Soundphiles Elsewhere

Many Echoes, Many Worlds

IAWRT presents a selection from
Soundphiles | Many Echoes, Many Worlds @ Transmissions3, a festival of independent cinema
February 26 – March 01, 2015 at Instituto Cervantes, New Delhi

3:30 pm
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Instituto Cervantes, 48 Hanuman Road, Connaught Place (behind Regal building and Hanuman Mandir)

ARTISTS
Ruchika Negi and Amit Mahanti, India
Threads As Yet Undone, 05:00 Synopsis: Through the rhythm of a loom in Malegaon, can you hear the voice in your mind?

Namrata Mehta, India
We Want Justic, 02:30 Synopsis: Innocent wordplay by two young girls on the Delhi Metro forces you to think about learnt gender roles and the importance of a discourse on the word justice.

Nazli Deniz, Turkey
Farz-I Muhal/ As If, 04:47 Synopsis: A woman who has childhood memories about her parents, dreams one night or, maybe, every night

Paromita Vohra, India
PCO1: Rangoon 1:18 Synopsis: Technology and Romance connect in a trunk-call Switchboard 1: Ruby The Telephone Operator 2:56 Synopsis: Based on a piece from a 1930s magazine, a meditation on “office girl vs. wife”

Rashmi Kaleka, India
kabariiiiaaaaa, 06:32 Synopsis: Kabari Walla is India’s inherent voice that lends to the recycling of waste collected from door to door in every urban city.

Shiva Sanjari, Iran
War from 1980 till today, 04:36 Synopsis: 4 minutes and 36 seconds of our life in Iran in the midst of war.

Sindhu Thirumalaisamy, India
Neuro-ICU, 05:28 Synopsis: Field recordings from a neuro-ICU are layered with voice-notes of the artist and of the patients’ family members–about the act of recording one’s own voice, of speaking with the hope of being heard.

Running time: 35:58
Curated by Samina Mishra and Iram Ghufran

Download programme here.

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Reflections on a listening experience at DIFF

Soundphiles played in one of the smaller venues at DIFF but on the first day, we were thrilled to see that the room was packed and people had to be turned away. We played the package in two sections, with a short break to talk about the pieces that had played. Most of the discussion, however, was at the end of the entire playing. Expectedly, people responded differently to different pieces.
 
Several listeners shared that War From 1980 to Today and Farz I Muhal /As If were very moving pieces. For one listener, Threads As Yet Undone evoked a childhood memory of his mother spending afternoons at her sewing machine listening to Hindi film songs on a radio. A young woman staying away from her home in Delhi shared that kabariiiaaa felt as she if she was back in her neighbourhood on a summer afternoon.
 
Another listener shared that We Were Never Modern became a medium to transport him to different places and times. The subtitles were a distraction, said another listener, and wondered if it would not have been better to para-dub in English. But would that not change the soundtrack, we wondered, together? And what of listeners who do not understand English? These are some of the challenges of creating artistic work in sound using spoken word. While we grapple with these questions, we hope that engaging with sound and creating and curating more editions of Soundphiles will throw up a plurality of answers.

The curation has an experimental feel and could be more coherent, said another listener. It is indeed an experiment, emphasizing diverse practices, drawing upon the theme Many Echoes, Many Worlds. But, we really couldn’t have asked for more, from an experiment of sitting together in a dark space and listening to soundtracks in a small Himalayan town!
 
When we set out to curate Soundphiles, we wondered if what was in our heads would resonate with others. Clearly, it does and we hope the next edition – Time Fabrics – brings us more echoes.

Samina Mishra
November 2014

A conversation at DIFF

Could you tell us about the exact moment (or period of time) when the idea of Soundphiles came to you first? Was it during the editing of a film, or while listening to a radio broadcast?

Soundphiles came up as an idea at an informal meeting of IAWRT members. This is an association of women working in the media. The international body has strong broadcast associations but the India chapter is much more mixed and there are a lot of documentary filmmakers as well as people who work in mainstream radio and TV. We organise an annual film festival in Delhi and so at the meeting, some of the women who work in radio began a conversation about how there is no space to experiment with sound even at our own festival. From that the discussion went on to talk about the role of sound in our diverse practices and so we thought we should plan something at the next festival. And that’s where the idea took off from.

In contemporary culture and the media, sound has unfortunately been reduced to playing a merely complimentary role to that that is visible. It is used either to reinforce the coherence of a diegetic space, or to sustain the illusion of the visible. How do you, with Soundphiles, seek to ensure that sound is appreciated for its own, inherent qualities – intonation, frequency, timber, semantic function – as opposed only to its evocative function?

By removing the visual! In our conversations about curating Soundphiles, we felt that sound practice is available today on the radio or in the contemporary art space. So, we thought, as practicing filmmakers, it would be interesting to use the cinematic space – but just for sound. What would it be like to sit in a darkened auditorium and listen but not see anything? How would we respond? What would we imagine? As filmmakers, we know that while the visual is limited by the frame, sound is limitless and in film, is used to evoke more than what is visible. So we wanted to focus on that aspect of sound and emphasise the ability of sound to tell a story, to evoke an experience or just reflect a space and time. We are thinking of sound in formal terms but the content, narrative, evocation are all crucial. For us, a very important aspect of sound is also the question of access. It’s important to broaden the frameworks of expression and to include all kinds of practices – so we are not so hung up on sound quality – it’s great if the sound recording is good but even if it’s just been recorded on a cell phone, the act of recording is important.

I gather that Soundphiles is meant to be a public performance. In very practical terms, what are the various aspects that you look into in terms of the performance space to ensure maximum audience engagement with the material? Is there a specific sound-system, a definite volume, do you insist on the lights being switched off, are there headphones that are distributed to the members of the audience, etc.?

We would like Soundphiles to work in promoting a collective listening culture. Soundphiles is not curated like a sound installation in a gallery – you are not meant to pass through the work. In terms of its dissemination, we see it more like cinema – it’s just like a screening except there’s no picture. It’s a collective listening, like radio used to be a few decades ago. The works themselves may have been made for art shows or as a radio programme – but apart from sound practice, we are also focussing on the act of listening together. The audience may be large or small – that’s not so critical. Sometimes there is text – in an ideal situation, we wouldn’t want text as a distraction but because we have spoken word in so many languages, we can’t do without subtitles. But for the rest, the audience sits in a darkened auditorium and listens collectively. So, yes, we like to have a good sound system!

In its stated mission, the IAWRT seeks to ensure that women’s views and values become an integral part of contemporary media. It is easy to look at Soundphiles as an articulation of that purpose – it plays, for instance, a very similar role to social media and its contribution to shaping contemporary discourse around the world. I say this because just like social media, recorded sounds too function through qualities of anonymity, gentle subterfuge, a democracy of opinions and omnipresence. How do you view the political aspect of Soundphiles, and is it a part of your original curatorial intent?

All artistic practice is an endeavour towards engaging with the world and influencing how we look/understand/imagine it. So, politics is layered into that. At the IAWRT film festival, we seek to present the myriad ways in which women engage with the world and so, Soundphiles is an extension of that – how do we women engage with the world through sound practice. In the first edition, we curated work under the theme of Many Echoes, Many Worlds and that has a political context to it – there are diverse women with diverse experiences and yet is there something that can resonate across those diversities? Art should spark off conversations, generate dialogue, provoke reflection. Art that emerges from sound practice can do the same.

Samina Mishra and Iram Ghufran in conversation with Anuj Malhotra at DIFF

Soundphiles | DIFF 2014

Dharamsala International Film Festival
October 30 – November 02, 2014

Soundphiles_poster

November 1, 4 pm
Club House 2
November 2, 11 am
Club House 2

See detailed PROGRAMME

Artists featured in the DIFF selection

Ruchika Negi and Amit Mahanti {Frameworks Collective} , India
Threads As Yet Undone, 5min
Synopsis: Through the rhythm of a loom in Malegaon, can you hear the voice in your mind?

Namrata Mehta, India
We Want Justice, 2min 30sec
Synopsis: Innocent wordplay by two young girls on the Delhi Metro forces you to think about learnt gender roles and the importance of a discourse on the word justice.

Nazli Deniz Güler, Turkey
Farz-I Muhal/ As If, 4min 47sec
Synopsis: A woman who has childhood memories about her parents, dreams one night or, maybe, every night.

Paromita Vohra, India
PCO1: Rangoon 1min 18sec
Synopsis: Technology and Romance connect in a trunk-call Switchboard 1: Ruby The Telephone Operator 2:56 Synopsis: Based on a piece from a 1930s magazine, a meditation on “office girl vs. wife”

Rashmi Kaleka, India
kabariiiiaaaaa, 6min 32sec
Synopsis: Kabari Walla is India’s inherent voice that lends to the recycling of waste collected from door to door in every urban city.

Shiva Sanjari, Iran
War from 1980 till today, 4min 36sec
Synopsis: 4 minutes and 36 seconds of our life in Iran in the midst of war.

Shumona Goel and Michael Northam, India and USA
We Have Never Been Modern, 7min 12sec
Synopsis: Set in an unadorned space, We Have Never Been Modern is a meditative environment that draws the listener into a haunted, dream world.

Sindhu Thirumalaisamy, India
Neuro-ICU, 5min 28sec
Synopsis: Field recordings from a neuro-ICU are layered with voice-notes of the artist and of the patients’ family members–about the act of recording one’s own voice, of speaking with the hope of being heard.

Tahera Aziz, UK
[re]locate (the attack), 5min 26sec
Synopsis: [re]locate (the attack) explores sound as remembrance by revisiting the tragic events surrounding the racially motived murder of Stephen Lawrence at a bus stop in South-East London in 1993.

Usha Rao, India
August (Edited), 5min 41sec
Synopsis: The artist searches for the sound of nature and of the ordinary life that were once a part of the cityscape, sounds that are being drowned by the deafening din of development.