project image
Nicholas Pye

first performed on March 4, 2011
1 Spadina Crescent, Toronto, Canada
performed four times in 2011


Toronto, Canada


Language is a death sentence; in its birth it announces death. Similar to a poet wrestling poetry in hopes to avoid making the intangible tangible, I, by making works, hope to learn of death, hope to learn of dying.

The voice loses its origin in signs; approaching words is arriving at death; writing begins. And yet in pausing, in the absence of, existence is present. Death is denied in the breath of silence. One can reveal more in commas, in spaces, in the between, than in the piled words. May I then write around silence to oscillate meaning? There is felicity in silence.

As if a sacrifice is being made, “on hearing” explores a self-imposed silence through a visceral interaction with the materiality of milk. As a visual representation of the psyche and a depiction of phenomenological themes of presence and absence, this work addresses duration and one’s ongoing struggle for continuance. The perpetual nature of the work reveals an internal desire to remain in existence by simultaneously revealing a memento mori that mirrors the atrophy of the physical body. Through a ritualistic drowning, a sacrificial silencing, and a poetic attempt at suicide, “on hearing” hopes to unearth the affect body by suspending it between existence and disappearance.

“on hearing” is less about the product and more about products of the unfinished process. The figure in the work is faced with a Sisyphus task, an endless durational dilemma meant for failure. In an attempt at an individual disappearance or a self-silencing, the erasure of the individual is never quite met. Rather than an idea of failure or success, the work settles more in the moment of attempt or the moment the limitation is met. The work is not, it’s becoming.

In this wake, we look to something other than death yet to nothing other, we look to artworks. In looking to the aesthetics of the image to come, the aesthetics of vestige, we look to death itself in order to see a glimpse of life. In ways this work rests as those moments, those voices, that have vanished and yet that have never yet appeared. “on hearing” exists in waiting as existence on the threshold. This gesture resembles death, holding a sacred silence which language and literature and piled words can only aspire to replace. In failing we arrive. Arriving at silence.