An Archive of Silence

Rich Rath/ February 14, 2018/ Featured/ 0 comments

In Archive of Silence,  Julia Wieting explores the poetic meaning of archives as affect & memory produced by silences. Usually, the silences of archives are glossed over, they create the hidden or shadow archive within and without. Using both experience and empiricism, the late anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot foregrounded and explored archival silence in his classic Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995). Wieting’s archive explores the experiential and affective qualities of the archive by – like Trouillot – foregrounding silence as the subject but doing so through poetry rather than empiricism.

Archive of Silence is visually spare to reinforce the silences produced and discussed. The sparse visuals also emphasize the sonic nature of both the site and of silence itself. Wieting reads a series of her poems set in different silent places around campus while in those spaces. The DAHI team attended to record but also brought balloons to pop, in order to create the various silences themselves.

How does one make a silence from a noise? A balloon pop is close to a pure impulse and can easily be edited out of a sound file. What remains is the sound of the space itself without the sound – a silence. The DAHI team also created the “convolvo” so that our listeners at the site can experiment with uploading sounds of their own and hearing them as if they are actually located in the spaces where Wieting sets her poetry. You can try it out with any stereo “wav” file.

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