artists whose work relates to my project

What does it mean to talk in terms of positive and negative, when the negative space has become filled with meaning?

Hole turned out to be spelt with a W as well as an H. Holes were not gaps, they were connections.

Hepworth made the hole into a connection between different expressions of form, and she made space into its own form. Her version of ‘truth to the materials’ means that s This gives sculpture a fourth dimension, because we know now that space and time are not separate, but have to be considered as space-time. space is as much a part of a Hepworth sculpture as mass.

Reference :


Tate magazine, the hole of life, available from:
> (Viewed 3/11/06)



Experiment shows the non-deliberate and free form of colours and lines resulting in the experience of ‘Empty Space’. ‘Empty Space’ is not a three dimensional visual illusion created within a two-dimensional structure. ‘Empty Space’ is conveyed through a pure two-dimensional composition and expresses an experience of physical space. In Lilei’s paintings, lines not only function as a division of space but they also create a subjective experience. For example the look alike chess board, T–shape and the horizon, indicate the ‘Empty Space’ in the composition. This ‘emptiness’ conveys the dimension of force, which is not expressed through tangible shape.

Compared to Mondrian, Malevich and Vasarely, whose experiments mainly focused on the progressive increase of shapes of colour to suggest ‘tangible space’, Lilei’s concept of space comes mostly from the traditional Chinese concept of ‘Empty Space’ before the nineteenth century. Traditional Chinese ‘Empty Space’ is expressed through techniques, for example, the method in construction of brush strokes and the light and darkness of ink. It does not belong to a strict meaning of absolute abstract painting. The concept of absolute ‘abstract’ does not reflect any objective experience of space. It reflects the pure visual experience from the composition and colours.

Lilei ‘s use of the ‘Empty Space’ has its core significance in the understanding of traditional Chinese paining. In the experiment of space expression Lilei moves towards the absolute visual concept in composition and colours. At the same time he utilises Chinese traditional ‘Empty Space’ to take out the expression of dimension thereby allowing the suggestion of intangible space. This hint is the expression of the absolute composition, its structure and attraction. Lilei’s line has graffiti’s unconsciousness but also has the unconsciousness of symbolic writing. It is part of his experiment. Other experiments include the use of material such as wrapping paper, pencil, pastel and oil colour to a mixture of uses.

These different materials give the impression of sometimes being together and sometimes being separate.



Zhuqi, How to Contemporarize Abstract Art? Lilei’s Experiment with Abstract Art, Available from:
> (Viewed 3/11/06)

Piet Mondrian


“Nature reveals forms in space . . . [yet] forms are part of space and . . . the space between them appears as form, a fact which evidences the unity of form and space . . . Actually all is space, form as well as what we see as empty space . . . form is limited space concrete only through its determination. Art has to determine space as well as form and to create the equivalence of these two factors . . .” [Piet Mondrian, Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art, 1945, pp. 13 & 18]
‘Nothing comes from nothing.”


The low down on high art


Coagula, Coagula interview, (1992-2005), The low down on high art (about Richard Serra) ,

Published on paper: 6x per year (Feb/Apr/June/Sep/Oct/Dec) , 1992-2005 ,Coagula Art,

Coagula Art Journal 2100 N. Main Street #A-8 Lincoln Heights, CA 90031 U.S.A. Journal, Available from: . > (Viewed 5/11/06)

…”So you kind of know things amongst things. You don’t know things independently of things. If these pieces didn’t have the kind of scale they have, I think you’d have an Easter Egg hunt. And if you had an Easter egg hunt in here you were going to get lost in the space. And then you’d probably want to confine the space into some sort of box. But that’s not what we had to do. We’ve used the shit as the container. Both shits as the container. And having said that I’m not disappointed with how the interrelated spaces between the pieces function as well as the internal pieces of the vessels or the elongated pieces.

This piece, if you walk halfway down one passage it’s leaning in and when you get to the center then it leans back out. The passage on the other side leans parallel to the side of the curve so its internal section and its relation to your body as you walk has a very, very different kind of elongation and contraction and compression and opening than the piece in Bilbao. And it has a much deeper well as an S

And so I think what I wanted to do was to be able to suck that space into the field and I used exact measurement between the column so I wanted the play off the inflatedness of that whole and bring you down to some level of localization and still deal with the entire field and the volume of the entire space…”

Art: 21 film on Richard Serra ,Site copyright 2005 art21, Available from: >(Viewed 11/11/06)



The Tate Gallery,
Yves Klein, (1928-1926), selected writings, originally published by 1974



“A day is space

And so a year

And an hour

And a second and a life

Should we live by the year?

Or the hour? Or the day?

Or the second?

I love space

Equilibrium doesn’t exist in space

And yet it isn’t chaos!

That’s right,

I feel it

It’s right

I want space”

“I had left the visible, physical blue at the door, outside in the street

The real blue was inside, the blue of the profundity of space, the blue of my kingdom.

The colored space that we can not be seen but which we impregnate ourselves with…a space of blue sensibility within the frame of the white walls of the gallery…”



Daniel Germon, (1996), Remedios Varo exhibit, Last Modified: Fri Nov 21 00:04:59 EST1997, Availablefrom: >(Viewed 22/9)



[Remedio Varo

The painting “embroidering earths mantle” by the Spanish artist Remedio varo illustrates the filling of the empty space. It depicts young girls imprison in a room sewing a mantle which flows out of the window and fills the empty space.
Because all the waves, all the creatures and all the earths forests existed in this mantle, which symbolizes the world]. (Janet Kaplan , unexpected journey: The art and life of Remedios Varo)



See my genetic art, (1993), The oldest Escher collection on the web, All M. C. Escher works Copyright © Cordon Art, Baarn, the Netherlands,Available from: >( Viewed 22/9)

(The empty space between the objects is solid and equal to matter)

J.L. Locher, Escher, the complete graphic work, Page 317 ,

Thames and Hudson 1992

According to the book:

“How can i understand infinity?is there a line between two and three dimensions?is what i see “real?” what thoughts does a shape evoke?does the shape of the bacground have its own identity?can i understand or experience anything without knowing its opposite?”(page 239)


The Archipenko foundation (2006), Available from: > (Viewed 23/9)

Alexander Archipenko (1912 “walking”)
(Doesn’t accept the notion that his sculpture is a closed shape set in space but rather interrupts it and establishes it as an empty space in reference to the sculpture itself.)

ARTIST BIOGRAPHIES, Rene Magritte, Surprise Answer, Available from: >(Viewed 25/9)

Peter Brook


Brook, Peter (1969), The Empty Space, Touchstone, Reprint edition (December 1, 1995)

Peter Brook, the Open door, Thoughts in acting and theatre

Pantheon Books, New York

Space and time change easily, according to the actors words.We can go back and forth in time if we find ourselves in an empty space.This started in the seventies (carpet show) when actors travelled carrying with them a carpet which was the area on which they performed . Actors would make up the performance as they went along , deciding on the spot how a scene would start or finish. In the early seventies they used streets , cafeterias,

parks, African vilagges, etc. for various theatrical experimentation.

As Peter Brook says in the empty space:

“i can take any empty space and call it a bare stage.

A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him,

and this all i need for an act of theatre to be engaged.”

An example of this would be when he was in an African Village in direct contact with the audience . The sun was the only spotlight in which the actors and the audience were joined in the sun’s rays. (The Open door, thoughts in acting and theatre Peter Brook/Pantheon Books, New York)

Moreover, according to Peter Brook, an empty space is shared by each of the members who are present.For him an empty space became the place where one could always return to. So that anyone could get rid of everything and start over from the beggining. The main idea of the empty space according to Brook is ..”don’t believe anything from what you are told or from what i tell you, go back ,empty your space and live your own experiences.”

Theodore Gonis. (2005), Interview with Peter Brook, The Sunday Elefterotypia, May 22 /2005, Greece- Athens, page (7-8)

Furthermore, as Peter Brook says in “The Open Door”:

{Peter Brook, the Open door, Thoughts in acting and theatre

Pantheon Books, New York}

“By making a space smaller and compressing time you create density.”

He continues saying that ” in an empty space it is possible for one to accept the possibility that an empty bottle can be transformed into anything (ever a rocket) and transport us anywhere.”

Oskar Schlemmer , 1922 (Bauhaus) , studies the interactivity between people , space, and movement. In his work people don’t act in their natural way but rather in a manner that allows them to become parts of a moving construction. All that happens on stage is experienced by audience in raference to the way it is viewed, the choreography, space,color and perspective.

Oskar Schlemmer, (1922), Source: Athens Goethe Institute, 2006, Video taken from Bauhaus, 1922

Empty Space as nothing, Nothingness in visual art, (NOTHING 12 JULY – 1 OCTOBER 2006), Available from:

> (viewed 20/11/06)

12 JULY – 1 OCTOBER 2006

Stillness, emptiness, silence – in the image-ridden visual society of today, the pause, the blank, the gap are increasingly gaining in significance. The avant-garde artists of the 1960s and ’70s like John Baldessari or Art & Language respond with skepticism or downright rejection to the idea of visual representation of a reality of ever more elusive complexity. Art counters the daily flood of visual information by emptying the image space. Post-minimalists and neo-conceptualists like Joëlle Tuerlinckx, Spencer Finch, or Martin Creed poetically or ironically translate the experience of nothingness into installations, paintings, or sculptures. Reduction of effects and sensations creates a particular awareness of things and phenomena that are not visible at first sight. The gaze into the void unveils the peripheral. What remains is multifarious, equivocal nothingness.

Max Hollein, director of the Schirn: “‘Nothing’ is a conscious high-wire act that will pose quite a challenge to visitors’ expectations. They must be ready to face up to the gap, the pause, a moment of concentrated reflection. Given the inundation of images in our society, this experience also has a cathartic effect. The daily sensory satiation is replaced by selective sensitization, the sharpening of individual senses for specific works that require concentration and quiet, and even invite silence.”

Dr. Martina Weinhart, exhibition curator: “Present-day art seeks to counter mass-media illusionism with attempts to ascertain perception. Looking to where nothing is and nothing happens, the gaze into the void, into nothingness unveils a variety behind nothingness and in fact fundamentally objects to any obvious meanings. Elusiveness, the play with the empty surface, with limitation informs works beyond the obvious, based on reduction, simplicity, and transparence.”
Ever since Modernism or, at the latest, since the emergence of Concept Art in the 1960s, artists have intensively explored ideas of nothingness. The question of nothingness in Modernism quickly leads to the idea of non-representation – abstraction as the visual refusal of the representational image in art; an attitude that has many fathers: first of all, there is Kazimir Malevich with his Black Square of 1915, a Modernist myth and at the same time the “embryo of all possibilities” which marked the “zero point” of painting. Reduced to pure color
and pure form, the emptying of the image surface seems complete in this monochrome rectangular shape. Final paintings, though, were made by many: Ad Reinhardt, for example, made – exclusively and almost obsessively – uniform, nearly indistinguishable black “ultimate paintings” from 1960 until his death. As the well-known saying by Harold Rosenberg puts it: “Rothko […] pulled down the shades, Newman closed the door, and Reinhardt shut off the lights.”
In the late 1960s, the idea of negation was followed by the negation of the negation. The broad theoretical background of the concept artists of the period – with their analytical view of the coordinates of the artwork, art production, and art business and their apparently untiring exploration of materiality and space – has affected, in its complexity, even the youngest generation of contemporary artists and makes itself felt today in a variety of strategies. Thus, for example, the post-minimalists and neo-conceptualists create poetic installations and paintings characterized by radically reduced representationalism, though often informed by a fine sense of irony. Reduction of effects and sensations creates a particular awareness of things and phenomena that are not visible at first sight.
Messages like these were often heard in this period. Joseph Kosuth, for example, created comprehensive series in which he used language to explore the conditions governing art, as did John Baldessari whose large canvases instigate astute reflections on the image itself, its references, methods, attitudes, and opinions on production and presentation. Everything is purged from this painting but art, no ideas have entered this work, one of his panels asserts. Baldessari does not only strip the image of any conventional artistic articulation but has these works made with strict artlessness by a sign painter, thus undercutting even any conceptual claim.
Given that artistic articulation in Concept Art derives from an idea, there is not much left if this very idea is exorcized in a play of language. Such ironic conceptualism has had lasting effects on contemporary art. Martin Creed owes it the larger part of his strategy which culminates in the laconic reticence of a piece like Work No. 401 (2005), consisting of a small loudspeaker with a sound loop that makes a lapidary “pfft” sound only. The sound was produced by the artist himself as an act of acoustic self-renunciation. It makes one think of a shrugging “What do I care?” Like Baldessari, Creed seems to adhere to an unassuming minimalism with this work, which places him in line with a whole number of contemporary art positions such as Martin Kippenberger, Ceal Floyer, or Tom Friedman. Friedman shows 1,000 Hours of Staring (1992–1997), a sheet of paper stared at by the artist for one thousand hours, which marks an art process beyond the concept of the instantiation of the stroke of genius or divine inspiration. The work reflects the labors of a persistence leading to nothing. When Friedman is asked if he really took the trouble of staring at the paper for one thousand hours and when he starts speaking about how he made a meditation of it and kept note of his working hours, this is almost too explicit and specific, curtailing the imagination. In the end, the white paper induces a reflection on time, which, however, is almost entirely left to the viewer by the artists. Nothing is only where you don’t see anything.
Seeing is not enough: while the more recent art history has largely dismissed the visible, the heirs of Duchamp, in their nihilistic impulse, often go one step further, abandoning the object nature of art as such. This is the approach taken by Karin Sander in her piece Zeigen (2006), which confronts visitors with an existing empty room or empty gallery walls which only show the usual title labels of the works exhibited. The works themselves are missing or not to be seen. Their presence, however, is perceptible through a different sense. The artist asked a number of fellow artists such as Sylvie Fleury, Hamish Fulton, Mona Hatoum, or Lawrence Weiner to choose a work of their own and give an audio description of it. The viewer is liberated from vision and referred to an alternative mode of perception which leads him from a concrete, obvious, accustomed, trained to an imaginative, aural aesthetic experience. In this sense, nothingness cannot exist – for there is always imagination, the viewer’s mind power.

Nothing presents the idea of nothing as a substantial artistic subject. In the midst of a flurry of debates about the mathematical history of zero, artists also have a history of exploring visual, playful and philosophical approaches to the void, invisibility, and absence.
A major concern for artists in the 1960’s and 1970’s was questioning the idea of what we see before us. They examined the part that material qualities play in supplying evidence of an artwork that may exist purely in the imagination. Artists Robert Barry and Douglas Heubler made work that expanded the notion of sculptural space.

More recently artists have tested and parodied these works and ideas. Keith Tyson’s telepathic invitation to collaborate – resulting in a blank canvas and Pierre Bismuth’s blue wall a slightly different colour blue that you can’t see. These artists make playful homage to Robert Barry’s telepathic piece, made in 1969, and Yves Klien’s patented colour International Klein Blue. Tacita Dean’s sound work Trying to find the Spiral Jetty is a recent recording of her search for Robert Smithson’s land sculpture in Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA, 1970, now submerged.

Creative processes are often about making something out of nothing or nothing out of something. Ceal Floyer’s Garbage Bag, 1996, a bin liner placed in the corner of the gallery and Angela de la Cruz’s Nothing (Blue),1998 a scrumpled up canvas, contrast relative values of the material and the idea. Matthew Crawley investigates ideas of nothing. His work A Film of me hiding in the bushes, 1996, which is just that, offers a playful incite into the faith of invisibility. By constructing a column in the gallery Gaia Alessi explores architectural invisibility and the value and description of empty space. In this way -nothing’ is a frame of reference and only exists if you are not looking for it. The phrase -there’s nothing there’ is a value judgement.

a major concern for artists in the 1960’s and 1970’s was questioning the idea of what we see before us. They examined the part that material qualities play in supplying evidence of an artwork that may exist purely in the IMAGINATION. Artists Robert Barry and Douglas Heubler made work that expanded the notion of sculptural space.

more recently artists have tested and parodied these works and ideas. Keith Tyson’s telepathic invitation to collaborate – resulting in a BLANK canvas and Pierre Bismuth’s blue wall a slightly different colour blue that you can’t see. These artists make PLAYFUL homage to Robert Barry’s telepathic piece, made in 1969, and Yves Klien’s patented colour International Klein Blue. Tacita Dean’s sound work Trying to find the Spiral Jetty is a recent recording of her search for Robert Smithson’s land sculpture in Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA, 1970, now SUBMERGED.

creative processes are often about making something out of NOTHING or NOTHING out of something. Ceal Floyer’s GARBAGE Bag, 1996, a bin liner placed in the corner of the gallery and Angela de la Cruz’s Nothing (Blue),1998 a scrumpled up canvas, contrast relative values of the material and the idea. Matthew Crawley investigates ideas of NOTHING. His work A Film of me HIDING in the bushes, 1996, which is just that, offers a PLAYFUL incite into the FAITH OF INVISIBILITY. By constructing a column in the gallery Gaia Alessi explores architectural INVISIBILITY and the value and description of EMPTY space.


In White Hole, a white marine flare (a warn-off signal) was set off inside an empty gallery space. The subsequent video was reversed and edited into an endless event. A constructed soundtrack accompanies the footage.
This work was commissioned by Irene Amore for the exhibition From Nowhere to Somewhere at Coleman Project Space, London in November 2004. This exhibition was supported by Arts Council England, IASPIS and the Italian Cultural Institute.


It is the emptiness of the landscape, however, or rather the image of the landscape itself which is the most striking feature of the Gallery’s painting; a dramatic juxtaposition of red earth, painted flat and opaque, and an’ airy blue sky made by stumbling the thinned paint into the weave of the canvas.


Gio’ Pomodoro:

“I need to model in spaces and with space. I am aware of space and the living emptiness of space. Space is infinite, imperishable. Emptiness is the space of sculpture. Space/emptiness surrounds everything, and we cannot do without it. Perhaps the awareness of space leads to a strong communion with the universe.

To be in communion with the universe and the idea of death is the reason why I sculpt.


Laura Tansini, (April 2002), A publication of the international sculpture centre

The Emptiness of Space: A Conversation with Gio’ Pomodoro, Available from: > (viewed 22/11/



Empty space in poetry and literature :

This game of transforming emptiness is not a contemporary invention. For example in Homer’s Odyssey there is a part in which Odysseus said to the cyclops “Polyfimos” that his name is not Odysseus but rather “nobody”(”Outis” which means nobody in ancient Greek). So, when the Cyclops got blinded he yelled that “nobody” was killing him. None of the other Cyclops helped him because they thought that nobody was killing him. So they ignored him.

[‘Cyclops, you ask my name and I will tell it

you; give me, therefore, the present you promised me;
 my name is
Noman; this is what my father and mother and my friends 
have always
called me.'
"But the cruel wretch said, 'Then I will eat all Noman's 
before Noman himself, and will keep Noman for the last. 
This is the
present that I will make him.'
As he spoke he reeled, and fell sprawling face 
upwards on the
ground. His great neck hung heavily backwards and
 a deep sleep took
hold upon him. Presently he turned sick, 
and threw up both wine and
the gobbets of human flesh on which he had been gorging, 
for he was
very drunk…   "'What ails you, Polyphemus,' said they,
 'that you make such a
noise, breaking the stillness of the night, 
and preventing us from
being able to sleep?
 Surely no man is carrying off your sheep?
Surely no man is trying to kill you 
either by fraud or by force?
"But Polyphemus shouted to them from inside the cave, 
'Noman is
killing me by fraud! Noman is killing me by force!'
"'Then,' said they, 'if no man is attacking you,
 you must be ill;
when Jove makes people ill, there is no help for it,
 and you had
better pray to your father Neptune.'
"Then they went away, and I laughed inwardly at 
the success of my clever stratagem, 
but the Cyclops, groaning and in an agony of pain,
felt about with his hands till he found the stone
 and took it from the
door; then he sat in the doorway 
and stretched his hands in front of
it to catch anyone going out with the sheep,
 for he thought I might be
foolish enough to attempt this.]


Homer, THE ODYSSEY, Translated by Samuel Butler, Available from: > (Viewed 26/11/06)

White paper has a special role in poetry and literature as a symbol of emptiness with its dark, indescribable whiteness. As Giannis Ritsos, a Greek poet said: “The white is something we call empty. I write a word on the white paper and i create a hole in the emptiness”. The pen creates a hole in the empty space of the paper , much like someone can make a hole in something that really exists. For Ritsos this paper is a “secret void”and when a hole is made in it a “space”is created where the poet can express his feelings .

As Athos Dimoulas (a Greek poet), said: “life is a part of emptiness and a form of emptiness is life”

Poetry is the result of emptiness, as it is created by “grinding” the empty part of a piece of a paper and fills it with words.

And the poet continues:

“For time to move on, it “digs” the empty space using its “big hands”. Each time its separates a part of life. This is because emptiness has a continuous relationship with time”.

Odysseys Elytis (a Greek poet, too) said: “Poets feed themselves by converting emptiness into something.



Giannis Ritsos, (1967-71), “The wall within the mirror”, Page 265,


Kedros publications, Athens 1985



Homer, Odyssey, in D.N.Maroniti translation, Rhapsody 6, lines 366,408 and 410


Stigmi publications, Athens 1995



Giannis Ritsos, “Late very late in the night”, Page 224,


Kedros publications, Athens 1989




Giannis Ritsos, (1974-76), poems, Monevasia, Page 458


Kedros publications, Athens 1997



GiannisRitsos, (1974-76), Poemscollection“knocker”, Page458, Kedrospublications,


Athens 1997




Athos Dimoulas, (1981-85) Poems,


Page 103 and 150


Stigmi publications, Athens 1986





Aristotle considers a wooden cube and its potential changes in position. He says

“Just as a cube displaces its own volume of water if immersed in it, so whatever the yielding medium may be, it must yield… Now this yielding is impossible in vacuity, which is not a material entity at all, and one must suppose that the volume already there in the place before it was occupied must interpenetrate the equal volume of the intrusive cube when it enters, just as if the water should not make way for the cube but should permeate it all through. But then the cube itself has its own volume equal to that of the vacancy that now permeates it, which volume, whether it be hot or cold or heavy or buoyant, is nevertheless different in its nature from all these qualities, even though it may not be separable from them (i.e., the volume, as such, of the wooden cube itself). So that, even if this volume could be isolated from all these other qualities and be neither heavy nor buoyant [and neither hot nor cold], it would still embrace an equal measure of vacancy, and would coincide with a portion of “space” and “vacuity” equal to itself. How then would the material volume of the cube differ from an equal volume of vacancy or space? And if there could be two such coincident entities, why not any number you choose to name?

Why imagine a place for a body to go into, in addition to its own volume, if that volume, as such, has no physical properties? For if another equal volume were to permeate it, it would make no difference. From all this it is clear that there is no such thing as a self-existing void.”

As Aristotle sees it, those who believe in the void are trying to define the absence of things as a thing, and he rejects the intelligibility of this on the grounds that it yields a non-unique result. There could be any number of co-existing voids.

Aristotle: what is the nature of things? Aristotle classified the possible answers to this question as emphasizing either the form or the matter of things.

Aristotle denied the existence of a “void” (a region of space containing no substance), believing instead that the universe is filled continuously with substance. In Book of Physics we find Aristotle’s arguments against the existence of a “void”. He first addresses the claim that the compressibility of substances (such as air trapped inside a jar) implies the existence of empty space between the particles of air.

Certainly if air consists of irreducible particles, and if air is compressible, then there must be space between the particles. From this point of view it’s possible for a continuous substance to possess variable density, so the compressibility of air does not imply the existence of empty spaces.

On the other hand was Plato’s theory.

Plato held that the forms of things are separate from the material world. These things, which we perceive by the senses, are pale imitations of the forms themselves. We are like prisoners in a cave, viewing the shadows on the wall but unable to see the real objects casting them. Only the cultivation of the intellect, trained through the study of mathematics, allows us to rise above sense perception and apprehend the true nature of things.


Dr. Cynthia Freeland, (Spring 1996), Aristotle’s Physics, Book II, Philosophy 3383, Available from: >( viewed 27/11/06)

Aristotle, Physics, Written 350 B.C.E Translated by R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye







THE EMPTY SPACE project_Francesca Mataraga_ May 2006

The Empty Space Project is an ongoing investigation into imaginary and negative space. Solid forms act as brackets to the space between them. This usually empty space is articulated as a solid object through the use of clear acrylic and mirror.

The space between two entities, bodies, buildings or objects is often seen as empty, devoid of meaning. And yet it is this very space which determines the why we experience the spatial relationship between the solid shapes. It is the negative space which activates the things it separates. The void is not a dead space but rather, a space in which we as the viewers are situated, an active and interactive space.


Francesca Mataraga (May 2006), THE EMPTY SPACE project, Available from: > (viewed 29/10/06)




Nikos Navridis

“Difficult Breaths # 61, 62”

In his video installations and projections, Navridis makes use of elements that are lightweight such as latex, or ethereal like breath, in order to articulate the relationships of beings with the world. The main theme of his work is air, and his obsession centres on visualising the processes of human breathing as a basic ability of all living beings. What he does could be deemed as “breathe sculpture” given that his characters mould spaces, enact existential tensions and make the invisible visible through breathing. Conceptually, this objective corresponds with that of modern art, which endeavours to reflect the impossible or the prohibited from a moral, psychological or physical viewpoint, while also presenting it as something which is possible.

Navridis’ interest in space developed while he was studying architecture. He was obsessed with the density of empty space, the differences between going through something and around something, the contrasts between what is light and what is heavy, the tension between what is present and what is absent. In this connection, between 1995 and 1996 he created a set of experimental works encompassed under the general heading of The Question of the Age of the Void. Dating back to this same period is the series entitled Drawings (1995), made up of twenty-two black-and-white photographs, which depict different exercises in which the artist squeezes an inflated balloon with his hands, shaping its mass into a bevy of different forms.

Untitled(1996) is an installation dating back to the same period that articulates a photograph and two objects: a chair and a balloon. The black-and-white image depicts a face with a gaping mouth. The hands of the person portrayed pull hard on a balloon installed inside the buccal opening. For Navridis this image represents “the birth of a hole” and proposes a scatological descent into the depths of the individual. Appearing in front of the photo is a chair with a disinflated balloon on the seat. The empty balloon replaces the absent body and the immobile chair is a metaphor for time standing still. This work does already deal with themes and elements that will be developed in later projects: the human body, latex as a substitute for skin, balloons as containers, the expansion and contraction of the void, and underlying it all, time and references to birth and death.


Bernier- Eliades Gallery, (2004), “Difficult Breaths”, Nikos Navridis,

Video Installation, two video projections with sound, loop, dur. 42 sec, Available from: > (viewed 2/12/06)

Anna Andres:” since 1992, I’ve been investigating the theme VOID, an ancestral concept reflecting the thoughts and ideas of both philosophers and scientists throughout the ages. VOID has always been a faculty of reason in the Eastern and Western worlds, their approach, however, being opposed in meaning. It is precisely this contradictory idea of the same concept which has made me become interested in the study of this theme.

By means of the concept VOID we are able to travel along the wavelength of the thoughts and minds of each civilization. Therefore VOID becomes a landscape for thought and reflection.”

REFERENCE: Anna Andres, artist’s statement,available from :

Lichtenstein plays with the dot-screen as a theme in his later works, notably in the vast Mirror in Six Panels (1971), which shows nothing but the mirror surface reflecting empty space, apparently rendered in the transparent sheets of Benday dots in common use by graphic artists. Refreshingly, this is one of the few works that does not contain references to other art genres, but jousts with the concept of the image itself, again a reflection of nothing at all.

REFERENCE: Christopher W Tyler,2005,plos biology,Traversing the Highwire from Pop to optical ,Roy Lichtenstein: All about art [art exhibit] San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; 23 October 2004–22 February 2005 (Photo: Paul Ocampo, Public Library of Science),Published online 2005 April 12, © 2005 Christopher W. Tyler, available from:





Martin Creed on his Blu-Tack-piece:
– I have nothing in particular to say.
– I find it a lot easier if it [the work] negates itself at the same time as pushing itself forward–so there’s an equal positive and negative which adds up to nothing, but at the same time is something too.
– I find that it’s difficult to choose, to decide that one thing’s more important than the other. So what I try and do is to choose without having to make decisions.

An attempt is made. Nothing more. Or is it? Is the kneading sculpting? Is the thumb-print the signature? Why add anything? Creeds Blu-Tack is empty, but that emptiness is also an opening, a free space ready to be lived and filled with hopes. At the same time the work is leaving the viewer with eternal questions. ‘What can I do?’ ‘How can I contribute to the world?’ These double questions are also present in Creeds neon text piece; “Work No. 232: the whole world + the work = the whole world”. The world is constantly growing. It is dynamic. It is open for contributions. At the same time it is consuming every contribution. Martin Creeds minimal art carries a surprising emotional charge. Why not add something?

For the Turner Prize exhibition, Creed has decided to show Work # 227: The lights going on and off. Nothing is added to the space and nothing is taken away, but at intervals of five seconds the gallery is filled with light and then subsequently thrown into darkness. Realising the premise set out in Work # 232, Creed celebrates the mechanics of the everyday, and in manipulating the gallery’s existing light fittings he creates a new and unexpected effect. In the context of Tate Britain, an institution displaying a huge variety of objects, this work challenges the traditional methods of museum display and thus the encounter one would normally expect to have in a gallery. Disrupting the norm, allowing and then denying the lights their function, Creed plays with the viewer’s sense of space and time. Our negotiation of the gallery is impeded, yet we become more aware of our own visual sensitivity, the actuality of the space and our own actions within it. We are invited to
re-evaluate our relationship to our immediate surroundings, to look again and to question what we are presented with. Responding to the actual condition in which he has been asked to exhibit, Creed exposes rules, conventions and opportunities that are usually overlooked, and in so doing implicates and empowers the viewer.


Martin Creed, nothing featured
Martin Creed: Work No. 79, is initiated by the association of nothing, org. updated
28 April 2004, Available from: > viewed 25/02/07


Painting as Empty Space
Allan McCollum’s Subversion of the Last Painting


In the late fifties and early sixties the essential or ontological reductionism of abstraction began to reveal its inextricable aporia. This was most evidently manifested by Ad Reinhardt who, beginning in 1960, painted his “Black Paintings” for five years. He kept making the `last picture’, an empty repetition of the same square black painting. Abstract reductionism had sought to ban all contingent, non-essential, sensual aspects from the painting, from the surface, so as to reveal, by way of reduction, the basic ontological categories and important definitions of painting, that is to say the painting itself, the first or the last picture. By contrast, reductive monochromy revealed an irresolvable contradiction in each attempt to uncover the notion of painting in a visible way. In the last picture, the notion of `painting’ converged with an individual painting, which, however, showed nothing contingent, nothing sensual and thus nothing existential. Instead, it just stood for the notion of it, but it was no longer painting, no specific, individual painting. A painting that would only stand for a general notion of ‘painting’ would be no painting. Reduction does not lead to a significant foundation or essence but rather to emptiness, nothingness: the absence of anything visible, anything sensually concrete. What remains is the empty convention which governs from the outside, by means of a framework, what institutionally is perceived as a painting. A picture which only stands for painting can, however, be used as a surrogate, a proxy for any other possible picture. It can assume the place of a painting within a framework or an institution; it then functions as a vacant space, an ersatz which keeps the place of a painting vacant and thus allows its absence to be perceived. The sign which only stands for the notion of `painting’ is itself a sort of pictogram and indicates an empty space, a zero-point of painting. At the same time this contradictory generic painting can become a sort of meta-painting. Since the latter is also empty and void of meaning, simply a conventional and cultural form of painting, it can serve to question the social and cultural genre of `art’ or `painting’ per se. it no longer has any pictorial, aesthetic or artistic implications.


Some reflections on the idea of a different collection

Text for the catalogue “On the edge”, art museum of Tel Aviv,

GMV , 1995

Warhol made the point himself: “So on one hand I really believe in empty spaces, but on the other hand, because I’m still making some art, I’m still making junk for people to put in their spaces that I believe should be empty: i.e., I’m helping people waste their space, when what I really want to do is help them empty their space” (The Philosophy of Andy Warhol).




Cage’s point. “There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear” (Silence). Even in his off-the-cuff remarks about his art-making, Jasper Johns, so Cage posits, is saying something significant, is posing basic questions about painting.

“I think,” Cage remarked a few months before his death, “a very impressive quality [of Jasper John’s painting] is the absence of space. Something has been done almost everywhere. So it leads very much to the complexity of life.” The verbal equivalent of this “absence of space” can be seen in a passage like the following:

                       Or does one
               Function As
            Another World
                  And tHen proceed to
                      dIvide it
               a paintinG                       (F  54)

“You see,” Cage told Niksa Gligo in an interview, “language controls our thinking; and if we change our language, it is conceivable that our thinking would change” (Kostelanetz 149). For this purpose, “empty words” are more useful than “full” ones. “Full words,” Cage explains to Richard Kostelanetz, “are words that are nouns or verbs or adjectives or adverbs,” whereas “empty words” (what we call function words or deictics) are “connective or pronoun word that refer to something else”

As an example of such an “empty word” mesostic, I have chosen a short piece called “What you say. . .” from 1987, a “writing through” of an informal statement on aesthetic made by Jasper Johns in an interview with Christian Geelhaar.



Marjorie Perloff,2007, the music of verbal space : John Cage’s “what You Say’, available from: > viewed 20/2/07




The Zero Ontology – David Pearce on Why Anything Exists

Arthur Witherall

What is the Zero Ontology?

David Pearce has described a proposal which outlines an explanation space within which the question “Why is there something instead of nothing?” can be given a legitimate answer. This is how he describes his endeavour, and he makes it clear that his ideas are purely speculative. He does not have a straightforward answer to the question, nor even a theory. All that he has is a sketch of what a theory which “explains existence” might be like, and how it might arrive at its conclusions. While I must admit that I find his sketch compelling in many ways, there are problems and paradoxes lurking in the very idea that one could explain why the world exists. In the case of Pearce’s proposal, the explanation takes the form of showing that there is (in a sense) nothing to explain. As such, it is similar to necessitarian responses to the problem, which claim that there is no alternative to the existence of the world since something – God, for example – exists as a matter of logical necessity. Pearce does not exactly endorse a traditional necessitarian theory, but he comes awfully close. In my opinion, there is a recognition of balance and proportion in his thesis which makes his thesis more appealing than any reliance upon a deus-ex-machina.

What makes his suggestion interesting, in my opinion, is that it invokes a powerful intuition that the totality of the real, “substantial” world (the world of physical things) is ultimately indistinguishable from the void. That is, the substance of the world as a whole is identical with nothingness, and reality is interpreted as the realisation of Zero. This Zero, however, need not be interpreted as a number. Whether it is a number or not, it has more complexity, in this context, than has hitherto been imagined, for it includes the entire universe – indeed it is the “final result” of all the properties and processes of the universe. It is the ultimate emptiness of existence. Pearce sometimes uses terminology which reflects the fact that 0 is to be treated as a state of affairs rather than a number, when he says that his hypothesis is “that zero is the case”.

This “Zero ontology”, an interpretation of the void which treats it as the summation of all substantial reality (or vice versa – an interpretation of substantial reality in terms of the void), appears as either unintelligible or highly counter-intuitive from the perspective of our everyday worldview. We are used to dealing with substantial things, and we tend to think of 0, or the void, as the absence of things rather than their ultimate “summation”. But this may be a problem of language rather than intelligibility. We do not have the right terms at present to describe the great totality of the world, considered as a single unit when all of its properties are taken into account. Such an entity is beyond our experience, and certainly beyond our powers of manipulation. When modern physics tells us that the ultimate value of the conserved constants of the physical universe is exactly zero, or as Pearce puts it:

“In the Universe as a whole, the conserved constants (electric charge, angular momentum, mass-energy) add up to/cancel out to exactly 0. There isn’t any net electric charge or angular momentum. The world’s positive mass-energy is exactly cancelled out by its negative gravitational potential energy. (Provocatively, cryptically, elliptically, “nothing” exists)”

our normal conceptual resources seem to stall. Does this really mean that the substance of the world is not really substantial at all, or is it a bizarre mathematical trick which should be interpreted in some other way? It is important to understand, of course, that there really is some positive mass-energy in certain parts of the world. That is not being denied. When it is said that the quantity of mass-energy is Zero, this is only true for the world as a whole. We think that mass-bearing material things exist because we are located in a particular part of the world where they appear to exist. Only when we have a perspective on the whole world can we see that they are effectively wiped out in the overall structure of things.

Pearce’s position is similar to other philosophies of the void, including Buddhist mysticism and western nihilism, but there are also important differences. There were apparently three tenets in the philosophy of the ancient Greek philosopher Gorgias: 1) nothing exists; 2) if anything does exist, it cannot be known, and; 3) if anything does exist and can be known, it cannot be communicated. This is nihilism at its most stark, but also its most implausible. Gorgias is too extreme. Pearce’s position is distinguishable from it, and from the Buddhist version of nihilism, in at least one significant respect. It employs physics and mathematics, and addresses the question of existence within this context. Recent theories about black holes, the Big Bang, and the Everett-Wheeler interpretation of quantum mechanics, are brought in to explicate his thesis. I have nothing much to say about his use of these theories. In fact, I am less impressed with the scientific aspects of his proposal than I am with the overall picture he paints, although I do appreciate the necessity for explaining the physical details of the world. What we really want is an explanation space which can account for why the world exists as well as the equally perplexing question of why it is exactly the way it is. If we are going to address the problem of existence properly, it does seem that we will have to explain everything else as well, at least in a general way. Existence is not an isolated topic of investigation.

Pearce’s proposal has the virtue, if only it could be worked out properly, of wrapping everything up in a completed explanatory framework. It would account for all that we experience, all that we theorise, and all that there is to the substance of the cosmos. All of this, according to his picture, must somehow work itself out to be equal to zero. That is, all of the properties of things must cancel themselves out completely, leaving nothing at all to explain. The number zero itself is recast in a new conceptual and ontological garb, so that it is not merely nothingness but also at the same time somethingness (ie. substance). When properly worked out, this means that all of the properties of substances must be taken into account in the final equation or calculation, which is the final explanation, simply because they must all be used together to “sum up” to zero. As such, when this explanation is forthcoming, it will necessarily account for all of the properties of everything that exists. If anything is missing, the summation might be different, and the explanation would not go through.

With such an magnificent picture of the cosmos on the cards, and so many details to uncover, we must surely pause before crying “contradiction!” at his paradoxical mode of expression (ie. in saying that nothingness or Zero is ultimately identical with the world-as-a-whole). We must pause, not merely because so much is at stake – an explanation-space for existence – but also because Pearce clearly knows that he is using a paradoxical mode of expression, and is not trying to be deliberately obtuse. He is envisaging a space for which we have yet to develop the right concepts. Paradox is inevitable, so we may let it go as long as we can make some sense of his proposal.

A Theory of Absolute Nothingness?

My first inclination is to defend the proposal that, in some yet-to-be-fully-devised theoretical structure, the properties of everything in reality add up to or cancel out to zero. This inclination comes from a particular interpretation of what it means, and my intuitive comparison of the ideas it employs. It seems to me that in this context we are not to compare “something” with “nothing” as quantificational idioms, but instead we should compare totalities. That is, we should look at the world and the void, and ask whether they could in some way be equivalent. The totality of the world, that is the real world whatever it includes (eg. planets, people, numbers, feelings, Everett’s “branch-worlds”, and so on), shares certain features with absolute nothingness, which is the total emptiness of everything (to be expressed in a way as yet inconceivable to us). Comparing them reveals that they could be identical, although it does not reveal a perspicuous way of expressing this identity in the English language.

To begin with, Pearce provides us with a fairly good image of his explanation space by comparing it with the system of numbers. As he says, if you literally add up all of the numbers, positive and negative, the result is 0:

“… the summed membership of the uncountably large set of positive and negative numbers, and every more fancy and elaborate pair of positive and negative real and imaginary etc terms, trivially and exactly cancels out to/adds up to 0.”

This is not very interesting by itself, but it supplies a way of imagining a more inclusive role for 0. Given that we can extrapolate and imagine things that are yet to be done, we can envisage a system of mathematical equations which perfectly describe the physical world, and which have the feature that all of the substantive quantities of the universe add up to 0. Then, just like the series of numbers, we will have a perfect symmetry of magnitudes (though not of a mathematical kind) with 0 in the exact centre of the symmetry. This is what the Zero ontology proposes: that reality, understood as the totality of our experiential and theoretical knowledge (ie. mathematics, physics, and phenomenology), is “equal” in some sense to 0. Perhaps we could say that reality is perfectly “centred” on 0. And perhaps we can understand this as asserting that the universe has no bumps or hairs, no outstanding inexplicable features. The properties of all substantial entities, like the properties of the totality of the positive and negative numbers, are all different and related to each other in a complex manner, but in the end they are so perfectly balanced that they wipe each other out. Thus we end up with Zero.

It could be argued that really it is the notion of symmetry that does all of the work here. We have a profound intuition, expressed again and again in science and art and in everything else, that symmetry needs no explanation. It is already perfect, and perfectly in accord with itself. Asymmetrical structures and facts, on the other hand, are “odd”. They have to be woven into an explanatory story that squashes the bumps and shaves off the hairs. When we originally consider the question “Why is there something instead of nothing?” it seems that we are confronting a massive and terrifying asymmetrical fact. It is asymmetrical because there is apparently no fuzziness or in-between state when we are dealing with being and nothingness. Either there is something, which is the case, or there is nothing, which is not the case, but there is no intelligible compromise between them (or so it seems). Furthermore, there is no reason for one instead of the other. Our minds are immediately stalemated by the question. Nothing compels us towards thinking that there must be something, or that there must be nothing. We are also stalemated by the fact that any particular thing that explains why something exists will itself be something, which rules out our standard explanations – for example, it rules out causal explanations (unless there is a self-caused entity, a conjecture few are prepared to make).

The Zero ontology restores the symmetry to this situation, so that instead of thinking only that there is something, we may also think that there is nothing, although in a different way. The exact sense in which this is so cannot be envisaged until the details of the ultimate (grand, unified, and true) theory of the physical world are available. However, if we are to imagine it, we may imagine the position of 0 in the series of numbers. It is the summation of them all, yet they are distinct from it and have complex relationships with each other. Better still, in the structure of the numbers both being and nothingness have been included in a single structure, for Zero includes both the absolute void and all of the numbers within itself, that is within its arithmetical structure. Zero is only meaningful in the context of the other numbers and their mathematical relationships. Thus it must “include” them all in some sense. Pearce’s proposal is that the totality of physical entities and their properties adds up to 0, and is in this logico-mathematical-theoretical way “identical” with total nothingness. Nevertheless, at the same time he does not wish to deny that there are lots of distinct things in the world. As he puts it:

“In a (as yet cognitively inaccessible) rigorous, technically defined sense, nihilism and plenism, it is here proposed, are to be taken as physically and logico-mathematically equivalent.”

In this way, it seems to me, he defends a restoration of the symmetry of being and non-being. He does so by claiming that there is some sense to actually equating them, but he does not say what kind of theory will be able to establish that this equation holds. Perhaps this is a pipe-dream approach to the problem, but it does not seem that way. For one thing, there are measurements of physical quantities, cited earlier, which suggest otherwise.

The void and the world of existents are both abstract totalities. They do not belong to the world we experience, but somehow they act as “boundaries” around which we can make sense of things. To unite them into one boundary by claiming that Zero has rich properties that allow it to be at once “empty” and yet “full of infinite possibilities” [as in the Tao Te Ching] is to make sense of the two together, working as a single totality which requires no explanation. However, when one of the derived properties of Zero is considered in isolation from the whole system, then it does demand explanation, for it must then be seen as something “independent”. In truth there is no independence, but it is a necessary fiction used for dealing with the deceptive appearance of hairs and bumps. As Pearce says, 42 would demand an explanation, but 0 does not. The explanation of isolated objects, or the realisation of quantities other than 0 emerges in showing how a derived property of 0 (ie. a thing or property) is related to the rest of the cosmos, and thus how it too cancels out in the process to express the ultimate 0 of reality. To actually show this may involve an enormous calculation, if it is feasible at all. All that we can do is marvel at the idea of it, yet this marvelling is important.

[ see The Fundamental Question” ]

Following on from the previous point, these two totalities (the void and the world) share a further feature. When they are considered in isolation, each appears transcendent, in that it goes beyond what we can feel or imagine, and possibly unintelligible (at least by the lights of present-day conceptual resources). The totality of the world is beyond our experience, beyond our epistemic access, and beyond our wildest dreams. It is larger and more complex than we could possibly think. It is an absolute, and perhaps the concept of the world-as-a-whole is something like Kant’s concept of “noumena”, in that it is used only to curb the pretensions of our sensibility and not to describe anything. In any case, we do not have any ordinary descriptions of the totality of the world other than descriptions of our feelings about it [cf. Quentin Smith], and it is difficult to find a descriptive phrase synonymous with “the world as a whole”. It just isn’t an ordinary thing, like the sort of thing you would meet on the street. It is a transcendent thing; it transcends our experiences even though it encompasses them. Likewise with 0, or absolute nothingness. This too, considered by itself, is unimaginable and indescribable, though it does not appear immediately as incoherent or inconsistent. We cannot “decide” between these two totalities on purely intellectual grounds, nor explain why there should be one rather than the other. If we know that something substantial exists, it is because we think that we see and feel substantial things, not because we can analytically extract this information from the concept of “the world-as-a-whole” (which is one of the themes of Kant’s philosophy).

The Zero ontology gratuitously helps itself to both totalities, both absolute nothingness and substantial somethingness. But then, either one on its own is just as gratuitous as both together. Neither seems to explain the other unless they are both taken to be aspects of some third thing. Pearce suggests, without a hint of Hegel, that this “third thing” is what we have previously called the number 0. We had thought that 0 was a simple thing, but it is not. It is highly complex, and includes all of mathematics and all of the physical world. Pearce also claims that it includes the whole of the phenomenal world, but this is not well defended (he uses the example of the colours “adding up” to white, a non-colour, but this does quite fit). In my view, the world of phenomenal feelings and mental states cannot be absorbed into the zero ontology unless there is a comprehensive identity between minds and all forms of physical stuff. That is, unless we adopt a version of panpsychism. Pearce employs this panpsychist identity, again highly speculative, into his sketch of an explanation space for existence, but of course it needs a full-scale philosophical defence of its own.

[ See Cosmic Consciousness For Tough Minds ]

How does the Zero Ontology Explain Why Anything Exists?

Even if we can make sense of the idea that Zero is the case, or that Zero lies in the centre of symmetry for the universe, the question of whether this actually explains anything, and in particular whether it can answer the question of why anything exists, is yet to be properly considered. What then is the explanation-space for existence? How would existence get “explained” within this kind of picture?

The answer is that there are several ways in which one might explain (or “explain away”) the existence of “something instead of nothing” using the Zero ontology. Perhaps the most obvious is to discard the question itself as illegitimate, but to do so on solid grounds rather than positivist waffle. That is, one can argue that the question presupposes that there cannot be BOTH something and nothing, which is what the Zero ontology asserts. Hence it is already prejudiced against the truth, or uses a false dichotomy, and can be laid aside as ill-formed. The question presumes that there is an asymmetry to explain, whereas the explanation is that there is no asymmetry in the first place. It follows from this position, however, that the original question can be replaced by the equally perplexing problem of “Why is there both-something-and-nothing-together?”. However, this question cannot be answered by the Zero ontology unless it turns out to be a self-supporting theory or it can explain its own truth in demonstrating that the substances of the world cancel themselves out. Before we can determine how this matter proceeds, we will need to have an actual theory to deal with, instead of conjectures and possibilities.

Pearce himself makes at least two distinct suggestions as to the way in which existence is to be explained by the Zero ontology. The first is implicit in a statement I paraphrased earlier, when he compares the cancellation of physical properties like mass-energy to the self-cancellation of the number series:

“[Yet why not, say, 42, rather than 0? Well, if everything – impossibly, I’m guessing – added up/cancelled out instead to 42, then 42 would have to be accounted for. But if, in all, there is 0, then there just isn’t anything substantive which needs explaining.]”

A curt summation of this idea is that the existence of things is explained by a demonstration that nothing really exists. All of the things we thought were there are in fact mere appearances, whose apparently substantive features are all derivable from the properties of Zero. This must include ourselves, and thus the “mere appearances” that constitute the world are not just appearances in our own minds. They are appearances that necessarily flow from the central reality of Zero. Our minds are also appearances, and also derive from the properties of Zero. In fact, Zero becomes a sort of First Cause, given this sort of explanation. But if the demonstration that nothing exists works, then it really does account for the existence of each particular thing. Thus the “why” question is given an answer.

The second suggestion that Pearce makes is less decisive, and clearly allies him with the necessitarian approach. He says:

“Indeed an implication of the position to be argued here is that anything else other than what exists is, were what exists properly understood, logically incoherent, including the notion of unrealised ontic possibility itself. For perhaps in all but a heuristic sense there is no difference between x and necessarily x. Given this is the case, then the notion of real contingency turns on a psychologistic misconception of the link between possibility and the imagination, because everything must be exactly how it is on pain of lapsing into incoherence. In the case of the notion of nothing ever having existed when construed as a real possibility, then even the link with imagination breaks down. This is because one can’t imagine nothing whatsoever existing.”

There may be a confusion here if Pearce means that we cannot imagine that nothing exists. For he is himself asserting that this may be the case, at least under a particular interpretation in which it is also true that something exists. But it seems plausible to assert that the kind of explanation offered by the Zero ontology will turn out to be a necessitarian one. The explanation will show that the existence of the world, in the only way that it could intelligibly exist (ie. as a world of apparent substances which are themselves ultimately intelligible as derivations of Zero), is necessary given the postulate that “Zero is the case”. Even when this is demonstrated, of course, we are left with the question of why we should assume that Zero is the case, the answer to which must lie beyond the resources of any explanation which proceeds on the assumption that it is the case.

We are on uncertain but well-trod ground in contemplating the question of why anything exists. There are already well developed metaphysical systems which reduce the contingency of existence to some kind of necessity in an attempt to answer this question, among them the philosophies of Leibniz and Spinoza. However, in the case of these thinkers, it is arguable that they are not quite “smooth” enough. They insist that one being – God – exists without requiring explanation. But this being is a substantial being, a substance with distinctive features. As such, it stands out (the original meaning of “exists” comes from the Latin “ex-sistere” which means “to stand out”) as a distinctive thing, and thus it becomes difficult to see why its existence does not need to be explained. The Zero ontology, on the other hand, is a purer system. It removes every last trace of substance from the world by cancelling it out in the context of the whole. There are no bumps and hairs, no gods, no substances, no things that are just there without explanation. The universe swallows itself up in the same act by which it releases itself into being.

This “explanation space” for existence is really a space in which theories, such as those of mathematics, physics, and philosophy, come together and show, in conjunction with each other, that no explanation is needed for the fact that the world exists. The only sense in which this constitutes an explanation is that in which a simple hypothesis (that Zero is the case) replaces a hopeless conundrum, which means that it is explanation by simplicity. We can always be left in doubt that the explanation actually works, at least until the combination of theories is devised which demonstrates that everything adds up to 0. Before this comes about, we are left with the perplexity of the fact “something exists rather than nothing”, and only a sketch, a vague picture, of how this might not be perplexing (ie. if Zero is the case). So in this way, were there to be the right combination of 0-entailing theories, it would constitute a removal of perplexity, and in this minimal sense, an explanation.

I like to think of the Zero ontology in a slightly different way, as a perfect combination of rationalism and mysticism. Zero in this case is the greatest and most perfect whole, for it wraps up all of the substances of the world and reveals that they were never truly substances, never truly independent entities at all. But they had to appear in the world, in the guise of substances, for otherwise there would be no “adding-up” procedure, and thus no realisation of Zero. Without this realisation of Zero as the summation of things, the substances of the world would not be effectively combined with nothingness. They would then always remain problematic, for we could always say “well why not nothingness?” instead of “ah, clearly there is nothingness within the heart of the world”.

Rationalism is involved here in relying upon the process of calculation. In order to believe in the Zero ontology as a possibility, we have to believe that mathematical physics, at least, accurately describes reality. Thus reality must have a rational, mathematical structure. Rationalists have always maintained this to be true. Mysticism is involved here in the final step, the step which claims that when everything gets wrapped up and added up, it is all tantamount to Nothingness. It plays no part in the theoretical structure used to make the calculation, but it is expressed by the final result of the calculation, and by the way that we interpret this result. The variety of mysticism which is particularly appropriate here is atheistic Taoism, which explicitly claims that there is a profound relationship, even an identity between being and non-being. The Tao Te Ching expresses this wisdom in poems rather than calculations:

We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the centre hole
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.

[Tao Te Ching]

There are other religions which endorse similar ideas, but it is reasonably clear that western thought has been absorbed in the notion of substance, without being able to see how substantial things can dissolve into nothingness. This makes it particularly difficult for western philosophers to find the Zero ontology meaningful. In my view, there is a real and tantalising possibility that western physicists, if not western philosophers, will be able to show us the errors of treating substance so seriously.
Arthur Witherall
Canberra ACT

Arthur Witherall,David Pearce _on why anything exists_The Zero ontology,Available from:

“This vast expanse of our world was born out of emptiness, which is without form, and it will return to the same emptiness. Everything appears and disappears, but the source is the same emptiness, the immense void. And the whole is hidden in that emptiness which by its nature cannot have a name, a shape, and an adjective. …In this sense, self-nature, like everything else, has two states: the manifest and the unmanifest. While the manifest has a name and form, attributes, the unmanifest has none whatsoever… The day the manifest and the unmanifest meet and merge into each other, the ultimate truth comes into being.”Osho

REFERENCE: Jack Haas,excerpted from HER: the sacred naked mother earth, and the divine feminine soul ,Osho quote: emptiness, the void, and fine art nude photography,Available from :


Emptiness fills the void.

It is nothing.

Still nothing fills my hand

when it dips inside

but emptiness


no longer.

Shining a light I see nothing


The void is filled

totally, completely,

with solitary, massless

particles called light,

and still,

less light than had I used.

less light.


Once again the void is filled

with nothing.

Oh! I wish nothing

were not so complicated!

working on nothing is

such hard work!

REFERENCE: Alistair Cockburn, 1993,Emptiness fills the void,copyright) Alistair Cockburn, 1993,available from:

(copyright) Alistair Cockburn, 1993.



Kapoor is focused on the active or transformative properties of the materials he uses. “I am really interested in the ‘non-object’ or the ‘non-material.’ I have made objects in which things are not what they at first seem to be. A stone may lose its weight or a mirrored object may so camouflage itself in its surroundings as to appear like a hole in space,” says Kapoor. Kapoor sees his work as being engaged with deep-rooted metaphysical polarities; presence and absence, being and non-being, place and non-place and the solid and the intangible. Throughout Kapoor’s sculptures his fascination with darkness and light is apparent; the translucent quality of the resin works, the absorbent nature of the pigment, the radiant glow of alabaster and the fluid reflections of stainless steel and water. Through this interplay between form and light, Kapoor aspires to evoke sublime experiences, which address primal physical and psychological states.


Lisson Gallery (2005), Anish Kapoor,Copyright 2005 Lisson Gallery





“I constructed tubes or volumes of deep, open, empty space that were carefully arranged to facilitate the activity or experience of looking at nothing (empty space) purely for the sake of perception. Today, in my Berkeley studio, I am making space again. It verges on sculptural. Now, however, it is not empty space. The void has been replaced by a dense, tangled, complex interwoven mass of light and material that seems more chaotic than orderly. It is not, however, simply chaotic. As the process of mind working on materials unfolds over time, and the strips are constantly changed and reconfigured, a kind of coherent rhythmic form emerges as a counterpoint to the chaos.”

William Rosen,(2005) Artist Statement, , Available from: > ( Viewed 4/2/07)

Samuel Beckett


Samuel Beckett
«Quad I + II»

‘Quad’, the first in a series of minimalist experimental television plays made by Beckett in the 1980s for the broadcaster Süddeutscher Rundfunk, operates with a serial game involving the motional pattern of four actors, but equally accommodating four soloists, six duos, and four trios. Four actors, whose coloured hoods make them identifiable yet anonymous, accomplish a relentless closed-circuit drama. Once inside the square, they are condemned to monotonously and synchronously pace the respectively six steps of the lengthwise and diagonal lines it contains, in part accompanied by varying drumbeat rhythms. The mathematical precision and choreography is made possible by the exactness of the timing. Choreographic variation is confined to the number of performers, and the resultant changes in colour constellations. The middle of the square, which is marked by a dot, must always be bypassed on the left-hand side. In the course of the production, the feet leave behind faint traces on the diagonals of the white square. ‘Quad’ (here you see the first version) is, for all its reduced ness, the most dramatic of Beckett’s last teleplays. The playwright also shot a black-and-white version with four figures dressed identically in white and acting to the beat of a metronome.


Rudolf Frieling, Samuel Beckett, QuadI +II, available from: )>viewed 16/2/07



Dr. Christa-Maria Lerm Haye,C104 article, 2003, Nauman .. Beckett … Beckett . Nauman: the necessity of working in an interdisciplinary way1, available From: > viewed 15/2/07


Bruce Nauman has taken much from Beckett, who himself was very aware of issues within the visual arts. Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes explores the links between the two creative intellects.

[…] the expression that there is nothing to
express, no desire to express, together with
the obligation to express

Samuel Beckett, Aspen 5&6, Section 3

When creating Slow angle walk (Beckett walk) in 1968, Bruce Nauman was a young and as yet far from successful American artist pioneering the use of video – or was he just bored in his studio, pondering the futility of creating anything in an empty, white space? The feeling of inevitable failure he found mirrored in Samuel Beckett’s Watt. For his video he therefore chose to adopt the demeanour of some of Beckett’s characters: he did not bend his knees, but held his trunk forward at a right angle, while retracing his steps repeatedly. The viewer’s perspective is also affected, as the camera was placed on its side. Nauman performs his walk within the confines of the square field which the static camera shows us.

Having written Film in 1963, Beckett himself created a work for a television camera in 1982, Quad: four actors shuffle in a choreographed manner around a square in an empty room, which they enter and leave through a curtain serving as the background.

Although Nauman (born 1941) belongs to a younger generation and different (American) culture from Beckett (born 1906), their engagement with each other’s media and motifs could be called reciprocal inspiration. The question pursued here, however, is not so much whether Beckett knew of Nauman’s work on him and was inspired by it, but what such a complicated relationship between literature and the visual arts can tell us. Some theoretical aspects will thus be presented briefly towards the end.

Nauman is innovative within the context of visual art by using a relatively new technique, video. That Watt inspired him is clear, but he was also very probably affected by plays such as Endgame and Happy Days, in which the characters’ physical disabilities give expression to a human inability to act. The writer is apparently Nauman’s source of inspiration in the area of imagery or motif.

In terms of medium, Beckett, on the other hand, used the opportunities presented to him in Quad for others to film his work, which remains largely stage-based, as is shown by his having a curtain and using actors in identical clothing. Therefore, Beckett, who knew a great deal about visual art, does not seem to have changed his genre fully. He did not actually create a work, which could only be understood with reference to the History of Art. Television was, moreover, a medium which was already well known to artists. For example, Gerry Schum’s Television Gallery was broadcast in the Netherlands in 1971.

During documenta X, 1997, Beckett’s Quad was, however, shown within a visual-art context (and that of Ireland, as the monitor stood opposite James Coleman’s slide projection entitled Connemara Landscape). This would indicate that, at least retrospectively, it can be interpreted as a film or video work or a performance recorded in such a way. The borders between the genres seem to have shifted somewhat further for the different context and starting point (on Beckett’s part and that of the visitor to the documenta expecting visual art) almost not to be noticed any more. Is the distinction between the genres then obsolete? Has it any importance for an artist’s choice of strategy?

Beckett has approached an ‘un-literary’ silence in several works, be it the white noise-like waterfall of language in Not I, the solitary “sssh!” in Film or the shuffling in Quad. His later work came to rely less on ‘literary’ aspects and more on visual and even musical aspects like this shuffling and the ‘percussion’ in Quad I (or Quadrat 1&2, since both versions were filmed in Germany and were titled in German for the Suddeutscher Rundfunk). Quad II is, in typical Beckettian manner, once again a reduction of means, an even sparser piece. The percussion and changes to the lighting were removed and the whole piece was transposed into black and white.

I would argue that the choreographic aspect of Nauman’s Slow angle walk (Beckett walk) is even more appropriately ‘Beckettian’ than Beckett’s own later piece. While the actors in Quad shuffle around a focal point – although this seems to be shunned in Quad II – there is still a stabilising centre. Nauman’s movements are more peripheral and seemingly random, thereby not affirming a spatial anchor, while still retaining the repetitive aspect. Could this distrust of a centre be a result of the visual artist’s even greater reliance on space, even in comparison with the stage-aware playwright, who nevertheless works from a textual background?

Nauman has continued to work on the darker side of life. His videos show falling clowns, spinning heads screaming “Anthro/socio” (reminiscent of Not I) and stylised violence in a domestic setting (Violent incident, 1986), which can easily be compared to Lucky and Pozzo’s exchanges in Waiting for Godot. Nauman’s drawings and titles often include wordplay like the anagram DEATH HATED, HATED DEATH, 1974. He thus still shows a clear interest not only in ‘Beckett’s’ subject matter, but also in language itself. He makes use of that aspect of a visual artist’s practice, which can be called literary, while reducing the ‘visual’ often to a minimum, relying for example only on very simply and even crudely sketched outlines in his drawings. These incidentally resemble Beckett’s doodles on manuscripts, especially Watt, where there are words in capital letters, arranged in squares together with their anagrams.

The noise of Nauman’s Anthro/socio would also indicate a move away from a distinctly visual preoccupation. It is hardly bearable for the visitor and plays as much on the nerves of the viewer as Beckett stated Not I should function. Even in his early work, Nauman employed ‘musical’ means – interestingly combined with a linguistic interest. In Violin tuned D.E.A.D., he plays the violin, without his head being visible, in the black-and-white video. What he plays is the cacophony of the notes d, e, a and d played in succession. Only the title will tell the viewer why he or she is subjected to such ‘musical torture’. Silence itself was the topic when Nauman created a Concrete tape recorder piece in 1968. He made sure that the tape was on a loop and thus playable if plugged in. But nothing would be heard and not much – apart from a concrete cube and cable with plug – can be seen. This seems to be a final tape, Nauman’s not Krapp’s Last Tape.

There really are remarkable coincidences in Beckett’s and Nauman’s preoccupations. Even that reluctant symbol of hope, the tree in Waiting for Godot, appears in Nauman’s work – but once again with a telling difference: Tree standing on three shoulder points, 1967, appears to be related to that famous tree from Beckett’s play, in fact so much so that the appearance of anthropomorphic shapes at its base (shoulder points) would almost amount to locating God(ot) in this tree as much as the single leaf appearing in the play does.

While Beckett and Nauman do share a vaguely existentialist outlook on life, the conclusion one is to draw is that the notion of futility and exhaustion is in the first instance a reflection on the condition of their own art form, i.e., the genre each has departed from in their career. It seems that, when trying to show failure, exhaustion and the impossibility of being affirmingly creative, this would first relate to the means of an art form with which one has occupied oneself for a long time. The last straw as it were, the ultimate possibility (despite all impossibilities) of creating something is then provided by another art form. This appears to be fresher and to include newly available tools.

The point at which Beckett’s and Nauman’s practices converge is performance – a term used in visual art and music (one could think of John Cage’s work on silence, 4’33”, 1952), as well as the theatre. While composers and playwrights have always had performance at their disposal as a matter of course, in the History of Art, ‘theatrical’ and ‘literal’, as well as, of course, ‘literary’ approaches were shunned in the middle of the twentieth century by the then prevailing high-Modernist approach. Subsequently, Nauman and other artists in the 1960s rebelled against having to remain within the close confines of what modernist artistic practice was made out to be. The energy which the visual artist’s new (and by definition interdisciplinary) performance genre generated for all arts at the time seems to have informed the playwright’s performance in turn.

Furthermore, in criticism – to put this very briefly – the focus has moved from those preoccupations in the 1960s to what was called the ‘linguistic turn’ in the 1970s. Here, the focus was the structures of signifiers in any context. Everything, not just language in a more limited sense, was termed a text and thus differences between the genres appeared to be less important. Anything within culture could be ‘read’ and – later again – deconstructed, in order to expose ‘subtexts’, etc. From this historical point of view alone it appears that Art Historians would be well advised to be familiar with approaches to texts, approaches still largely at home in and developed by literary scholars.

Recently (in the 1990s), a “performative turn”2 has modified and complemented earlier findings. This change in research subjects and procedures seems to me to echo what has been found here: a turn towards performative strategies in Beckett’s and Nauman’s works, as well as an interest in silence, a forfeiting of the nicely finished product. A tension can be observed between textuality in literary and visual genres and this performative drive. Materiality and mediality, play and spectacle, as well as nonart phenomena like rituals, dances, games, etc., have entered the centre of attention in cultural terms. This again requires new kinds of interdisciplinary co-operation. Theatre studies and anthropology seem to take a lead, although the History of Art could very well claim expertise, especially when looking at the recently published first two volumes of Aby Warburg’s collected writings (he died in 1928). For the nonwestern world a performative sense of identity has long been noticed. Regarding this performative turn, European and North American culture appear to have joined the rest of the world – and this not only in Warburg’s estimate, but widely acknowledged. (Coincidentally, Ireland could be at the forefront in taking account of this performative nature of culture, as monumental artworks have traditionally been of lesser importance than Gaelic games, wakes, music sessions and storytelling.)

From the perspective outlined, interdisciplinary approaches are more central than their still often-marginal position in criticism would lead one to believe; they are to be included in a genre’s history as something which is necessitated by the state of affairs within that genre. While the historic distinctions between the arts have enabled artists to continue to create, they do not present barriers which interpreters should not dare to cross. Their existence as historical givens may be a point of contention so strong that rebelling against it can keep even the most exhausted, misanthropic and pessimistic artist producing. The borders between the arts are thus all-important and simultaneously null and void.

Dr. Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes is Government of Ireland Post-doctoral Fellow in History of Art at University College, Dublin, and author/curator of a forthcoming book/exhibition on ‘Joyce in Art’ at the RHA, Dublin.

Some valuable work has been done on the Beckett/Nauman relationship, most notably Beate Kleinert-Engel’s MA thesis, University of Cologne, 1993, unpublished. An excellent exhibition (with a comprehensive catalogue) was shown in Vienna in 2000, but unfortunately not in Ireland. Michael Glasmeier, Christine Hoffmann et al. (eds.), Samuel Beckett Bruce Nauman, Exhib. Cat., Kunsthalle Wien, 4th February – 30th April 2000, Vienna 2000. The present author was one of the selectors of the interdisciplinary PictureBook project initiated by the Arts Office and Public Library Service of Carlow County Council. This text grew out of her choice of Beckett’s Quad for that project.

1The format of the title is borrowed from Beckett’s own essay on Dante .. Bruno … Vico . Joyce in: Our Exagmination round his Factification of Work in Progress, London 1929.

2See, e.g., Erika Fischer-Lichte, Vom “Text” zur “Performance”: Der “Performative Turn” in den Kulturwissenschaften, Kunstforum International, Vol. 152, 2000, pp. 61-63


Article reproduced from CIRCA 104, Summer 2003, pp.47-50.


Bruce Nauman: Concrete Tape Recorder Piece,1968, concrete, tape recorder, tape, 30.5 x 61 x 61 cm; photo A. Burger, Zurich; courtesy Flick Collection


Empty hands, silent mouths – installation art, Juan Munoz, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Massachusetts, Ann Wilson Lloyd, Art in America, 1996

Munoz’s installation in the temporary exhibition gallery, a small white cubic space separated from the museum proper was surrounded by the Gardner’s wealth of out-of-context columns, balconies, decorative flooring, etc., Munoz devised a presentation of the utmost simplicity, one that specified little but suggested much. He fastened on a work probably bypassed by most visitors–an exquisite little drawing in the richly detailed style of a Persian miniature, attributed to Gentile Bellini. Portrait of a Seated Turkish Scribe or Artist, ca. 1479, depicts in profile a richly robed and turbaned man seated on the floor, tablet on lap, and pen in hand, seemingly mesmerized by the blank page in front of him. Munoz responded to the image in two separate but related manifestations: a photographic narrative published in the exhibition catalogue, and a sculpture and drawing installation titled Portrait of a Turkish Man Drawing. In the gallery, he placed a cast-bronze three-dimensional version of Bellini’s Turkish scribe, roughly half life-size, its surface treated with silver nitrate to create a gunmetal finish. The figure sat on the floor, its back turned to entering viewers, facing and so close to a back gallery wall that visitors had difficulty getting a full, frontal view of it. The statue’s hands, though placed in positions corresponding to those of Bellini’s drawn figure, were empty; the tools of his trade were missing and he stared intently at empty air–an artist contemplating the void. The figure also had his back to eight black oil-stick drawings mounted on the wall. These depicted disembodied mouths, closed or slightly open. Another mouth drawing hung just outside the gallery. Each mouth, roughly twice life-size, floated in an expanse of white paper, under glass rimmed with a stark black frame–an elegant treatment. The nine silent mouths may have connoted both the futility of language and the multitudinous voices lost within these premises. On the other hand, perhaps they represented another parody. In the Gardner collection is John Singer Sargent’s elegant, but oddly smudge-mouthed portrait of Mrs. Gardner, a painting that allegedly took Sargent nine frustrating attempts to complete. It is one possible story among many in the library of images.

Findartickles, 1996-2004, empty hands, silent mouths – installation art, Juan Munoz, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Massachusetts, Ann Wilson Lloyd, Art in America,1996 COPYRIGHT Brant Publications, Inc, 2004, COPYRIGHT Gale Group, available from:> viewed 7/3/2007


Francis Bacon’s position on the existence of void and its nature has been mostly studied with regard to his views on the atom. This approach is undoubtedly right, but it disregards further topics related to Bacon’s account of void, namely the world system and the transmutation of bodies. Consequently, a more comprehensive study of Bacon’s view on vacuum seems desirable where all the contexts are taken into account. To address this desideratum, the present paper examines Bacon’s different views on vacuum drawing attention to the various contexts of the discussion. It also gives an evaluation of the arguments put forward in support of his positions. The first section presents a reconstruction of Bacon’s consecutive positions and the reasons for his changes of mind. The second section lists the experimental facts traditionally cited in debates about vacuum and Bacon’s interpretation of these. The final section evaluates the role that these experimental facts played in Bacon’s arguments. As a result, it is shown that Bacon fits entirely into the general pattern of the early seventeenth century. Empirical arguments by themselves had little value for solving the question of the void; it was also necessary to have a formerly established theory.

Silvia Manzo,2003, The arguments on void in the seventeenth century: the case of Francis Bacon, Cambridge University Press , Published online by Cambridge University Press 11Mar2003 , © 2003 British Society for the History of Science, available from:> viewed 13/3/07

The Nonexistent Knight

An empty suit of armour named Agilulf is the hero of this witty parody of medieval knighthood in the form of a tale told by a nun. A challenge to his honor sends Agilulf on a search through France, England, and North Africa to confirm the chastity of a virgin he saved from rape years earlier. The knight is perfect in every respect. He is equivalent to other knights, as he is just an empty space in a suit of armour. He is a void solid as matter, alive and full of energy as a human being.

Italo Calvino ,The Nonexistent Knight , 1959, translation by Theodore Ioannides, Kastaniotis publications 1999, Athens , Greece.

VOID: walking with Ulysses 1
by Susan Sakash

For VOID, Robert Ladislas Derr, whose video/performance pieces often echo the preoccupations of conceptual artists such as Vito Acconci and Lucas Samaras, sought to engage Guy Debord’s “society of the spectacle”. Rather than adopting the role of spectator, Derr attempted to become the spectacle himself. In Derr’s own words:

Reflecting my surroundings, the mirrors created my void as I disappeared in the reflections from the city … However, the reflections also created my presence … the suit did more than emphasize my absence and presence, and it made me a spectacle.

For Debord, the spectacle was “the autocratic reign of the market economy” and the colorful but empty gestures of those enlisted to divert attention from this accumulation of power. Correspondingly, Derr’s suit of mirrors, dancing in the midday light, served to distract viewers from the subtly concealed video cameras he had installed inside mirrored boxes mounted from his shoulders. Like a media circus which reinforces the status quo it is meant to question, the actual spectacle of Derr’s person is absent from the project’s end product, namely the front and rear video footage recorded on his walks. Here, VOID becomes a subtle inversion of the domination of the spectacle: the ridiculous metaphor of the mirrored suit is but a means towards an end.

What is the end, then, that Derr had in mind? In pre and post event statements alike, Derr was preoccupied with the exploration of self through interaction and engagement with the other. He sought to render his own body as a kind of document of the city, exploring the patterns of habits and chance that lend shape to the specific life flow of a city. Again in Derr’s words:

The walk becomes a study into psycho geography, where the geographic features of a city create similitude in daily life. The videos … reflect my physical experience as I for example, step off the curb to cross the road at relatively the same time each day. My four-day repetitive walk mimics the routine of life.

Coinciding with the habitual patterns of city dwellers is the uncertainty of unanticipated encounters and discoveries: unknowns that add color and variety to our lives.

Derr’s footage is testament to this interplay of repetition and surprise. As he travels the same route for four consecutive days at the same hour each day, the sights and basic patterns of the traffic may be similar but it is the particulars that demand attention. A man distractedly eating an apple at a traffic light, the impromptu dance performance of an overweight teen, a graphic oral display by a woman leaning out a pub – it is the “other” who replaces the artist as the director and actor of the unfolding drama. This celebration of minor characters, and the coincidence of habit and chance, emerge as central concerns for the artist, and were also omnipresent throughout Joyce’s writing of Ulysses.

Derr’s project, like many of the other participating components of WrRd, was careful to avoid responding to Joyce in a way that could be boiled down to mere mimicry of Ulysses. Specifically the path Derr chose to follow during VOID was not a literal retracing of any one character’s travels during the Wandering Rocks chapter but rather a collection of movements and journeys. The parameters he set for himself before arriving in Dublin also allowed Derr’s cameras to capture the contradictory elements of contemporary Dublin which lay subdued by the nostalgic, tourist-oriented, overtones of the ReJoyce Dublin festival. Rather, the footage poignantly evokes Guy Debord’s call in his Introduction to Critique of Urban Geography for artists to observe:

… the sudden change of ambiance in a street within the space of a few meters; the evident division of a city into zones of distinct psychic atmospheres; the path of least resistance which is automatically followed in aimless strolls (and which has no relation to the physical contour of the ground); the appealing or repelling character of certain places.

It is interesting to note that, if we follow the ideological ambitions as set out by the psychogeographists, video art evolved as a reincarnation of their efforts to subvert spectacular displays of those in positions of power. Its affordability and accessibility as a recording device led video to be embraced by the early generation of video artists as a tool offering liberation via the imitation of society’s habitual motions. The spectacle, they hoped, when turned back on itself, would implode.

At various stages throughout the development and realization of Derr’s project, I was reminded of the ubiquitous presence of the closed circuit cameras that monitor public space throughout Dublin City Centre. Long a source of inspired indignation for multimedia artists, “CCTVs”, and their Big Brother associations, have proliferated in Dublin alongside the influx of capital and construction. Both CCTVs and the concealed cameras of VOID are to be viewed as tools of surveillance, their footage serving as archival documents. Closed circuit cameras are installed in static locations, meant to safeguard private property by recording the movements and actions of the unawares. While Derr’s cameras were also recorders of the movements and actions of the unawares, their mobility canceled their effectiveness as agents of the spectacle.

What differentiated Derr’s surveillance technique from that of storeowners and city officials was that, in placing the cameras on his person, his surveillance of fellow pedestrians was no longer anonymous. Though the artist was physically absent on video, his authorial presence could always be intuited, evidenced in the faces and reactions of those recorded. Despite setting parameters, such as obeying all traffic symbols and refraining from conversation, to create the impression of objective documentation, Derr nevertheless produced a very human artwork.

Derr ended each day’s performance of VOID on a small bridge crossing the lower canal. Solitary and stationary at last, the artist stood facing west, eyes still focused on the horizon. Meanwhile the footage captured, in its closing moments, images of the canal’s mirrored surface. Though this scene retains its familiar composition, one is acutely aware that the water flowing beneath is, like the city it courses through, in a state of flux. The waters wink back at the cameras, recording their own ephemeral impressions at the edge of a historic city.

VOID has influenced Derr’s current video performance project American Sites. A multi-year research project, American Sites explores issues of place in the landscape, as a selected and constructed text. Wearing four cameras capturing four simultaneous views of the cardinal directions, Derr will investigate approximately thirteen geographic places across the US that experienced a significant event in U.S. history. Tracing the routes of Paul Revere’s ride through Boston and President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas, American Sites will record and retrace past events infused with historic and personal memory. Like VOID, Derr’s physical person will be visually absent, however the four-parameter views will still pick up the presence of his body in motion, thus creating and reinforcing the void. (SusanSakash,VOID:walkingwithUlysses1,23/Mar/2005)

View Quicktime movie clip provided for trAce by Robert Ladislas Derr. Please be patient while movie loads.

Coinciding with the habitual patterns of city dwellers is the uncertainty of unanticipated encounters and discoveries: unknowns that add color and variety to our lives.


Robert Ladislas Derr:

Guy-Ernest Debord, The Society of the Spectacle:


Generative Psychogeography:

networked_performance, Viewed>

Bill Viola.

He is one of the few contemporary Video artists who explores the medium both conceptually and sensually, rather than using it as a narrative document or film substitute. Through dramatic use of space, his installations function less as concrete works and more like enveloping, temporal environments aimed at creating visceral experiences for the viewer — sort of like Happenings with a rewind button.

Viola explores all the thematic “biggies”: changing concepts of time and space, life and death, nature and culture, the material and the spiritual.

“The Crossing” (1996), one of Violas most renowned works, is an exploration of transience. The piece features Viola emerging from a black void, growing larger as he walks towards the camera. When he finally stops, he suddenly bursts into flames. The video begins again, repeating Violas approach but this time depicting him being crushed by a torrent of water from above. Solid, material existence is destroyed by violent elemental forces, making life seem fragile, ephemeral, and transient. At the same time, the repetition in the piece suggests rebirth, growth, and development. Clearly, Viola doesn’tt bother to conceal his themes with enigmas, everything is more or less explicit. However, thematic intentions are not the priority; the enveloping experience informs the work’s meaning.

The violent annihilation of a human figure by the opposing natural forces of fire and water is projected simultaneously on the front and back of a double-sided screen. One side, a man approaches from a long distance in slow motion. He finally stops and stands still. A small flame appears at his feet and quickly spreads to consume his entire body. At the same time on the other side, the man approaches, stops, and a trickle of water begins pouring down on his head from above. It soon becomes a raging torrent that completely inundates his body. When all finally subsides, he has completely disappeared , small flickering flames on a burnt floor and a few lingering drops of water falling from above are all that remain.

Bill Viola,viewed from






Pollock’s style had been developing along abstract lines along with artists such as De Kooning, Franz Kline and Mark Rothko. Abstraction is non representational art where shape, line and colour define the painting in a similar way to that in which musical notes define a symphony.

Abstract Expressionism is characterized by a lack of representation and by an emotional approach to concept and execution. The movement is often called “The New York School” or “action painting”. Its art results from the fusion of various influences, notably surrealism, synthetic cubism, and neoplasticisim. Pollock’s early abstract style is seen in “The She-Wolf” (1943) and “Eyes in the Heat” (1946). His technique, which for several years involved the dripping and spattering of paint upon the surface rather than the conventional mode of brushing. By 1947 Pollock started to experiment with all-over painting, a labyrinth of lines, splatters, and paint drips from which emerged the great “drip” or “poured” paintings of the next few years. “Number 1 (Lavender Mist)” (1950) is one of his most beautiful drip paintings, with its intricate web of oil colors mixed with black enamel and aluminum paint. In Pollock’s paintings the elements of intuition and accident play a large and deliberate part, that being one of the major contributions of Abstract Expressionism, which had found its own inspiration in Surrealism’s psychic automatism. At the same time, however, Pollock relied on his skills acquired by years of practice and reflection. (Pollock, Jackson : 1912 – 1957, biographical information, Copyright 2000., viewed>


In front of the giant blank space, he proposes to fill.


Jim Jarmuhc uses in his film works the’ feeling’ of emptiness…


In Jarmuch’s films the present of ‘emptiness’ is obvious, for example in most of his movies one of the characters standing somewhere without saying anything. Lost in deep thoughts. In ‘broken’ flowers, the main character, Murray, is like he is ‘falling asleep’ in whole movie. He has an ‘empty’ life and his character seems completely blank.

Dead man :

So beautiful pictures, such poetry in every single one of them. Hypnotic black and white scenes , music that takes you down the other side.
It is the unconscious trip of one man to death, slowly descending to another level, deeper into nature. Alternatively, is he already dead and is not aware of it? Rivers, trees, animals and spirits to guide him along the way. This is a trip to self-knowledge, a hallucination, sweet and slow resignation from needs and senses.
Very rarely does a film come alive with a sense of poetry. Blake (Depp) is dead (either the real poet or the character of the same name here) and this is his passageway into a new life (led by his Angel, Gary Farmer); that Blake’s empty life is being wakened by a wise man (the Indian, still Gary Farmer); or that Blake is America’s violent transition out of a dreamlike Civil War and into the 20th century.

The plot :

William Blake is an accountant who travels deep into the west of America to the frontier town of Machine to take up a job with a metal company. He travels on the train for many days but when he arrives he is told that his job has been given to another man. Not sure what to do with himself he gets involved with a girl when her boyfriend, Charles, returns home to find her. He kills her and Blake is forced to kill him in return. He flees the town but collapses only to wake with the Indian Nobody nursing him and telling him he is dead. With a bounty on his head, Nobody leads Blake to the water where he will cross to the next world.

Nobody = “no body”. A further indication that he is of the spiritual world.

( katreftis magazine, 1996,second edition,interview with Jim Jarmuch,Egokeros publications 1996, Athens)

ENUMA ELISH,THE EPIC OF CREATION,L.W. King Translator(from The Seven Tablets of Creation, London 1902) viewed from

THE FIRST TABLETWhen in the height heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;
Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven,
Lahmu and Lahamu were called into being…
Ages increased,…
Then Ansar and Kisar were created, and over them….
Long were the days, then there came forth…..

Hymns from the Rig Veda viewed from>

The non-existent was not; the existent was not at that time. The atmosphere was not nor the heavens which are beyond. What was concealed? Where? In whose protection? Was it water? An unfathomable abyss?

G.E.R. Lloyd,early Greek science: Thales to Aristotle, ancient culture and society series, W. W. Norton & Company; New Ed edition (March 1974).


Empedocles accepts Parmenides’ view that ultimately there is no generation or destruction; what is, is and cannot come into being or perish. Frs. 11, 12 says,

Fools!—for they have no far-reaching thoughts—who deem that what before was not comes into being, or that anything can perish and be utterly destroyed. For it cannot be that anything can arise from what in no way is, and it is impossible and unheard of that what is should perish; for it will always be, wherever one may keep putting it. R. P. 165 a.

Empedocles also accepts Parmenides belief that there can be no void or emptiness in Being, since nothing cannot exist. In Frs. 13, 14, he says,

And in the All there is nothing empty and nothing too full. (13)

In the All there is nothing empty. Whence, then, could anything come to increase it? (14)

There is no emptiness in the All or Being, from which it follows that there could be increase in the All, for increase presupposes emptiness. (For there to be something “too full” implies that there is “empty space,” because there can be differences in the density of the four elements only if there is empty space). It follows that if there is no empty space there can be no increase in the four elements. Increase implies empty space into which more of the same could be added.

Stelios Sarros:
Stelios Sarros work is based on motion and on the essence of empty space. According to artist’s statement about his video work: ‘ As I fill in, all the familiar dimensions, I place you in time and transfer you to and fro to it. I can see you, as you walk, back and forwards in time. I study you when you leap, fall and revolve around me. As time goes by, I remove parts of your existence, but you remain there as a unique and totalitarian part of life. in space, time and emotion.’

Please, watch the video on :

This video work is based on Sarro’s sculpture work.

Video frames:

‘Jelly fish’ video synthesis and color mixture lead me to research the work of impressionists painters. Such as Turner and Monet.

Monet’s Impressionist works are small, informal in composition, freely and spontaneously painted, showing everyday scenes treated in bright colour. He summarized his aim of painting in 1926: “I have always had a horror of theories, my only virtue is to have painted directly in front of nature, while trying to depict the impressions made on me by the most fleeting effects”.

Senses of cinema , Stan Brakhage , by Brian Frye.

Viewed from


“Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, and eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of ‘Green’? How many rainbows can light create for the untutored eye? How aware of variations in heat waves can that eye be? Imagine a world alive with incomprehensible objects and shimmering with an endless variety of movement and innumerable gradations of color. Imagine a world before the ‘beginning was the word.”

With this opening paragraph to his seminal, manifesto Metaphors on Vision, Brakhage called into being an entirely new kind of cinema, where none had existed previously. Suddenly, an epistemological question loomed where none had before: What is the nature of the relationship between the moving image and the world, and how might it be represented? Brakhage intended to film not the world itself, but the act of seeing the world. The vast majority of Brakhage’s films are entirely silent. When you watch his films, you are asked to look, and look closely. Where his predecessors used metaphor as a means of relating images to one another, Brakhage’s films were themselves expressions of a single, great metaphor: visual perception.

These questions were by no means unique to Brakhage–they were in fact the catalyst for modern art–but he was the first to realize their implications for the cinema in a body of truly great works of art. In Anticipation of the Night (1958), one sees Brakhage’s first clearly articulated expression of his concept of the vision of the ‘untutored eye.’ While retaining the barest elements of narrative, in this work Brakhage entirely dispenses with the drama, in order to better capture raw experience. The ‘shooting script’ for the 40 minute film consists of a list of 16 concepts, rather than specific shots. Where his earlier films approximated dreams, Anticipation of the Night captures the dreamlike quality of raw experience, the world as it happens and is taken in and understood, willy-nilly.

“…in photographing this ashtray for instance, I’m sitting for hours to get 30 seconds of film. I’m sitting watching what’s happening and clicking a frame, and sitting and watching, and further than that, I had shot several hundred feet and they seemed dead. They didn’t reflect at all my excitement and emotion and feeling. They had no anima in them, except for two or three shots where the lens which was on a tripod, pressed against the desk, had jerked. Those were just random, but what gave me the clue. What I began doing was always holding the camera in hand. For hours. Clicking. Waiting. Seeing what the sun did to the scene. As I saw what was happening in the frame to these little particles of light, changing, I would shoot the camera very slightly”.

In recent years, Brakhage has focused largely on painting, scratching and drawing directly on the surface of the film strip itself. In eschewing photography altogether he focuses more directly on the bare act of perception. These films recall the paintings of abstract expressionists like Pollock, Klein, Motherwell and Rothko, and pack the same visceral punch. If you’ve ever stood in front of a great Rothko, and felt yourself falling in, the experience of watching the best of Brakhage’s hand-painted films is very similar.

I now no longer photograph, but rather paint upon clear strips of film – essentially freeing myself from the dilemmas of re-presentation. I aspire to a visual music, a ‘music’ for the eyes (as my films are entirely without sound-tracks these days). Just as a composer can be said to work primarily with ‘musical ideas,’ I can be said to work with the ideas intrinsic to film, which is the only medium capable of making paradigmatic ‘closure’ apropos Primal Sight. A composer most usually creates parallels to the surroundings of the inner ear–the primary thoughts of sounds. I, similarly, now work with the electric synapses of thought to achieve overall cathexis paradigms separate from but ‘at one’ with the inner lights, the Light, at source, of being human.

I researched the work of artists who have created installations using blackboards in order to express their concerns ,thoughts etc and also I looked into art works that have to do with colour black, as I will use a blackboard and a black chalk for the project…

…The mysterious side to black has appealed to artists. For Paul Klee it was not to be rationalised: “We do not have to understand the black, it is the primeval ground.” His comment recognised the archaic origins of black – back to the time when man had neither tamed fire nor used it to lighten the hours of darkness. One is reminded of the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), in which the enigmatic black monolith appears unexpectedly in the early days of humankind, and of the night that follows which induces overwhelming fear and existential uncertainty in the apes. Does black actually tap into our brain stem; is it part of our evolutionary experience? For all the progress in neurological research, there is still no answer. All we know for certain is that in our collective consciousness it can evoke a sense of helpless vulnerability.We talk of the Black Death, the black market and blackmail. It often connects to irrational things or those that refuse to submit to any system of cultural certainties.
…Black has repeatedly been associated with solid and geometric forms. The best known example dates back to the early seventeenth century in a page within volume one of Robert Fludd’s Utriusque cosmi maioris scilicet et minoris metaphysica (1617). The image – a black square – is presented in the context of a metaphysical iconography of the infinite. Each of the four sides of the square (slightly distorted so that it looks more like a rhombus) is marked with the same words: “Et sic in infinitum.” For Fludd, this image was nothing less than a representation of the prima materia, the beginning of all creation.

This mysterious sentiment has a connection with black that dates back to Aristotle – in the Greek language the roots of the word melancholy literally mean black bile. Following in Aristotle’s footsteps many centuries later, Robert Burton,  adopted the pseudonym Democritus Junior when he published his treatise The Anatomy of Melancholy in 1621. An investigation into the state of melancholy, its history, causes and potential remedies, it was a huge literary success – reprinted and enlarged five times during his lifetime and once posthumously. The above-mentioned celebrations of iconoclasm were not, however, always received without complaint, and conservative cultural critics repeatedly targeted the entirely black page in the first chapter of Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-1767), which is accompanied by the text: “Alas, poor YORICK!”

“Black is a force: I depend on black to simplify the construction… The Orientals made use of black as a colour, notably the Japanese in their prints. Closer to us, I recall a painting by Manet in which the velvet jacket of a young man with a straw hat is also expressed by a blunt, lucid black. Doesn’t my painting of the Marocains use a grand black which is as luminous as the other colours in the painting?

Read more at file:///C:/Users/%CE%A3%CF%84%CE%B5%CE%BB%CE%B9%CE%BF%CF%82/Desktop/artists/black_files/blackmoods.htm


This month, the National Gallery of Victoria opens an exhibition examining the connections between Beuys’ art and the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, titled Joseph Beuys & Rudolf Steiner: Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition.

The exhibition concentrates on the use of blackboard and chalk to communicate ideas and messages. Beuys and Steiner shared more than just a method or a medium however – they sought to change the world with their ideas.

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was an influential Austrian philosopher, scholar and educator. Well-known as the founder of anthroposophy, he is also credited with establishing biodynamic agriculture and Waldorf education, commonly known as Steiner education.

Steiner’s writings exerted a profound impact on Beuys, who is now regarded as one of the most important artists of the second half of the 20th Century. Beuys was fascinated with Steiner’s teachings on politics, economics and intellectual freedom.

The exhibition will feature some 40 blackboard drawings by Steiner, created as visual aids to his public lectures between 1919 and 1924, on loan from the Rudolf Steiner Archive in Switzerland.

It will also bring to Australia – for the first time – Beuys’ seminal work Richtkräfte (Directive forces), an installation of 100 blackboards created from public discussions held at the Institute for Contemporary Art, London in 1974. Using Steiner’s concept of ‘thought drawings’ Beuys used chalk on blackboard to communicate to his audience the basic principles of his theory of ‘social sculpture’ – freedom, direct democracy and sustainable economic forms – clearly reflecting the influence Steiner had on him.

Allison Holland, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the NGV, said: “the colour and movement of the drawings by these two artists are both engaging and thought provoking. Steiner and Beuys each used the unique mode of the blackboard drawing to explain their ideas to the public. Steiner created blackboard drawings in the 1920s to illustrate his public lectures, while Beuys adopted the format as an important element in his performances and interactions with audiences from the 1960s.”

The blurb,your source for Australian arts and entertainment news,2008,David Edwars , its not black and white,viewed from

Joseph’s Beuys. (German, 1921-1986). Untitled (Sun State). (1974). Chalk and felt-tip pen on blackboard with wood frame, 47 1/2 x 71 1/8″ (120.7 x 180.7 cm). Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (by exchange) and acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (by exchange). © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Untitled (Sun State) is one of Beuys’s Blackboard drawings, which were created during his lectures at educational institutions and museums. This drawing evolved during his participation in the public dialogue, “Art into Society, Society into Art” at The Art Institute of Chicago in 1974. Here Beuys demonstrates, with a thin looping line and verbal descriptions, the connections among myth, alchemy, astrology, anthropology, and the social and political sciences. The result is a work described by the artist as a kind of astrological chart embodying his ideas of the ideal state, in which democratic principles inform cultural life (freedom), law (equality), and economics (fraternity). It is a constellation delineating a structure for a harmonious social body, or, alternatively, a social sculpture—an evolutionary process whose goal is to “sculpt new models for the entirety of life.”


“If there is a truth,” said Malevich, “then only in abstraction, in nothingness.”
See more about it here :

Experienced “in flesh,” these formidable abstractions look “humanized”: slight wavings in texture and color, the crackled paint of the Black Square on white, the subtlest of whites upon off-whites, transport the viewer into a higher, supremely charged, inspirational state of mind.

Kazimir Malevich, Square, Study for the décore of Victory Over the Sun, Act 2, Scene 5, 1913
Pencil on paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Slate Museum of Theater and Music, St. Petersburg

Kazimir Malevich, Plane in Rotation, called Black Circle, 1915
Oil on canvas
31 1/2 x 31 1/2 inches
Private Collection, Courtesy Galerie Gmurzynska Zug

Nguyen Trung:

Artist mixes text, images in ‘blackboard’ paintings

HCM CITY —”Erasing marks you’ve put on a blackboard is denying them, but sometimes you will find poetic images in the traces they’ve left behind,” says artist Nguyen Trung, one of Viet Nam’s most well-known and respected abstract artists.

Trung’s latest work, now being shown at Galerie Quynh in HCM City, includes deceptively simple pieces that contain a mix of alphabets and scripts on a background that appears to be a real blackboard. But the black surface is actually acrylic paint on canvas.
Trung’s erasings reveal that the blackboard is not only a pedagogical device, but also a kind of palimpsest, a receptable of stories and texts from many generations, each erased by the next. His Blackboard paintings are made primarily with acrylic and oil stick, and some incorporate papier-mache and plaster.

see work with blackboards here


for this show, he offered an interconnected installation of blackboards, long strips of thin fabric and gaudy fishing lures. Dolla created the blackboards–there were seven of them, spaced around the gallery–with a paintlike product that simulates slate, allowing him to write out various phrases and math equations in chalk. Most of these were erased to the point of illegibility, though here and there a word or fraction survived.
Strips of loosely woven fabric were folded and glued onto the blackboards to form simple geometric shapes indicating houses or stars. Since each strip (there were four altogether) was used for two different designs on different blackboards, the space of the gallery was criss-crossed, at a height of about 6 feet, with bands of fabric. These bands of gauze are similar to Dolla’s “Tarlatanes” of the early 1970s, in which strips of fabric, their edges stained with color, were stretched and hung across vast spaces. The “Tarlatanes” have also shown up in recent paintings where they remain rolled up and perched on the top edge of the wooden support.

Noel Dolla at Meteo – Paris, France – Review of Exhibitions – Brief Article,Art in America,Raphael Rubinstein  July,1996.COPYRIGHT1996BrantPublications,Viewed from>





















4 thoughts on “artists whose work relates to my project

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  2. Hello!
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    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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