Allora & Calzadilla (in Collaboration with Ted Chiang), The Great Silence, 2016

The Great Silence focuses on the world’s largest single aperture radio telescope, located in Esperanza (Hope), Puerto Rico, which transmits and captures radio waves to and from the farthest edges of the universe. The site of the Arecibo Observatory is also home to the last remaining wild population of critically endangered Puerto Rican Parrots, Amazona vittata, who make their habitat in the surrounding Rio Abajo forest. Allora & Calzadilla collaborated with science fiction author Ted Chiang on a subtitled script that explores translation as a device to trace and ponder the irreducible gaps between living, nonliving, human, animal, technological, and cosmic actors. In the spirit of a fable, the subtitled story presents the bird’s observations on humans’ search for life outside this planet, while using the concept of vocal learning—something that both parrots and humans, and few other species have in common—as a source of reflection upon acousmatic voices, ventriloquisms, and the vibrations that form the basis of speech and the universe itself. The text for the film was recently selected for the inclusion in the literary anthologies Best American Science Fiction 2016 and Best American Short Stories 2016.