when looking at their images.  But recently, I often associate silence with more positive notions and less tension.  Just as one example of how and why, I think of silence and light together and chose my photo accordingly.  We often forget how remarkably silent light is given what it does.  Light, unassuming and silent, has capabilities that range from giving us the capacity of sight, the dichotomy of day and night, and also life itself.

The relationship I notice between silence and light is the result of observations I made when I lived in rural Pennsylvania.  In Lancaster county, there is just enough unobstructed sky and viscous enough humidity for sunlight to become suspended in mid-air, and the effect is air that can actually glow.  This glow is a powdery, luminous brilliance and is closer to haze than fog in weight and perceptibility but seems more alive than either.  This glow behaves and looks more like tornados gentle and billowy.  This glow is what I thought to be sunlight no longer being the means to let us see, but itself being an object for our sight.  I’d look to this on a daily basis and stare silently for a while because it was awe-inspiring and tranquil at the same time.  I never mentioned this to anyone because I felt it to be an intimate experience between myself and the environment.  I also never talked about this as I saw such a conversation falling flat fast (“Irene… don’t you see sunlight everyday?”). 

Sunlight silenced me, and because instances like this are now a part of who I am, I now look to silence and being silenced with less hazard or lack.  I’ve come to realize that being silenced does not always have to be associated with oppression or someone’s right to speech being taken away.  There can be occasions when someone or something silences you in a way that allows you to self-reflect, listen, or just stand in awe.  Examples of this can be mundane like listening in a class or doing yoga but is certainly not limited to such actions.  The act of silencing and being silenced can be thought of in restorative, communal, contemplative ways.

With that being said, I emphasize that I do not deny that silence can be a void and repressive like the images mentioned by Jomaira.  I think we would be hard pressed to find someone within our class who has not experienced being silenced in awful ways.  Perhaps it is why I found it so important to start this off with mentioning her image and the connotations I associate with them.  I don’t at all want to say that I have or should forget such negative sentiments.  Rather, I want to say that I have layered enough experiences and thoughts over the ones evoked by Jomaira’s image that they are not the initial ones I now see instinctually. 




Anne Dalke's picture

"Sunlight silenced me"

I hope you noticed that Estie used your initial image of your bedroom --which you described as "home, alone, devoid of sound, because it's devoid of people"--to preface her reflections last week; be sure to check out how your prompt lead her into a description of how silence evolved in her childhood....

Instead of returning to that picture, you prefaced this essay w/ the image of a young woman who is silencing herself (so did Uninhibited, Sasha, sara.gladwin and Sharaai--so check out their stories, too). You do something very different w/ the image than they do, using it to figure how you used to think about silence--as "associated with oppression, the inability to speak, absence, dark concepts"--and replace it (or rather, "layer it," add to it, another image), with one filled w/ light. In doing so, you associate the sense of sound w/ one of vision. Interesting to me that none of the images chosen either by you or your classmates evokes that combination of senses, and so you needed to find yet another one, a new photo to add to our growing archive.

What's REALLY striking to me in that shift is that light becomes, in your analysis of how it operates in Lancaster County, not a medium for sight, something we look through-and-by, but itself an object of vision. You describe this as "an intimate experience between myself and the environment," though it seems to me less "between" than "among," with you not separated as an object from your environment, but part of it, entangled in it, "intra-acting" in it...(that word comes from the work of the feminist physicist Karen Barad, and also makes me think of the ecological relationships we're discussing in my EcoImaginings course this semester....)

...intra-acting in it, and also silenced in it. "Sunlight silenced me." Lovely line. In your interpretation, it seems, not just choosing silence but even "being silenced"--in awe, for instance--can be "restorative, communal, contemplative."