Allora & Calzadilla (in collaboration with Ted Chiang)

The Great Silence, 2014
HD video with sound
16:32 mins

“Where is everybody?” With this question, the famed Italian American physicist Enrico Fermi posited what is known as “the Fermi paradox”—the observation that despite the very high probability of other intelligent life existing in our galaxy, we have yet to find evidence of any. In The Great Silence, Allora & Calzadilla collaborate with writer Ted Chiang to reflect on our search for intelligent life “out there.” Humans invest in monumental scientific instruments like the now-defunct Arecibo Radio telescope in Puerto Rico in that extraterrestrial search, while blithely ignoring and extinguishing the intelligent non-human life that already surrounds us. The narrator, an endangered rainforest parrot, thus considers two paradoxes at once as a matter of looking and listening: of the silence that we hear from outer space, and the ever greater silence that we are responsible for—of non-human voices, songs, and sentience—here on Earth.

Courtesy of the artist.