Kiera Faber, affiliated with Twin Cities Friends Meeting, Minnesota, a member of both our Steering Group (and also Membership Secretary) and the Working Group for these Creative Conversations, will present our seventh ‘Creative conversation’: 2 Dececember 2021: Kiera Faber, Drawing Silence in Art.
I consider myself a cultural Quaker, similar to Humanistic Judaism (https://shj.org/), where the rituals and cultural constructs of a particular religion strengthen a sense of community, purpose, and meaning. The rich practices of waiting and sitting in communal silence, valuing and speaking from personal truths, and not needing to follow a specific creed are the Quaker constructs I find affirming.
( more images to follow after Kiera’s talk).
The transcript of Kiera’s talk given on 2/12/21 follows:
Edited transcript of Kiera’s talk. Times almost match the audio recording! (about 40 seconds behind).
For the full-size images (as represented by the thumbnails below), see here: https://www.kierafaber.com/Drawing_Silence.html
00:00:37 Hello friends, welcome, it is lovely to be with you this evening for a Quaker meeting and creative conversation.
00:00:46 The inspiration for my creative conversation came from my experience of meeting for worship on Zoom and the sound paintings of Anne Truitt. After each image, I will pause.
00:00:57 So we have some silence, while looking at the art. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Truitt)
00:01:12 Anne Truitt made 14 monochromatic texture paintings on paper titled Sound.
00:01:18 These were the last work she created in her career.
00:01:21 The title Sound comes from an absence the artist felt as if someone had just left the room. She says quote. “I am surprised, what is left is sound, some kind of energy without name, more force, no name”, unquote. (https://news.artnet.com/art-world/anne-truitt-matthew-marks-1922834/amp-page)
00:01:38 I wonder if the Quaker experience of silence as an active and communicative phenomenon, as described by Richard Bauman and in his book “Let your words be few” could be could feel similar to Truitt’s Sound? (https://www.amazon.com/Let-Your-Words-Few-Seventeenth-Century/dp/1604941855)
00:02:03 Pete McBride photographed, and recorded naturally occurring sounds in remote places across our seven continents. This is an example from his recent monograph Seeing Silence: The Beauty of the World’s Most Quiet Places published in 2021. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/lauramanske/2021/09/17/seeing-silence-look-at-the-beauty-of-the-worlds-most-quiet-places/)
00:02:15 Seeing and hearing quiet spaces, valuing silence and the importance of preserving natural sounds are his intentions. Paying attention to the shape of sounds in silence. (See also: https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/natural-sounds-from-across-seven-continents-celebrate-earth-day-2021-04-22 Trevor)
00:02:27 Hearing open spaces, versus closed spaces. How does the sound of silence in Meeting for Worship on Zoom change in different places? How do we hear Meeting for Worship in our homes, versus our Meeting Houses?
How does light, sound, and silence get mapped in a still image?
00:03:02 Hans Haacke and his piece, Wide White Flow, which is currently being exhibited in Berlin at the Akademie der Künste. (https://www.adk.de/en/programme/?we_objectID=61384)
00:03:09 It is made, simply of electric fans, and white silk fabric. In person, you could hear the fans in the enclosed space, you could see the resulting movement of the fabric creating shapes and forms, as we sit together right now and look at the still image, (https://www.nothingtoseeness.de/de_DE/home)
00:03:27 we see sound waves visualized in the fabric as contrasting areas of darkness and lightness. To me, there is beauty and peaceful simplicity in the ever changing formation dark to light and light to dark. The darkness and the lightness embody sound and silence.
00:04:08 Photography is often called drawing with light as the light is required to create an image. The botanist Anna Atkins is considered one of the first female photographers and created Cyanotypes, or, as they are sometimes called, blueprints, of algae and various plants. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Atkins).
00:04:24 Cyanotypes are active in their stillness, as opposed to being stagnant. They are quiet, but they are not silent.
00:04:32 Although they are permanent archival prints, they fade when exposed to light. They require periods of darkness or hibernation to return to their brilliant blue hue.
00:04:59 Cyanotypes are wonderful because they can be done at home. As they are an inherently non-toxic process, you can create a large negative, place that negative over sensitized paper or fabric, expose the pair to UV sunlight, rinse them in a cool water bath and then dry on a rack.
To explore the connection between silence, light and darkness in Meeting for Worship, I created ten Cyanotypes on cotton, for you friends, for tonight’s evening especially. I chose fabric, as opposed to paper for its woven texture, symbolizing the complexities of individuals coming together for an interwoven and shared experience.
00:05:37 So this is an example of what I’m going to show you this evening.
00:05:42 This was created on my patio. This is the large negative for the next photograph I’m going to show you.
00:05:48 This print was exposed to UV light for about for about 15 minutes, and then rinsed in a cold water bath in my laundry room. I did all of these in the laundry room in my house so I had to be a little careful because it is chemistry, but nothing was harmed and everything I’m going to show you after this are my own creations for this evening.
00:06:10 I photographed intimate quiet moments in time, around, and inside my home. (Images as described below: https://www.kierafaber.com/Drawing_Silence.html)
00:06:17 One afternoon, while sitting for Meeting for Worship, the light that came through my window was so beautiful. And so I went and got this favorite plant of mine, which was given to me by my mother when my small miniature dachshund died.
00:06:31 As I was walking across the room, the plant fell and broke out of the pot. So I laid the remnants on this table of my grandmother’s and was still able to capture the beautiful beam of light that illuminated it.
00:06:43 No worries, the plant has survived, my husband replanted and it now has two new shoots of its own.
00:07:16 Secular everyday objects became infused with the power of silence, becoming almost sacred relics, taking on new significance.
00:07:25 I have a stained glass window in my kitchen that creates these beautiful network of shadows and lines on my kitchen counter and one afternoon the light was just so strong and so intense that it created this beautiful network of lines on a glass that my husband had left on the corner one afternoon.
00:08:06 I often attended to tiny details I might not have noticed otherwise during our Meeting for Worships on Zoom, such as this delicate visitor visiting my window, and this little bug actually sat on my screen window during Meeting for Worship one afternoon with Friends and kept me company for the full hour. And so when I look at this photograph today with fresh eyes. I think of these Friends. I think of us sharing that silence together, and that special moment in time.
00:08:56 I would notice a symphony of pattern and texture, simply found in grass, petals and rocks.
00:09:03 The light one late evening at dusk was so lovely, it was that type of pink light that we all know, and it was just so beautiful and so although you don’t see that pinkness in this photograph because it’s a blueprint, what you do see is the beautiful network of petals that had fallen from the tree in my front garden, and the petals nestling against the hard rocks on the right hand side.
00:09:55 I studied how light moves across a surface, the mundane becoming beautiful through darkness and light. The light invites us in, to experience silence. I attuned to the enveloping silence all around me, hearing my own silence and listening acutely to the ambient sounds around myself and and within my environment.
00:10:18 This picture to me epitomizes what I’m trying to say. As it is a kitchen sink drain. There’s even little bits of food debris left in there after the last wash-up. It’s not a pretty picture, but, through how light can make something so divine, – we have illumination in the center and the shadows encroaching on the sides and the beautiful network of lines creating patterns and such beautiful forms in the negative space.
00:11:10 This is my interpretation of a sound painting in conversation with Anne Truitt. It is simply a light pattern I noticed on one of my walls, during Meeting for Worship.
00:11:20 How can we move into the light through abstraction, find silence and quiet energy there?
00:11:33 What I think is so interesting in this photograph is the weave texture of the cotton really captures the texture that was on my wall. You can get a sense of the energy in this photograph. You have those white balls of light, almost like they’re jostling with the dark spaces around them. The energy of one forcing into the other and kind of setting up themselves and arranging themselves in this photograph.
00:12:18 I value our community of silence, the companionship and energy of being together in communal silence. To share silence with one another is a gift. It can bring us closer to ourselves, and thus closer to one another. A place for the true self in stillness, where we are the most calm. At times for me, in Meeting for Worship on Zoom I often felt lonely. Light filled this void, becoming a companion and friend in my silence.
00:12:47 Meeting ourselves on Zoom has left us without a collective ambient sound, we are alone in our own boxes of ambient sound, and focussed silence.
00:12:58 This plant was very special and dear to me. It was given to me by my mother, for my husband’s and my anniversary a few years ago, it has long since perished. This photo is immortalizing this plant.
00:13:12 It used to live in my studio. At a certain time of day, the light, which is coming in as this beautiful focussed beam which you can see in the background and would illuminate the leaf in the foreground which is illuminated with that light. I just loved how I could see the movement of light throughout the day, in this image.
00:13:58 Our blanket of silence in Meeting for Worship offers us a chance to hear anew. This reminds me of is when I attended the Twin Cities Friends Meeting in the evening.
We had the window open, it was a hot summer’s day and there was no air conditioning, and I could hear children playing basketball at the same time when I was sitting in Meeting for Worship the naturalness and the joy of their sounds blended with our experience of communal silence. And I also had this lovely experience on Zoom, where my husband will be teaching at the same time, laughing and just having a wonderful time with his students in the other room, and his joy, would transfer up to me while I was sitting in Meeting for Worship so I would laugh sometimes, in response to his laughter and smile in response to thinking of him smiling, then wonder how that got translated across the ether, to Friends from so far away, if my smiles would have got transferred into their experiences, their Meeting for Worship on Zoom.
00:14:53 I love the naturalness of being human, embedded in our Quaker practice.
00:14:59 This photograph, to me, is inherently a simple picture of light and darkness and to me feels like a very Quaker photograph.
00:15:36 Attending Meeting for Worship at different times throughout the day, allowed me to pay attention to the difference between natural and artificial light. How the light fell or moved across a quiet space, if it felt warm or cool.
The beautiful dichotomy between the lightness and darkness, and the softness in shadows.
00:15:55 This picture especially encapsulates that for me.
I feel like the darkness, and the lightness are equal, and I think they represent how sometimes, in our lives we need to be in different places, either in darkness or in light, and I feel the softness of the shadow can hold us in dark places, and the light can be what we need at certain times in our lives as well. In this photograph, they’re moving into each other, the dark into the light and the light into the dark.
00:16:41 Can we hold silence and acute listening inside our hearts and minds from our Quaker practice, so we don’t need to travel to quiet distant places to find our silence, our true selves?
00:16:54 I think of silence as giving us the space to see darkness and light, in all its rawness, as if seen for the first time – anew.
00:17:04 This is the stained glass window I was referencing to in a previous photograph that left that beautiful network of lines on the kitchen counter.
00:17:12 I see this every day, as it is in my kitchen and these plants that were given to us, when our Dachshund died and they have long since perished. And I just have not been able to say goodbye to them. So they’re in this photograph.
00:17:29 And those three pines you see in the back have been my anchor during the pandemic. I see them from three different windows. I have looked at them extensively during Meeting for Worship. I love their stillness, their silence, and their peacefulness in their silence. https://www.kierafaber.com/Drawing_Silence.html
00:18:13 Friends should we ponder some questions with one another?
00:18:18 How do we experience silence differently in various spaces?
00:18:25 How does silence transform our perceptions of the everyday, the mundane?
00:18:33 Do we sometimes need to hibernate in darkness, before we can face the light anew, similar to Cyanotypes?