The documentary node of nonfictionLab is interested in making, researching, critiquing, and extending the possibilities of audio visual nonfiction practice. It includes interest in how they essay as a form and style can be applied across other media, and the ways in which recording media intersect with creative and critical forms of nonfiction practice.
[Now Adrian, how do I centre the image? What tags should I use? Do I insert links? Do I need to know HTML? How is this actually going to look when I press Publish? Can I go back in and change it? This is you at our Posthumanism Fieldwork trip to Pound Bend a year ago. You had a protocol you were playing with: it was about thinking like a camera, about shimmer, about what a charged coupling device might be interested in, (about so much more).Your images shimmered, yes, with a poetics. Or—ok, sorry—the images the camera made in concert with you. And with the leaves, the light, the wind (the list would continue).]
Vale Adrian Miles, our friend and colleague, who has left so much of his work for us to chase after, to catch up to, and to finish, as we will attempt to, in his memory.
We will miss you very much Adrian. We will keep the conversations going. xx[Finally, after 11 revisions, I think this post is ok. For now. But nothing’s ever fixed, is it.]
image credit: Louis Fisher
On Tuesday 22nd August, Docuverse will be hosting David Bradbury and screening his rough-cut edit of his new film, The Darkest Hour.
The film will be screened in: Building 80, level 4, room 11. Please arrive at 6.30 for a 6.45 start. Email email@example.com for confirmation of attendance or any questions.
This rough-cut is NOT yet finished but is a great opportunity to see the documentary editing process in action as well as to speak with one of our best practitioners and give him valuable feedback before he goes back into the edit room with editor Walter McIntosh.
David Bradbury, one of Australia’s most respected documentary filmmakers took his family to the US last year. Tired of constant rejection by ABC Factual and SBS Independent, his plan was to see if he could break into a bigger fish pond (Netflix, HBO, Sundance, Stan, Amazon etc). He quickly deduced it was not possible beyond committing several years of struggle to break in from the outside as a Newcomer. Too many other hungry American indie filmmaker’s mouths to feed. So he did the next best thing. And what he liked to do most. He decided to shoot a film about what he was seeing three months out from the shock election of Donald Trump.
At 9am down a weaving corridor Docuverse held our Behind the Interface: assessing technological implications in expanded documentary practices workshop at the Centro Cultural Borges in Buenos Aires. Franziska Weidle hosted the workshop where she along with Helen Gaynor, Hannah Brasier, Kim Munro, Georgia Wallace-Crabbe and Pauline Anastasiou all presented short five minute provocations about expanded documentary practices. The format was each person presented three slides; the first addressing what we were trying to do, the second what we did and the third what question emerges for us out of this. At the end of the presentation we posed each of our questions back to the audience to be workshopped hoping to find some potential ways in which to navigate these problems. The workshop was broken down into three topics: limitations of existing tools, pedagogical implications and questions of agency.
For limitations of existing tools Helen discussed her project where she is working with the Lighthouse foundation to develop a tool which intersects website design and interactive documentary. While Hannah discussed how the Vine video application generated new documentary practices through it’s creative constraints.
Kim and Franzi discussed the pedagogical implications of getting students onboard with making expanded documentary projects. The problem Kim faced was that while “multilinear platforms allowed a broader engagement with ideas of representation” the desire for “familiar closed and linear forms was difficult to subvert.” Similarly, Franzi talked about the “resistance, frustration and disappointment” ethnographic students experienced when introduced to the Korsakow software as a “more open approach to organising footage.”
To finish the presentation component of the workshop Georgia discussed how her The Earth and the Elements multi-screen installation facilitated immersive experiences “through the spatial architecture of video screens.” While Pauline talked about the tensions between herself wanting to give agency to her participants to create content with mobile phones and their resistance to do this making.
From these brief talks we posed these questions back to our lively audience:
The discussion which ensued largely revolved around pedagogical implications, where we workshopped why students don’t respond to i-docs. Audience member Craig Hight provided a way to navigate this particular dilemma suggesting that we need to make pedagogy closer to the ideology of the software by adapting an approach of getting students to collect fragments without knowing what the outcome is. With Franzi’s response that she had adopted a model within the ideology of the software, what emerged as a tension across universities was that the curriculum is built around traditional film methods engraining traditional ideologies.
Another comment from audience member Helen De Michiel was that with these expanded documentary works we need to be making small works not “sailing ships.” She noted that we need to start with the dialogue we want to elicit and then think about how we can use technology to cultivate such dialogue. She suggested “soluble bites,” small works and small technologies as possible solutions.
The final points workshopped by our engaged audience were around the demand of returnability and the ethics of these projects when you are not provided with a context to engage. A response to this demand of returnability was offered by Adrian Miles who noted that we need to start treating these expanded documentaries as music; as jazz improvisations. Once we do this we won’t have a problem with returnability because when we return we are creating new patterns and rhythms through these bits of the world.
This workshop was the first presented by the Docuverse team to an international audience. These discussions around technology, pedagogy and agency in expanded documentary practices were continued themes throughout the Visible Evidence conference.
Photos by Adrian Miles and Hannah Brasier
Adrian Miles convened a panel at the 2017 Visible Evidence Conference (Buenos Aires) asking questions about matertialism, materialist media philosophy, and interactive documentary. The panellists were Adrian Miles, Daniel Fetzner (.de), Carles Sora (.es), and Judith Aston (.uk). Feisty is one adjective that springs to mind.
The protocol was 10 slides, each slide 30 seconds, each. Quick, dense, thought bombs, thinkertoys. (I do approach these sorts of things as provocations, academic affective encounters that need to confront.) We are now hoping to extend our conversation into 2000 word individual essays for publication.
This week Docuverse are in Buenos Aires for Visible Evidence running a workshop called Behind the interface: assessing technological implications in expanded documentary practices. Speaking as part of this will be Franziska Weidle, Hannah Brasier, Kim Munro, Pauline Anastasiou and Georgia Wallace-Crabbe. We will be covering the implications of existing technologies, pedagogical limitations and the question of agency in expanded documentary practices.
Please join us on Thursday, August 3 from 9-10:30am in Fernando Birri – CCBorges-UNTREF. Further details can be found here on the Visible Evidence program.
For our latest Docuverse Snapshots we had Dan Edwards present a talk called Reaching Out & Looking In: Independent Chinese Documentary Today. Dan is a Melbourne based academic, writer and journalist interested in Chinese and Australian film and culture. For this Snapshots talk Dan shared with us his extensive knowledge of Chinese independent documentary.
Dan began by drawing attention to the explosion of Chinese independent documentary which emerged out of the arrival of digital technologies in the late 90s and spanned till 2011. He discussed how during this time these documentaries were played at unofficial screening events, often in informal venues, removed from State censorship and not played on television or cinemas. Dan then went on to describe the characteristics of this burst of documentaries as observational, showing interaction between filmmaker and subject and showing disenfranchised communities and/or individuals. It was these types of documentary techniques which allowed these films to be political without explicitly criticising the state or country. As Dan described these films often took on a less confrontational approach by making visible what the mainstream media didn’t cover or glossed over. These films were activist films simply because they did what the mainstream didn’t.
Of particular interest to Docuverse, in terms of expanded documentary practices, was Dan’s mention of participatory initiatives in the mid-2000s. He drew particular attention to The Memory Project (2010) in which documentary filmmaker Wu Wenguang trained people from rural areas how to use digital filmmaking equipment. These trained individuals then interviewed villagers about their memories of the Great Famine of the 1950s, reflecting a common characteristic of independent Chinese documentary during this time – to explore memories that are unacknowledged by the state-sanctioned media. Dan noted how some of the participants of this project have gone on to make feature length films. While the site to watch these interviews was shut down this year, Duke University Press has preserved over 1000 of them in an online collection.
As Dan discussed this rich period of independent Chinese documentary, one kept wondering what happened in 2011 to stop this proliferation of films. Dan came to answering this toward the end when he talked about the “dramatic tightening” of the party state on culture and education that has happened in China since 2011. This tightening came as a mixed result of concern about the so-called “Jasmine Revolutions,” increased ethnic unrest and an increased feeling that independent cinema was overstepping the mark. In 2012 power was cut to the 2012 Independent Film Festival in Beijing. Dan finished his talk by highlighting that whilst Chinese audiences don’t have access to independent Chinese documentary today, we have seen increasing internalisation of these films. However, they are much more polished and tight structurally to appeal to Western audiences.
The questions which followed Dan’s talk revolved around whether or not these Chinese documentary filmmakers are film school trained, whether essayistic modes were prominent, and the role of the internet for distribution.
In an area not covered by Docuverse yet, Dan provided comprehensive insight into the rather unknown aspects of Chinese independent doco.
Dan has written a book entitled Independent Chinese Documentary: Alternative visions, alternative publics (2015).
Photographs by Nicholas Hansen and Hannah Brasier
“Perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn’t want them back.” – Krapp’s final words, in the play Krapp’s Last Tape, by Samuel Beckett.
It’s awkward when one can’t work out how to spin a photo for this blogpost, but we did at least manage to spin the wheel at last night’s third movement of The Symphony of Awkward at the Urban Writers House. For this rendition we employed bingology as method, each round delivering a number that was duly translated into a date. Each of us then presented a contribution from her archive corresponding to said date, so that assorted diary entries, childhood art works and photographs were patched together into a kind of faulty fugue. We still don’t know where we are going with this, but there is something so compelling about our experiments that we shall continue to meet, and to diarise our sessions as well, towards some kind of co-created research outcome, and possibly, in due course, a public event.
Snapshots: I recall an interactive documentary…
By Kim Munro
Part-way through her presentation on interactive documentary and memory, Karelle began to recount memories of sleepovers as a child. Karelle and her gang of movie-loving friends would line up their mattresses in the basement and have ‘watching marathons’ that lasted well into the morning. They would eat pizza and watch movies (often horror), compiling quantitative data such as the number of murders in each Friday the 13th sequel. Karelle then invited the Docuverse audience to speak about their own memories and we each recalled similar ‘film events’ from when we were younger.
There are many reasons why memories of watching films remain vivid; the collective experience of watching films, a formative time in our lives, the cultural position and posterity that many films and TV series have acquired. But how will interactive documentary be remembered without these factors which help us to retain the experience of where we were when we watched these?
Karelle Arsenault’s presentation explored and questioned whether interactive documentary projects will still exist in the future, and if so, how will we remember them? Karelle’s presentation prompted many questions about how we engage in interactive documentary as an individual rather than collective experience, or as something that is studied (a “discourse of sobriety”?) rather than viewed for pleasure. It also raises broader issues around the changing viewing habits that tend further towards individuated experiences rather than collective ones. The longevity and impact of interactive documentary is an issue that is often discussed in scholarship in the field. Jon Dovey claims that given this is a relatively new field, we will still need more time to ascertain its impact, establish audiences and develop a culture. Karelle’s presentation gave us both the opportunity to think about our own film memories while also critically questioning the role and place that interactive documentary might hold for us in the future.
By Hannah Brasier
Karelle’s second event with Docuverse was her The experience of interactive documentary workshop. In this workshop Karelle worked through a series of questions with a group of 6 participants on their experience with The Block (SBS); a web documentary on Redfern’s infamous block in Sydney . The workshop ran in a focus group style, however Karelle’s intention was that everyone attending could take something away from the discussion. The discussion cultivated by Karelle’s questions spanned from how and when we interacted with The Block to the specifics of the interface design and content.
As most of those who participated in the workshop were makers Karelle was interested in how the interactive documentary experience could be improved to alleviate the tension most of us felt between the intention of The Block and the experience of it. Most of us felt that while the interface provides a map of the places within Redfern’s block there was no way us as users could experience these places. So, while there were a catalogue of video interviews with those who had a connection to the block there was no connection made in the interface between the interview stories and the places. The map of the block as interface then appeared to have little significance.
This tension between intention and experience is something which has emerged throughout Docuverse’s events, so it was great that Karelle gave us an opportunity to discuss this in detail. What emerged through the discussion was that there are often tensions between the interface and the content of a project. As interactive documentary makers we need to give users the agency to explore content in a way which enriches their relationship to what they are seeing.
images: Hannah Brasier
 Bill Nichols, Introduction to Documentary. 2nd ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010, p. 250.
 Jon Dovey, ‘Who Wants to Become Banal? The i-doc from Experiment to Industry’, in Judith Aston, Sandra Gaudenzi & Mandy Rose (eds), i-docs: The Evolving Practices of Interactive Documentary, Wallflower Press, London & New York, 2017, p. 274.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Søren Kierkegaard
A further gathering of devout diarologists took place in the Urban Writers House last Thursday night to consider avenues for situating and extending discussion of our juvenilia into a range of possible research frameworks within the field of creative writing and beyond. Contexts such as memoir studies and memory studies, ideas of reading and writing as therapeutic practices, and future forays into essayistic and documentary space are all under consideration. Wider readings are being sourced and shared as we tease out our understanding of the diaristic impulse – past and present, digital and analogue – as means to capture, to confess, and to confide.
A third movement will be held in July.
The first bi-monthly Snapshots event for 2017 was presented by Pat Aufderheide a 2017 Fulbright Senior Fellow at Queensland University of Technology, and University Professor of Communication Studies in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C.
Pat began her talk in participatory fashion by teasing out the audiences’ interests for being there, this nicely set up the concluding discussion.
Of particular interest to the Docuverse group is Pat’s research on the question of, ‘How can journalism and documentary benefit from an area in which practices overlap and how can makers stay safer while telling truth to power?’
Part of Pat’s research has involved conducting an online survey. The online survey research aimed to gain a ‘better understanding of Australian copyright benefits to creatives’. Pat has been extensively interviewing people who do controversial documentary and journalism, to find out what limits their work. The study is based on the ways exceptions of fair use are treated in USA, where documentary filmmakers were more effectively allowed to utilise fair use provisions in the law and save on production costs.
Pat was principal investigator on The Center for Media and Social Impact‘s study entitled “Dangerous Documentaries: Reducing Risk when Telling Truth to Power”. Taking the premise that non-fiction filmmakers who tell truth to power often face aggressive attack from powerful individuals, governmental bodies, businesses and associations. The primary ‘blowback threat’ Pat refers to are the ways journalists and filmmakers are either facing or avoiding major litigation when utilising third party media. The study asked, how are independent makers, often working outside of media institutions for long periods of time, and sometimes untrained in journalistic practices, working with this reality?
The problem emerged, as USA law has fair use provisions, but Australian law does not, yet Australian filmmakers can claim under fair dealing provisions. Pat commented, one of the major issues was that Australian law has too few provisions in place, for courts to work into grey areas of law.
Pat believes there is a lack of exploration of the mutual areas of overlap between journalism and documentary skills and practices. The study recommends these areas would be great together, but asks what institutional support do they have and can some of that support become more mutualised.
On the topic of dilemmas faced by local journalists balancing safety with speaking truth to power, Pat was interested in drawing on Docuverse’s own Nicholas Hansen’s experience producing the documentary Breaking the News and in particular how local journalist Jose Belo balanced the pressure of his investigative reporting for local and foreign news crews. In response, Nicholas mentioned how he chose to highlight the legal dangers and potential arrest Jose was facing, for contacting rebel sources and giving them a voice in the aftermath of the 2008 shooting of Jose Ramos Horta.
The ensuing discussion attended to many participants’ questions and teased out the topics of activism and journalism and ways of being both truthful and subjective in journalism whilst facing the issue of telling people one thing over another.
Study: Dangerous Documentaries: Reducing Risk when Telling Truth to Power
Blog post: https://cmsimpact.org/social-impact/documentaries-telling-truth-to-power/
Photos by Nicholas Hansen
Image from (RMIT news article) ‘Media Students feature in Anzac Exhibition’.
Undergraduate students in the RMIT Media program were selected to screen by Maroondah City Council’s ArtSpace. The making of the works was facilitated by the studio lead Dr Seth keen with specialist support from Hannah Braiser, both in the non-fiction lab research group. From a research perspective an example of taking interactive documentaries into the the gallery space.
See if you can get along to see k-films (interactive documentaries made with Korsakow software) working in a gallery space (On until Sunday 21 May 2017). Some are on computers and one which is projected large on autoplay has been getting a lot of attention from young an old.
On Friday 10th 2017, Hannah Brasier, Nicholas Hansen, Kim Munro and Franziska Weidle hosted their second Docuverse Symposium at RMIT University in collaboration with non/fictionLab. After a successful series of bi-monthly events in 2016 showcasing and discussing interactive, participatory, performative and installation work, this year’s symposium addressed central issues that had emerged from interrogating the role of new technologies, practices and projects in expanding documentary within virtual as well as physical spaces.
Featuring ten invited speakers and about 45 conference attendees, the one-day event kicked off with a presentation by Dr. Craig Hight, Associate Professor in Creative Industries at the University of Newcastle. Craig’s talk focused on software as a possible entry point towards understanding and theorizing technologies and the dialectical relationship with their usages. As a conceptual framework underlying emergent practices and paradigms, his talk highlighted how documentary experiences were increasingly created through performances of (interactive) softwareand that applications and tools such as Korsakow and Racontr should be examined closely in terms of their affordances and how these are organized.
The following talks by Georgia Wallace-Crabbe and Liz Burke then provided examples of different media and platforms and what they might bring to the ways documentary topics could be approached and represented. While in some cases, technology appeared to be not advanced enough and analogue workarounds had to be utilized for creating interactivity and immersion through testing and prototyping, others highlighted how the spontaneous, accidental and provisional of playing with low-tech on-hand equipment and tools marked an exciting diversion from more traditional film-making processes. The morning session concluded with a workshop by Helen Gaynor in which she explored new strategies of directing in an entertaining hands-on experiment with the audience.
After a provided lunch break, the afternoon session kicked off with a work-in-progress presentation from filmmaker and MINA co-founder Dr. Max Schleser and Associate Professor of Documentary Media at Ryerson University Dr. Gerda Cammaer who skyped in from Canada. Their Viewfinders project illustrates how peer-generated travelling shots combined with AR image recognition could create an interesting new relationship between content and viewers supporting a sense of greater geographical imagination and connectedness.
The preceding project presentations by Allison Nankivell and Ella Colley further elaborated on the challenges and chances arising from participatory and collaborative approaches. The day concluded with a workshop led by Dr. Paola Bilbrough and Dr. Alison Baker from Victoria University in Melbourne who took up the collaborative theme again and scrutinized it in terms of its ethical dimension in cross-cultural contexts. One of the main aspects they pointed out was the importance but also limitations of reciprocity as a basis for co-composing the tellings and retellings of other people’s stories. On top of the two workshop sessions, Docuverse also invited the audience to actively engage in ongoing discussions throughout the day by contributing their thoughts as well as emerging themes in a collective brainstorming attempt on the whiteboard.
From itsinception in February 2016, Docuverse has steadily developed as an open, accessible and participatory space for discussing documentary theory and practice outside of a mainstream industry focus. With interstate visitors from Perth, Sydney, Canberra and Newcastle this year’s Docuverse Symposium not only covered a wide spectrum of backgrounds and approaches but also clearly demonstrated the need of connecting people interested in the expanding field of documentary in Australia. Taking up some of the symposium’s key themes around the connection of new (and old) technologies and documentary practices, user participation and audience engagement in our Snapshots series will be among the main points of our agenda this year.
How are new technologies, practices and projects expanding documentary?
After the success of our symposium in February 2016, Docuverse will be hosting a further annual event on the 10th of February, 2017. The event will be taking place in Building 80 (room TBC) at RMIT University, in Melbourne, Australia.
From our symposium in February 2016, Docuverse has grown as a forum for discussing the intersection between theory, practice and industry, in the expanded field of documentary. Bi-monthly events have included work-in-progress expanded documentary projects, talks by Judith Aston (i-Docs), Deane Williams (Studies in Documentary Film Journal) and Gerda Cammaer (Canadian academic/filmmaker). As well as an in-conversation between Adrian Miles (RMIT’s non/fictionLab) and ACMI’s Seb Chan.
To kick things off for 2017, we will be hosting a one-day symposium to workshop, share, discuss, and critique the role of new technologies through an array of expanded documentary practices. The day will consist of theoretical inputs, show and tells as well as hands-on workshops aimed to convey multiple and varying perspectives on how academics and practitioners are theorising and making expanded documentary projects. The themes covered on the day will include: multiscreen installation, participatory documentary, smartphone filmmaking, nonlinear viewing experiences, software studies, interactive documentary for social causes, documentary ethics, transmedia documentary, and directing documentary.
We are happy to announce that Associate Professor Craig Hight (University of Newcastle) will be giving a talk on how documentary tools and platforms can empower or discipline new forms of creation. And Dr Max Schleser (Swinburne University) and Dr Gerda Cammaer (Ryerson University) will be discussing their practice-led research project Viewfinders which aims to map travel experiences through smartphone filmmaking, interactive nonlinear filming experiences, and mobile AR.
We invite you to join Docuverse for this one-day symposium to think about how these new technologies, practices, and projects expand what documentary is and can be.
A full list of who will be presenting and a schedule for the day will be provided in late December.
This is a free Symposium, although please RSVP via eventbrite by the 3rd of February.
More details soon…
Image above: InTransit
“Don’t bend, don’t water it down, don’t try to make it logical, don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions logically”
– Franz Kafka
In a spare few hours between the Sightlines conference and the MINA symposium in Melbourne, visiting scholar and filmmaker Gerda Cammaer found time to give an enlivening talk about her practice at a surprise Docuverse event. Born in Beligium, but living and working in Toronto, Gerda opened her discussion of celluloid filmmaking, flaneuring and immersive film practices enabled by portable technology, with the above quote by Kafka. The theme of obsessions traversed Gerda’s talk; covering her work using found footage, home movies, travel filmmaking and education.
Earlier in the day at Sightlines, Gerda had presented her immersive travel film Mobilarte to a great response. In this film, the affordances of the iPad had been enhanced in postproduction with music and sound design techniques to give the feeling of what it’s like to ride in a Tuk Tuk in Mozambique. The materiality of this practice called to mind some of the Sensory Ethnography Lab films, with their attempts to translate specific experiences of the world through filmic techniques.
Gerda talked about the concept of the modern day flaneurse, a female imagining of Baudelaire’s concept of the flaneur. Gerda quoted documentary theorist Trinh T. Minh-ha “to be in touch with the ordinary in non-ordinary ways so that it can become something extra-ordinary frame”. I think this idea especially resonated in Gerda’s work which used vernacular material she had captured as well as archival and found footage, reframing it to allow critical ways of seeing and thinking about documentary within a contemporary context.
Gerda also shared some insights into travel filming and generational differences. While older people were more inclined to point the camera outwards, millenials tended towards positioning themselves foremost in the frame- selfie style. Informed by discussions with her students, Gerda presented a critical motivation for this framing, stemming from her students’ deep anxieties with their place in the world, and the belief that their presence is the only evidence that they were really there. Something to think about anyway.
The discussion of travel filmmaking tied in with Gerda’s introduction to her current project, Viewfinders, a collaborative project with Swinburne University’s Max Schleser. This project will be presented at the Docuverse Symposium on February 10th, 2017.
This was a great way to end the series of Docuverse events for 2016, with a talk that perfectly encapsulated some of our key aims; a discussion of practice and theory that is both connected to historical documentary as well as reaching forward into emergent territories, processes and ways of thinking in the 21st century. We look forward to further expanding the Docuverse in 2017.
Last Friday in the UWH the ‘idoc tool design workshop’ was completed by a small but enthusiastic group of collaborators, who stayed the distance by eating the entire pumpkin tea loaf cooked for the occasion – (for those who requested the recipe I found this online).
The workshop followed a couple of steps in the short timeframe. Bhu the programmer and interaction designer provided a brief overview of his work, including the Feral Arts, Placestories and Inkahoots, Open Song projects. Next the workshop participants (idoc makers/producers) presented a work they had made and the behind the scenes production workflow used to work with their chosen idoc tool. The discussions focused on the likes and dislikes of these different tools, which tended to be mainly Korsakow and Klynt. These presentations culminated in a wishlist of design ideas in a post-it note brainstorm session.
The workshop with a strong focus on the software used to make an idoc, pointed out for me how little we look closely at the behind the scenes making of these works. It was useful to analyse the software in some depth in relation to historical connections and influences, along with the main motivations of the designers in regards to the types of practices they aim to support.
Thanks to all those who participated and provided valuable input towards beginning to scope the open source design. The next stage is to collate the findings from the workshop to inform some design concepts, with the aim to report back in the upcoming 2017 Docuverse symposium.
From RMIT News: A radiophonic meditation on gender identity and storytelling set in Bangkok has won multiple awards.
Making Up: 11 Scenes from a Bangkok Hotelis a radiophonic essay/feature about sexual and textual identity and the act of ‘making up’.
The essay was co-produced by creative nonfiction writer Associate Professor David Carlin and audio feature maker and sound designer Kyla Brettle with additional support from RMIT’s non/fictionLab.
Set in an international city at the crossroads of many flight-paths, the work interweaves an essay dramatising the mindscape of a Western ‘author’, with documentary-style representations of young Asian voices from the transgender community.
Carlin and Brettle collaborated to make an engaging and immersive audio experience that also critiques some of the tropes and conventions of narrative voice.
The work was commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio National’s (RN) Creative Audio Unit, Australia’s leading broadcast space for audio art and premiered on RN’s Soundproof program to a national audience in December 2015.
The program has since won four categories at the 2016 New York festival (NYF) radio awards, two Gold awards for Best Sound and Best Writing and two Silver awards for Best Direction and Best Documentary (Arts and Culture).
NYF’s international radio program awards for the world’s best radio programs honours radio programming and promotions in all lengths and formats from radio stations, networks and independent producers from around the globe.
Carlin, who is Deputy Dean (Communication) in the School of Media and Communication said it is wonderful to receive this international recognition for our work and to have it judged alongside innovative radio works from around the world.
“We started with my essay, to which Kyla was able to add a whole other layer of sonic texture and meaning when we developed this radio version for the ABC, collaborating both with actors Pamela Rabe and David Woods and members of the Asia-Pacific Transgender Network,” Carlin said.
Brettle, who lectures in the Bachelor of Communication (Media) said that she looks for stories that unfold organically via events that can be followed through incidental conversation and location sound – and tries to avoid narration and long formal interviews.
“I’m interested in the visceral and spatial properties of sound and how these can be used to make the listener feel like they are at the centre of an experience or a three-dimensional space.”
“I wanted to juxtapose the essay scenes with the voices and stories of real people, specifically transgender men and women living in Bangkok, for whom the exploration of sexual identity is more than a folly performed in a liminal space,” Brettle said.
Eleven Scenes has been described by leading US documentary-maker and scholar Michael Rabiger as ‘a superb piece of work, the kind of spiralling, multi-layered consciousness one hopes to light upon, and that is so enjoyably challenging compared with 99% of radio.’
RN’s Creative Audio unit has also selected the show to enter into the Palma Ars Acoustica, organized by the Euroradio Ars Acustica Group which only EBU member broadcasters can enter.
Making Up: eleven scenes from a Bangkok Hotel can be downloaded from the ABC website.
Story: Wendy Little