Silence as Pretext for Pizza

The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago has an ongoing art exhibition called “Several Silences,” and they invited me to lecture in connection with it Sunday, May 31, at 2:00. Here’s their description of the exhibition:

Titled after an essay by the late philosopher and literary theoretician Jean-Francois Lyotard, Several Silences is a group exhibition exploring various kinds of silence. As a discourse, the aesthetic of silence has been thoroughly domesticated within the visual arts. Although silence as a discourse in art arose out of conditions calling for the negation of art, it has subsequently become familiar subject matter no longer operating as the avant-garde ideal it once was. This is not to say silence has lost significance. If anything, it has become a more potent antidote to a culture of distraction. Silence, however, is not the absence of communication. It is dialectically opposed to communication, so that one sustains and supports the other. Inextricably bound to communication, which it tacitly evokes, silence itself is a form of communication with many meanings. There are voluntary and involuntary silences–some comfortable, others not. There is Cage’s silence, which calls for the distinction between clinical and ambient silences. There is silence as conscious omission or redaction. And then there is memorial silence.

I’ll be speaking, surprise surprise, about Cage’s 4’33”: mostly excerpts from my upcoming book, though with a little more latitude for opinion, theorizing, and anecdote. 
After 12 years of living in Chicago, and six of writing there, I left in 1989, and I’ve only been back once, for a friend’s wedding. I can’t wait to have some authentic deep-dish pizza, which left me with a permanently jaundiced view of all other pizza in the world. Of course, the University of Chicago, down in Hyde Park, was “the other Chicago,” not the one I lived and worked and misspent my student years in, though as a young critic I did orbit around Ralph Shapey down there periodically. Musically, we used to refer to the U. of C. world as “Uptown,” even though it was down south, back when people used such words. It’ll be a trip to go back.


  1. says

    Enjoy, Kyle. I was in Chicago three weeks ago for a meeting but didn’t have time to make it back to the U of C (uptown?). Was shocked to see that Gino’s East no longer has the tables with the graffiti cut into them. Is nothing sacred?
    Glad the U of C is approaching the 21st century in terms of its music and artistic focus. I used to go nuts there when I would program minimalist music in the late 70’s and early 80’s there on their radio station, since it was like being a person of color in the middle of 50’s Mississippi. Someone even called in threatening to kill Philip Glass if I didn’t stop playing his music! 😎

  2. says

    There were a few anomalies over the years. In 1996 I gave a lecture called The Music Around Mark Rothko, at the U of C Smart Gallery, with a Rothko exhibit on their walls. Afterwards, there was a concert in the space with music by Brown, Cage, Wolff and Feldman, followed by a panel discussion that I sat on with none other than W.J.T. Mitchell, the eminent writer, art scholar and editor of Critical Inquiry.
    It will be great seeing you again Kyle!
    Peter (downtown?)