Billboard: Raven Chacon, Silent Choir

From Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet As It's Kept

Mar 10, 2022


Billboard: Raven Chacon, Silent Choir


Raven Chacon: Silent Choir, both in the audio form and the photograph form, were never intended to be an artwork. I went to the Standing Rock Reservation during the #NoDAPL water protection that was happening in 2016. And I came as a guest, as another American Indian trapped in this country who wanted to understand what was happening in this place. At the same time, be another presence, another witness to this as well, but mostly watching and listening. 

You would hear noises, you would hear helicopters in the sky. You would hear people singing through the night and then you would hear big instances of silence as well. 

Narrator: The recorded sounds from this moment are on the sixth floor of the Biennial inside the Whitney Museum.

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the elder women of the encampment led a silent resistance on the bridge that connects the reservation to Bismarck, North Dakota. They faced state police and DAPL—or, Dakota Access Pipeline—security. 

Raven Chacon: Led by these women, this group of people came onto the bridge and just stared at the police. And didn’t say a word. No yelling, no pleading, nothing. Just staring. And so, what I was able to capture was the sound of five or six hundred people just being absolutely silent and staring at the police. In retrospect, when I went home and listened to the recording, I could feel the power of those bodies, of those people, American Indian people and allies confronting and having to not say a word.

Narrator: Installed at second-story height across from the southern tip of the High Line, the image appears to recreate this scene here in New York City. 

Raven Chacon: Even though I had not intended this image to become an artwork, let’s say, I’m grateful that the curators had seen that this was a transposable image, as if police would barricade off the Highline. One might find themselves on that side of such a situation.

So, to be able to see that these images or these point of view photos could be transposed in your own home, I think can be a very powerful experience.