much better chop

To the Susan Hiller retrospective at Tate Britain on Good Friday afternoon. In contrast to the previous Friday’s art fix, I was pretty impressed by this show, which presents a body of work produced over 40 years. Some of Hiller’s recurrent themes include language, the subconscious, the hidden meanings and value of ephemera (the Rough Seas postcards series, for example) – areas I’m also interested in. There is often an investigative element to her work, and I like this openness and inquisitiveness. It leaves a space for the viewer to think, reflect, come to their own sense of the meaning of the work. My favourite piece in the exhibition was The Last Silent Movie – sound archive recordings of the last speakers of extinct or threatened languages, played against a black screen with subtitled translations of the sometimes unbearably poignant phrases, these crackly fragments which are all we have left of so many lost languages. From the indigenous Australian language, Ngarrindjeri, now extinct: “We learned to hide our language and our secrets.” Hard – impossible – not to be moved by this.

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