Void. That is all there is

February 6, 2023

Climbing up the spiral staircases of Notre Dame de Paris used to be a special experience 1. What made the climb on those narrow and steep staircases special? The view. The chimeras looking over Paris. The Eiffel Tour and Sacré-Cœur Basilica in the distance.

Now imagine a similar climb up a spiral staircase, except, what awaits you at the top is … nothing. Yes, nothing. Void. This is what Jiří Příhoda offers us in his exhibition Void. The staircase is not unique in its emptiness. A fellow visitor standing in front of a large exhibit made of wood and polystyrene wondered aloud, “where are the artworks”?

Jiří Příhoda’s Flood

This emptiness is not accidental. Jiří wants us to explore “the emptiness above, under, in front of, around and inside” the artworks. The artworks take up a lot of space. And they give us a lot of space. Space to think, to meander, to wonder. Space that we could fill with ourselves, with sounds, with silence. This space does not come with an instruction manual. Use it as you will.

This exhibition in Galerie Rudolfinum, was hosted in the same building in Prague that for many years has been a home for music concerts. The concert hall space is a sharp contrast to the exhibition. It is filled with music. The music of Dvořák and Smetana. Or Mozart. An atmosphere to listen carefully. Feel like coughing? Time them carefully, between two compositional pieces. A concert hall is not a space to use as you will.

Just as John Cage’s 4’33" shocked concert goers with silence, Jiří Příhoda’s exhibition shocks people with emptiness. Not because silence and emptiness are shocking by themselves. But because people expect to see something in an exhibition and to hear something at a concert. Silence and emptiness break away from this expectation. Silence and emptiness allow us to hear and see what we didn’t expect.

  1. https://web.archive.org/web/20220310220700/https://www.notredamedeparis.fr/visiter/voir-la-cathedrale/↩︎