The Sound of Silence

Leaving the busy Schöneberger Ufer behind, I enter the bright welcoming space of the Esther Schipper gallery. Relax! The spacious and sober space opens up all my senses. It is a perfect white cube, just as reduced and minimalistic as the art on display by Ceal Floyer.

Inhale. Exhale. No distraction

Except for a single tone wafting constantly through the gallery. This sound seems to be as monotonous as the long vertical line of small simple speakers that generate it. But the continuous tone creates the impression of an enduring silence. A silence that speaks, just like the filled emptiness on the opposite wall, in the middle of which hangs a piece of paper, folded and perforated in the center. Ceal Floyer titled her work Diptych – even though there is nothing to be seen. That’s not completely true: As the position of the paper on the wall is somehow neither loose nor straight, the gallery light fills the white surface with shadows. Oppositions dissolve in Floyer’s show, as they would in a peaceful mind.

And there was enlightment

Another opportunity for contemplation and mental liberation awaits me in the other room. A standard aluminum ladder leans against one wall. Almost all the steps are missing except the very top and the very bottom one – a Buddhist readymade. The work resembles one of those contradictory Zen tales, which are supposed to bring one to enlightenment. The same effect would be produced by “reading” Page 8680 of 8680, a sculpture made of stapled sheets of papers. The visible top one is, apart from the page number 8680, blank – of course. 

The more time I spend in Ceal Floyer’s retreat, the more I feel an urgent need to sit down in a meditation pose. I’m sure that the gallery assistant chatting on the phone wouldn’t mind. And I bet Ceal Floyer wouldn’t either. But I decide to return to daily life, strengthened by Floyer’s meditation camp. “Welcome,” she says to me through her last art piece, as I exit the gallery. It’s just a standard doormat, but Floyer has transformed it into art, simply by reversing the direction of the message on its surface. Om!

On view until August 27, 2011.