Susan Hiller: The Last Silent Movie

PREFIX INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART
September 22–November 26, 2011

Mysticism and intrigue are both key themes in Susan Hiller’s “The Last Silent Movie.”  This video projection and collection of etchings is based upon the recordings of some of the last remaining speakers of twenty-five endangered or extinct languages and plays a dual role as both a memento and a candid protest to the tragic loss of heritage and culture.

Often including song, poetry and story-telling, these recordings are relayed in an informal setting evocative of a traditional movie house, with the translations being projected as subtitles on a fairly large wall. The recordings include Khulkhasi, Yao Kimmien, Jiwali, Ubykh and Welsh Romany.

Common motifs of these recordings appear to be the loss of heritage, fear and concealment. Frequent anecdotes and humorous tales make this illuminating experience very heartwarming, not to mention entertaining.Susan Hiller, The Last Silent Movie, 2007. Lenape, 46.25 x 51.5 cm. Courtesy the British Council & Timothy Taylor Gallery (London) / Photo Credit: Toni Hafkenscheid

Accompanying this auditory presentation is a series of etchings, depicting artist-selected phrases from the recordings, fed into an oscilloscope and put on to paper. All the twenty-four etchings present a single line that rises and falls depending on the unique elements of the specific utterance. While the audio recordings provide a tremendous auditory experience, the etchings are a visual equivalent.

Haafiz Kalim

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