Presented as a wall-sized video projection, Susan Hiller’s The Last Silent Movie is a beautifully simple and deeply moving testimony to the ongoing obliteration of linguistic and cultural diversity in the wake of accelerating industrialization and globalization. Featuring simple white text on a black field accompanying words and phrases being uttered by the last speakers of twenty-five endangered or extinct languages, the video surprises and delights with the remarkable and unfamiliar sounds of languages such as Manx, Jerrais, Livonian, Potowatomi, Yao Kimmien, and Ubykh.
Some of the speakers sing, tell stories, or poignantly address their audiences on the disappearance of their language and culture. By turns humorous, touching, hopeful, and sad, each is a gift to the listener who realizes the depth of humanity’s loss in its relentless striving for standardization, and the tenuousness and preciousness of human diversity and individuality. On view through November 26.
Information on the exhibition from Prefix press release
Read about The Last Silent Movie and hear a short sample on Susan Hiller’s website
image: Susan Hiller, The Last Silent Movie, Neue National Galerie, Berlin Biennial 5, 2008