Susan Hiller: THE LAST SILENT MOVIE

April 29 – August 14, 2011

In Nixon Gallery

Susan Hiller, class of 1961, is one of Smith College’s most distinguished artist-alumnae. Since Hiller turned from her academic training as an anthropologist to become an artist in the 1970s, she has been based in Europe where she has established an international career working across a wide variety of media. Her work is currently the subject of a major retrospective at Tate Britain. The Last Silent Movie (2008), a film installation with a suite of 24 etchings, is based on recordings of native speakers of extinct or dying languages discovered by the artist in archives around the world. It draws on Hiller’s long concerns with absence and loss, a theme movingly addressed in this work and in her earlier J Street Project, a film/installation that commemorates German Jewish communities eradicated by the Nazis during the Second World War. The title of The Last Silent Movie references silent movies of the early twentieth century, in which speakers are pictured but not heard; their words are conveyed through subtitles. In Hiller’s film, the speakers are invisible to us. We hear voices and languages that no longer exist but that are not silent because, as the artist has said, “someone is listening.” The Last Silent Movie was recently acquired by the Museum and is placed on view in honor of the artist’s 50th reunion.

Click here to link to the artist's website.

Image Credit: Susan Hiller. Born in the U.S., 1940. Lives and works in London. The Last Silent Movie, 2007. Portfolio of 24 etchings on 270 gsm Moulin de Gué (Rives de Lin) paper with 1 Blu-Ray disc. Edition 3 + 1 AP. Purchased with the Janet Wright Ketcham, class of 1953, Fund. Running time: 20 minutes