Sensual Nothingness

I remember I wanted to get to non art, non connotative, non anthropomorphic, non geometric, non nothing, everything, but of another kind, vision, sort. From a total other reference point. Is it possible?

Eva Hesse, quoted in E. Sussman, ed., Eva Hesse, San Francisco, 2002, p. 17

I didn’t know how to smoke cigarettes, think about existentialism, appreciate the cover design (“add a rainbow to give philosophy some color”), or read the book:

What was the this nothingness? I kept finding it, the way that a new word is suddenly heard everywhere, like the air that whistles around the scalp as one drives in a convertible. There actually is a lot there. This is a journey that touches on all the senses.

1. Sound

I fared little better with Wittgenstein. Skipped to the end of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus to get to the juicy part:

Instead of John Cage’s 4’33”, I prefer a little sound perforated by lots of silence, a la Morton Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet.

2. Sight.

Like there is nothing ever really silent, there are very few things that are truly white: there are shadows, different layers of light, different shades, stray marks.

Robert Ryman, "No Title Required." Enamel on cherry, maple, and oak.

If you see Robert Ryman’s paintings in a gallery, it does untrivialize white (and, by extension, all other colors, shades.)

Likewise, color is not required to form an audience for an artwork. The audience is bending down, taking an unprinted sheaf of paper, holding it, and then doing whatever else they will do with it, going on with their life, and that is the artwork.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Passport), 1991. White paper, unlimited series, 10.16 x 60 x 60cm

3. Taste

Umami, the phantom “fifth flavor,” more like a sense of round fullness. Tomatoes and mushrooms have it. It takes this ghost to make a dish taste complete. Plus, everything that has ever been tasted only exists as a memory.

4. Smell

I liked Luca Turin’s Perfumes: The A-Z Guide: hundreds of pages of poetic descriptions of small molecules. Rather, a book that allows you to “try on” verbal descriptions of things, like wearing words. If perfume is about the wearer’s mind, what they think they’re becoming, then I might become Jazz, for example.

Christopher Brosius’s idea for an invisible fragrance, or nearly invisible fragrance, has me thinking about a moment when nothing becomes something that can be sold: the marketplace as a kind of apotheosis for nothingness.

It would be selling the idea of nothing in order to facilitate human connection:

So as Brosius saw it, invisible perfume would be a psychological trick. He imagined two people meeting for the first time. Both of them would light up in euphoria at the smell of each other, and they wouldn’t know why.

It’s actually quite beautiful. This would lead to 5. Touch. What is it to touch nothing? Perhaps this is our intangible, ineffable mind. Perhaps it is related to Nirodha in Buddhism: a kind of cessation, or release.


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