9Sept2012 S2: Light&Silence
When looking at Jomaira’s images, I was actually a little startled. Not because their image reflects a dimension of silence I seldom imagine, but because several years ago, I would have likely put up a very similar image of silence. What startled me was that I didn’t realize how my first-gut connotations of silence have shifted in recent years. Before, my initial thoughts and feelings of silence would have been ones that were associated with oppression, the inability to speak, absence, dark—concepts that I think are evoked when looking at their images. But recently, I often associate silence with more positive notions and less tension. Just as one example of how and why, I think of silence and light together and chose my photo accordingly. We often forget how remarkably silent light is given what it does. Light, unassuming and silent, has capabilities that range from giving us the capacity of sight, the dichotomy of day and night, and also life itself.
The relationship I notice between silence and light is the result of observations I made when I lived in rural Pennsylvania. In Lancaster county, there is just enough unobstructed sky and viscous enough humidity for sunlight to become suspended in mid-air, and the effect is air that can actually glow. This glow is a powdery, luminous brilliance and is closer to haze than fog in weight and perceptibility but seems more alive than either. This glow behaves and looks more like tornados gentle and billowy. This glow is what I thought to be sunlight no longer being the means to let us see, but itself being an object for our sight. I’d look to this on a daily basis and stare silently for a while because it was awe-inspiring and tranquil at the same time. I never mentioned this to anyone because I felt it to be an intimate experience between myself and the environment. I also never talked about this as I saw such a conversation falling flat fast (“Irene… don’t you see sunlight everyday?”).
Sunlight silenced me, and because instances like this are now a part of who I am, I now look to silence and being silenced with less hazard or lack. I’ve come to realize that being silenced does not always have to be associated with oppression or someone’s right to speech being taken away. There can be occasions when someone or something silences you in a way that allows you to self-reflect, listen, or just stand in awe. Examples of this can be mundane like listening in a class or doing yoga but is certainly not limited to such actions. The act of silencing and being silenced can be thought of in restorative, communal, contemplative ways.
With that being said, I emphasize that I do not deny that silence can be a void and repressive like the images mentioned by Jomaira. I think we would be hard pressed to find someone within our class who has not experienced being silenced in awful ways. Perhaps it is why I found it so important to start this off with mentioning her image and the connotations I associate with them. I don’t at all want to say that I have or should forget such negative sentiments. Rather, I want to say that I have layered enough experiences and thoughts over the ones evoked by Jomaira’s image that they are not the initial ones I now see instinctually.