Audio appreciation outside of art installation, but consumed in the same manner as film, is a growing mode of entertainment. Telling Tales was proud yet again to display the best of student and professional audio documentary in the world today. Below are the three standouts from the festival:
Iron Glove Velvet Fist
Back in the early 1980s, a community of special women took protest in Greenham. Iron Glove Velvet Fist explores the events through the recollections of the women who were there and whether…it was worth it.
Contextualising the era, peace movements were running parallel with both riots and strikes. These actions were part and parcel of the era, as cemented with the quote, “What are we demonstrating for this time?” In 1981, women marched from Wales to Greenham with the desire of protest. The US-controlled missiles in the UK caused mass anxieties, and the women felt that it was their destiny to stand-up to the dangers at the helm of this weaponry.
Alongside a peaceful protest, Greenham Women’s Peace Camp was also a haven for women to be free. Regarded by a contributor as, “An Oasis” where “Women dressed how they wanted to.” Greenham was in some ways the ultimate utopia. Diversity was a key theme within the camp as women of different backgrounds and classes were united for the same cause. Another contributor later states that, “Men were excluded from the demonstration.”, though some men were assisting the women there, they were forbidden from taking residence.
Wynne Taffinder’s Iron Glove Velvet Fist is terrific in championing female history and getting its listener gripped with the story. The usage of songs sung by the camp members, such as, “Which side are you on?” add to the occasional notion that the listener is placed within the camp with hearing being the only sense.
Battle for the Truth
In collaboration with New Change, from 20 hours of material cut down to just under eight minutes, Alison Baker produces an audio event highlighting the racism, discrimination and battles the South Sudanese refugees have to face in contemporary Australia.
The variation of contributions is quite fascinating. From regular dialogue to a group protest song, a delightful range of opinion and mood is presented throughout this audio piece. One contributor establishes their role within the refugee community with, “We speak, and it’s echoed to the community.” Rather than having oppositional contributors, we are instead presented with segments from oppositional news headlines, and then rips from within news segments – at times, it is difficult to comprehend how and why people possess such vulgar views. Interlocking with Sudanese material, we have vulgarism such as, “I will come after you.” It is really not nice to listen to; though making an uncomfortable listen for the audience can be paralleled with the discomfort lived by those the Sudanese refugees in Battle for the Truth.
The anti-refugee media play a prominent part not just in the audio piece, but in the refugees’ lives too. Constantly targeted by the media, the Sudanese group in Battle for the Truth created anti-media songs, often referencing the headlines of the news reports – of which are interlocked throughout the audio. Contributors themselves reveal their lack of news viewings with, “I don’t watch the media.” Later, however, another contributor suggests a potential reason as to why the Sudanese refugees fall victim to abuse from Australians in and outside the media, “Society expects too much from us”.
The Man Who Buries Planes
Wow, this one was certainly out there.
Roger Hiorns – a former nominee of the Turner-prize – is the central figure in The Man Who Buries Planes, an extraordinary, outside-of-the-box visionary. This mind-boggling, but eye-opening audio piece is an extravaganza like no other – we are detailed with a man genuinely burying a plane…unheard of, right?
Roger’s quest and journey is to bury a MiG 21 plane in Prague – along the way he is helped in collaboration with Galerie Rudolfinum, whilst the listener is also presented the story of a previous plane buried by Roger in Suffolk, establishing two narratives. The Man Who Buries Planes entails a variation of contributors describing Roger’s activities, with one claiming that “I thought it was sad [to see planes buried].” Whilst another states of being in a position where, “You can’t see it, but it’s there.”, which adds an almost grave-like feel to the placement of the plane. The variations of sound are quite impressive too – from telephone conversations to the sounds of planes in the air, and then the cranes manoeuvring a plane into its grave as such.
As one would expect, ideology is quite prominent in the process of burying planes. Roger states that the concept of burying planes raises “questions about power and technological masculinity.” Artistically, Roger adds that there is a, “Surrealist contradiction.”
There is quite a position of power constructed by producer, Victoria Ferran. Not everyone gets to see a plane up close, never mind buried. The extraordinarily curious concept of burying a plane must have been a tremendous visual spectacle for those involved and its crowd, but for the listeners of The Man Who Buries Planes, we simply have to use our imagination as to how this spectacle would look. During the audio presentation itself, all the listener could see was a standalone picture of a plane’s tail half-encapsulated in the ground, causing said listener to then debate the size ratio and perspectives given in the picture, thus creating a curiosity to parallel the curiosity created from within the audio itself.
The lifelong activity of listening to the radio alongside the growth in podcasting and podcast fandom does suggest that audio consumption is certainly a force to be reckoned with. However, the real question is: Would you pay to consume audio in a cinematic setting?