being silent, Yuji Kawasima

narrator Yuji Kawasima
term being silent
affiliated institution Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

To remain silent, to stand still, to strategically refuse to react, to disdain other’s wills for conflict. This proposal suggests “silence” as a critical and creative tool to unveil other forms of subjectivation. Here, to be in silence doesn’t necessarily mean an irresponsible negation to participate in the public debate or an incapacity to join it. It doesn’t represent the result of being oppressed, of being silenced, neither. On the contrary, it wants to be a conscious method of self-preservation, reaffirmation of one own’s agenda and an attempt to revise the way we articulate and/or envision our relationships. It is a sort of silence that breaks the binary differentiations between activity/passivity, individual/collective, useful/useless, life/death that seem to govern not only this restless and hard-to-define moment but paradoxically some of our usual resistance forms as well. Forms that, sadly, are constantly being co-opted by the logic of hyper-productivity, self-exploitation, mandatory visibility and the “universal” intelligibility.


By taking some examples from past and present activist and cultural manifestation —such as Act-Up slogans and die-ins, Mercedes Villalba’s Fervent Manifesto, scenes from the Brazilian movie Bacurau or the Ocean Vuong’s novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous— this presentation aims to speculate on “being silent” as a methodology conceived by historically attacked subjectivities. Far from establishing a mere programmatic defense of “doing nothing” — which seems to be a privileged and trendy claim of the progressive Global North—, here we prefer to raise questions more than to define actions: Couldn’t this refusal to take action towards other's expectations represent a mean of coming up with one’s own subjectivity? Couldn’t be this negation to respond to the oppressor a way to forge alliances among those who share this same meaningful silence? Wouldn’t it be a fugacious chance to find some protection from systemic violence and, consequently, to establish a temporality where it starts being possible to cultivate a future? If the silence won’t save us, can the secret do so?