Susan Hiller

The Last Silent Movie

The Last Silent Movie opens the unvisited, silent archives of extinct and endangered languages to create a composition of voices that are not silent. They are not silent because someone is listening. The work sets free some of the ghosts and spectres haunting the unacknowledged unheimlich of sound recording which allows us to hear the words and voices of people mostly now dead. In The Last Silent Movie, some of them sing, some tell stories, some recite vocabulary lists and some of them, directly or indirectly, accuse us, the listeners, of injustice.


Article provided by Grove Art Online

British installation artist of American birth. She studied Mesoamerican archaeology and anthropology, tribal art and linguistics, and conducted anthropological fieldwork in Central America before moving to London and taking British residency in 1967. From the early 1970s Hiller included social, anthropological and feminist concerns within her persistent questioning of traditional artistic notions of authorship, subject-matter and methodology, which she articulated using painting, sculpture, sound, printed texts, video, photography and drawing in numerous large-scale installations. Dedicated to the Unknown Artists (1972–6; exh. Brighton, U. Sussex, Gardner A. Cent., 1976) consisted of 305 ‘rough sea’ postcards collected by the artist from England, Scotland and Wales, with accompanying charts and notes exploring the relationship between the linguistic description and visual depiction of ‘rough seas’. Photographed anonymously, the uncredited postcards were seen by Hiller as cultural artefacts, and her role as that of a collaborator who relocates them in an (installational) art context with her detailed document recording the entire process. Later works include the installation Monument (41 colour photographs arranged on a wall, sound tape, park bench for viewers’ use, 3.05•6.10 m, 1980–81; three versions, e.g. Leeds, C.A.G.), based on memorial plaques, and Belshazzar’s Feast, the Writing on your Wall (1983–4; London, Tate), consisting of low band U-Matic colour videotape and 12 C-type photographs on Agfa-lustre paper heat-sealed under Perspex, each c. 508•406 mm, with ink or pencil scripts.


The Revenants of Time (exh. cat., London, Matt’s Gal.; Sheffield, Mappin A.G.; Glasgow, Third Eye Cent.; 1990)