Ruth Barker

Caesar: What is What is Not There?


In music, it has been suggested that each note exists with reference to the one preceding it, and with anticipation for that which will succeed it. In this way silence is an articulation of sound as well as a demarcation of sound’s absence, since silence frames sound as surely as sound frame silence.


In art, similarly, each work exists in relation to that which is made before it as well as that which will be made after it. If exhibited, each piece is therefore defined both by those other works that are adjacent to it and that which is not adjacent to it; that which is absent or undisclosed. In this way the spaces between works (as well as that which a work does not reveal) may become as loaded as the work itself, as that which the artist has chosen not to present becomes a subtext for that which they have.


The absent becomes a point of necessity in art if the ability to edit is regarded as a critical point of awareness in practice; the invisible in this case becoming that which gives the visible weight and sonority. In addition to this however, the quality of the absent when contained within a work becomes the explicit and intentional omission of revelation. The decision to incorporate the undisclosed within a work enables the visual to move towards the realm of the ineffable; the very absence of the visual becoming a tool to allow the work as a body to become more purely visual (i.e. to become something that cannot be equated by its verbal description).


The potential of absence (or silence, or invisibility) is more eloquent than its substitution because it contains within itself the simultaneous capacity for everything and nothing. In this way, every new work retains the possibility of perfection as long as it remains incomplete because its finality is absent while production is in progress.