23 Chunks of Being:
Gregory Grieve’s Experiments in Transmitting Pure actuality
19. Reflections on the Crack of Silence (2022)
Installation — mixed media
Photographs by Peter F. Delany 2022(C)
Like many in their later careers, Grieve’s interests have transformed from aesthetics and ontology to ethics. Or maybe it is just the historical moment we are all living through. We have all seemed to find ourselves in interesting times.In this piece, Grieve wants to make clear that evil grows in the shadows that emerge from the lack of communication between us. This is not a shadow of darkness but one of self-reflection. We don’t see our lack because much of communication these days is a crack of silence created by our belief that we see the entire world, but we only look at an infinite haze of reflections for our own narcissism refracted back at us. We only see, we only hear, we only feel what our own communication bubble filters into our house of mirrors.
Grieve argues that this crack of silence leads to evil, especially as it pertains to online communities, such as the Qanon conspiracy theory. Actual evil is not charismatic like the powers of a supervillain, but prosaic and humdrum and is situational and banal. As the political philosopher Hannah Arendt reports on the war crimes trial of Adolph Eichmann—the Nazi operative responsible for organizing the transportation of millions of Jews and others to various concentration camps in support of the Nazi’s Final Solution— “the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil” is that worst evil is “terribly and terrifying normal.” Actual evil is also situational. Contrasting with traditional perspectives on virtue, the situational theory of evil argues that people are much more determined by their surrounding context than their innate character. Investigations such as the Milgram experiment and the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment illustrate the relative ease with which ordinary, “good” people can be induced into behaving in “evil” ways by turning on or off one or another social situational variable.