Learning to accept nothingness

22 December 2017, by The Floatworks
Learning to accept nothingness

In past features, we’ve examined how silence has a very real power over our emotions, but after a recent encounter with someone actively researching the subject, we’ve decided to delve a bit deeper into the abyss.

Áron Máthé is a student of Fine Arts and Sculpture at the University of Arts in London, and has a particularly fond interest in mankind’s relationship with silence. Through his research, he’s been investigating our acceptance of nothingness, and questioning it through observing human behaviour in an isolated environment. Ultimately, he wants to show just how sound and silence affects our emotions and behaviour, and find a way of manipulating sensory input with the intention of affecting how we feel.

“It’s something that’s been building up throughout my past experiences,” Áron begins to tell us of his work. ”I’ve had a lot of time to think, and I’ve been reading a lot of literature, there’s a lot of influence that came to me through travelling and reading, but at the same time I think it’s something I’m just interested to find out.

“I got interested in this topic because of my connection to sound itself. I started researching sound when I found out about cymatics – that’s the study of how vibrations at different frequencies affect matter. It’s been around three years since I came across it, and since then I keep coming back to the same topic of sound and silence, and how these vibrations are affecting us. What happens if that’s taken out of the picture?

“I’m interested in human behaviour, how does it react to its environment. How can you create a space around an individual? And how can we provoke an individual to have a certain experience or emotional conscious impact? Finding out about the possibilities of what happens when our senses are isolated, I think that’s where it all connects with the whole idea of silence.

“For example in John Cage’s work ‘4.33’’, he invites the orchestra to keep the silence for the duration of the piece. The purpose of this project in a sense is to prove there’s no such thing as complete silence. Even in sensory deprivation, you have a constant surrounding.”

Through his research, Áron has cast his net far and wide for the necessary experience and data to comment on the effects of silence on our minds. It’s taken him as far afield as Singapore for a period of time practising Zen Buddhism…

“My first real interaction with Zen meditation was in Singapore. In Zen, they sit and meditate not to reach another level of consciousness, or try to get to enlightenment, but just to sit and meditate and be present in that environment. I find that interesting. I think nowadays, people are so distracted by their environment, they’re so disengaged by what’s going on around them, they forget to be present in the moment.”

…and Áron’s studies have even taken him deep into the ocean, having a go at freediving. The very concept of diving into the deep unknown without any safety gear might sound like like madness, but it provides a stillness and silence you won’t find above the surface.

“It’s been a long-lasting interest of mine, because it’s about the closest thing you can get to floating through space. You’re in this completely isolated environment under the water, and because of the pressure of the water and the pressure of the lack of oxygen, you are forced to be in a complete state of focus. The French freediver Guillame Néry talks about how you can find a silence between two breaths, being at the interstage between breathing out and breathing in.”

“I had a chance to do a freediving course. It’s a complicated process, so this is only the first stage of that journey. After a couple of metres, you realise you have to face a lot of difficulties that are quite unexpected. Can you handle being upside down, dropping down…”

Floating, then, has become a natural area of interest, fitting in neatly with previous endeavours. We’ve been lucky enough to meet Áron a handful of times, and had the pleasure of discussing the research that exists into the effects of floating – and of course, we had to get him in the tank himself to experience our own version of nothingness!

“From a personal point of view, my very first float was similar to the feeling of diving into the depth; I was trying to understand the silence and being surrounded by this spacelessness. As consciousness is basically defined by your senses, is it still full consciousness when you’re in the tank, or does taking those inputs away remove consciousness somehow?”

“When I first floated, I was actively trying to detach from all the images and sounds and find complete calmness, find the silence within you. You can detach from your mind, and sink into this place, being ultimately present in the moment.”

We’ll be keeping a close eye on Áron as his research develops, and intend on offering a helping hand in any way we can at Floatworks. Watch this space…

For your own slice of silence away from the loud bustle of London over Christmas, pop in for a float!