"The Big Nothing"
Through August 1st

On the offchance you've been waiting for it, here it is: a new show about absolutely nothing.

The void, the ineffable, the sublime, nonsense, nihilism, zero - all packed into Philly ICA's "The Big Nothing" exhibit.

Filling two floors and both main gallery spaces, the exhibition at Philadelphia's Institute of Contemporary Art includes painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, video and film. So there's something about nothing for everyone.

In the first floor gallery: a hodge-podge of approaches to the big theme. Works by Andy Warhol and Richard Prince explore pop art's ties to vacuous consumer culture.

A different section approaches nothing from a more metaphysical angle: paintings by Jack Goldstein, for instance, depict "invisible" natural phenomena like heat or star clusters, while Yayoi Kusama's paintings represent the theme of infinity.

Philadelphia artist Thomas Chimes displays a series of nearly all-white paintings of romantic, dreamlike landscapes. His work also references work by nineteenth century writers Alfred Jarry ("Ubu Roi")and Edgar Allan Poe. Both of whom generally wrote stories about people who bopped along thinking nothing was wrong, but aha, there was. Boo.

Walk through the first floor gallery to reach works addressing reduction, refusal and negation. The section includes photographs by Louise Lawler, who takes pictures of empty or de-installed museum spaces.

Also on display, "Black Paintings" by Jutta Koether, their imagery blacked out and painted over by the artist during intense, discordant musical performances.

If that's not enough nothing for you, the ICA serves as the anchor venue for an entire series of exhibits and events in Philly, all about "The Big Nothing".

Take a significant other along. For once, you�ll have a great excuse to argue about nothing:

"It's art."
"No, it isn't."
"True. It isn't. But it's not supposed to be."
"Uhm, well, yeah, it is. Art has to have meaning."
"The meaning is non-meaning."
"Non-meaning means 'no meaning', right?"
"Not in this context."
"Not in this context? Now you're contradicting yourself. Think."
"You're not supposed to think. That's the whole point."
"So now I'm not supposed to think? Why'd we come, then?"

Have fun.

Then, once no one is talking to anyone (in keeping with the spirit of the 'big nothing' theme), park yourselves in the kino for "Entr'acte".

Continuous screenings of the film run from 10am-6pm on July 15th and 16th, in the ICA Auditorium. However, there will be literally no performance, as the eight musicians will be replaced by eight speakers 'playing' the live accompaniment to the film.

Failing that, there's the "Nothing Cabaret" on July 21st, at 7pm on the ICA Terrace.

On the program: A night of Dada celebration including sleight-of-hand, poetry, silence, and a screening of Andy Warhol's short film, "Sleep," which lives up to the title.

"Arte Six" nota bene to show co-sponsor Pew Charitable Trusts: We will be glad to contribute the remake of "Sleep", ("Sleep 2: The Big Sleep"), wherein that's what we'll do, for days on end, if you will kindly forward a whopping big grant and a fluffy pillow.

And if we rope Spencer Tunik into the whole deal, we will have NAKED sleeping people all over the streets of - everywhere.

While this will not improve traffic congestion, it will give everyone something to discuss on the morning commute.

Thanks so much.

Highlights elsewhere:

"Erasure" at Vox Populi
Through August 1st

From politics to personal concerns, the exhibition focuses on the act of destruction, what remains after the destruction, and the concept of memory or nostalgia for the destroyed object, idea or person.

"Strike" at Basekamp
July 9-August 20

"Strike" is a large-scale exhibition of artistic responses to a single question: How does/could/would the withdrawal of art affect the world?

Find it: Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)
University of Pennsylvania
118 S. 36th St. Philadelphia, PA 19104-3289
Get info: (215) 898-5911

Find it: Vox Populi
41315 Cherry Street, 4th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Get info: (215) 568-5513

Find it: Basekamp
723 Chestnut Street, 2nd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Get info: (215) 206-8176

[Shown: "Bombhead", (2002)
Pigmented ink jet, acrylic paint on paper,
38 3/8 x 31 1/8
Bruce Conner
Courtesy of Susan Inglett Gallery]

Find more art events in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".