In The Silence of the Inmates, Malachi have talked about the silence we encountered in the prison. It’s quite unusual for me to find it so quiet, which never happen in my former recording field in city building or Pinglin’s tea farms. The sound recorder is so sensitive, thus usually it would be really hard to keep people’s voice out even in deep mountain. But in Prison, even a room is filled with more than 100 women working together, I really can’t record any sound coming from people’s conversation. I was once expecting recording some sound or song in the working environment like the Prison Song Yannick once recommended.
Being more specific, It’s not unsoundable, it’s untalkable. Prisoners being untalkable with each other (at least, in the working situation), and being untalkable with visitors like us. But the thing impressed me most, is we are also untalkable with these women prisoners. This kind of untalkable, doesn’t really mean we could not talk with them, but a feeling of no(t) right(s) communicating with them by using daily spoken/body/facial languages and in equal status. We have never been told what is forbidden, but under that space and circumstance, a strong feeling is telling me, any attempt of getting closer would be inappropriate and even illegal.
For me, it’s a lost of autonomy (e.g. the sound autonomy). It happens not only on sound, but also the sound attempt; not only on prisoners, but also on visitors; not only in the working circumstance, but also the whole visiting process. For example, before entering into the prison, we have to decrease the amount of record equipments according to the officers’ requirement.
The sound during the Prisoners’ Show and the sound in the Families Waiting Zone, in my opinion, are another kind of lost of autonomy. During the show, it seems that prisoner could sing and dance and smile to we visitors, showing up their learning achievement. But what we should notice is not whether they are smiling truly or not, but how this show is being produced and control. What the prisoners sing or dance on the stage have being selected, and the purpose of this show is to show us how effective and humanistic the governor are, prisoners get more credits to go out earlier, and visitors being moved. All the sound we heard include no free expression, and the purpose of the sound accomplished no deeper understanding or communication with those others. It has an appearance of normal, freedom, better understanding, but in fact it’s just an accomplice for governing.
After getting out of the imprisonment area, we have some time to visit the Families Waiting Zone. At first, i feel much more enjoyable here, for we could finally use all record equipments freely, and there are a lot of sounds here (compare with the horrible silence in the prison imprisonment area), including sound made by family members, the calling systems, and the convenience store. The sound the calling system produced is a sound of a very kind and intimate girl, just like the other daily official systems’ sound we would heard in Taiwan. Everything should be fine except the huge difference between other prison areas’ sound. The Families Waiting Zone, usually functions as the only part outside people could see, now maintains the appearance of the prison. Normal people and media could not see or hear in the inner part, but they would be satisfied by what they could see and hear in the Families Waiting Zone, and that’s enough.
Thus, the (sound) governing keeps prison’s inner part untalkable, and our lost of (sound) autonomy. This field trip recording in prison not only leaves me deep impression on the absent of sound, but also reminds me of how we could possibly know more if we hearing sound from its mechanism of production, function, and the social relation interacting within.