The simplistic binary opposition pitting void—total emptiness, absolute silence, utter lack of form and absence of matter, ‘nothing’—against its supposed contrary, ‘something’: things, noise, concrete structure, fullness, the solid; is a bugbear of Western thought

This workshop seeks to understand, subvert, exploit and transcend that opposition in order to creatively use the relationship between what we see as emptiness and what we understand as substance. We will start with famous examples of the use of void: the “empty” canvases of Alphonse Allais and Robert Rauschenberg, BS Johnson’s use of empty space in novels, John Cage’s “4’33”, and the Japanese concept of Mã. The goal will be to end up viewing ‘emptiness’ as a creative medium just as important, complex and compelling as the well-fashioned words, marble or wood that void in the deepest sense defines. Participants will explore the concept in different media, shuttling between and emphasizing both sides of the paradigm in the process.

Image is by Alphonse Allais, titled Band of Grey Friars in a Fog.

George Michelsen Foy‘s 2011 book, Zero Decibels: The search for absolute silence, constitutes both a hunt for different kinds of void, and a meditation on how to achieve a better balance between various expressions of noise and silence. His latest non-fiction book: Finding North: How navigation makes us human, was published this summer by Flatiron/Macmillan. He’s the author of thirteen novels under “GF Michelsen” at University Press of New England, Bantam/Doubleday, Viking, Bastei Lubbe (Germany) and Editions Globophile (France). His long-form non-fiction has been published in Harper’s, Rolling Stone et al; short fiction with Apeiron, Notre Dame Review, Washington Square Journal, et al. Foy earned an NEA fellowship in fiction, lives in New York and New England, teaches writing at NYU and once walked backwards through the “Peter Pan” ride in Disneyland.