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Silent Sound presents Lois Weber’s Hypocrites (1915) accompanied by a live performance from sound artist Daisy Wells 

Silent films were rarely ever silent, whether it was the chatter of the audience, an improvising piano player or a full-blown symphonic orchestra, silent films were largely accompanied by live sound. However, with the development of synchronous sound, the combination of cinema and live sound became a rare event. Even rarer is the presentation of silent cinema alongside contemporary experimental sound music. ‘Silent Sound’ attempts to bridge this gap by presenting Lois Weber’s Hypocrites alongside a live performance by artist Daisy Wells. 

Hypocrites follows the parallel narratives of a medieval monk and a modern minister. These stories intersect to deliver an anticlerical message. In the film’s medieval setting a Christian ascetic is devoted to sculpting a statue of the ‘Truth’, which appears to him in the form of a naked woman. His sculpture offends the local parish who kill him in retaliation. This narrative is allegorically contrasted with the pastor of a modern congregation whose followers are corrupted by money, sex and power. Through a series of vignettes the film poetically criticises the marriage of politics and religion.

Lois Weber has been wilfully forgotten in the canon of film history. In the peak of her career she was the highest paid director at Universal, a studio that championed the work of women throughout the 1910s. Weber consistently tackled social issues in her practice, including birth control, abortion, racism, sex work, poverty and the death penalty. During the 1920s Hollywood abruptly changed with the introduction of the Hays code and the increased commercialisation of the industry. This period saw the masculinisation of directing and the subsequent exclusion of women; a phenomenon that coincided with the introduction of synchronous sound.

Daisy Wells is an Auckland-based sound artist who has recently graduated from Elam School of Fine Arts. Her practice explores improvisation/chance, which include techniques such as the live-manipulation of electronics, field recordings, and voice. The materiality of sound is employed in order to summon, acknowledge, and take inspiration from the mental and physical possessions of feminine multiplicities. 

Silent Sound is curated by Ardit Hoxha & Lila Bullen Smith of Academy Cinemas and brought to you by the Audio Foundation