Installation view of Roman Ondák’s More Silent Than Ever (2006) at GB Agency, Paris
Courtesy GB Agency © Roman Ondák
Thus, it seemed that the history of modern art had reached its zero point when Marcel Duchamp presented a glass pharmacy phial filled with Paris air to an American collector in 1919, or when Kazimir Malevich painted his White on White composition in 1918, and two years later filled a room with, as one person noted, empty canvases “devoid of colour, form and texture” on the occasion of his first solo exhibition in Moscow. Yet in a 1968 article, critics Lucy Lippard and John Chandler could only observe that “the artist… has continued to make something of ‘nought’ 50 years after Malevich’s White on White seemed to have defined nought for once and for all. We still do not know how much less ‘nothing’ can be”. Thirty-five years later, Gabriel Orozco’s sole contribution to the ‘Aperto’ exhibition at the 1993 Venice Biennale consisted of an empty shoe box, eight years before Martin Creed notoriously won the Turner Prize partly for his installation Work No. 227: The lights going on and off at regular intervals. Nearly ten noughty years down the line, and shortly after a museum survey entitled ‘Voids: a Retrospective’ presented visitors with nine perfectly empty rooms, we are still none the wiser about “how much less ‘nothing’ can be”.