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Withdrawn from Use: Silence, listening and undoing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 November 2021

Sebastiane Hegarty*
Affiliation:
Solent University, Southampton, UK

Abstract

Steven Connor’s book Giving Way begins with a list of unappreciated qualities, the first of which is a capitalised: ‘SILENCE’. Shyness, reserve, withdrawal and holding back accompany silence in a long sentence of qualities, which ‘tend to be marked with disapproval, sympathy or revulsion’, and some of which are, as Connor notes, ‘characterized as a mental disorder, in the form of social anxiety or social phobia’ (Connor 2019: 1). Silence is often seen as a lack of agency, an anti-social and suspect unwillingness to participate. But as a sound artist working with field-recording, I am aware that silence, withdrawal and holding back can also be a form or method of practice and participation. Since 2004, my creative practice has included a series of physical and imagined silent releases. This article draws on these works and their documentation to explore silence as a potential, shared and communal space; an immediate composition that invites both listener and non-listener into its congress. Listening in on the conversation of telephone pauses and the closed paragraphs of library shelves, silence can be heard undoing purposeful agency, shyly engaging us in the anti-social practice of inaction, so that we might not participate together.

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Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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