On 11/20, we went to the Taoyuan Women’s Prison. It sits in the suburban area of Taoyuan. Regulations are strict in the prison, so it took us a little time to enter into it and only 2 recorders were allowed to be bought inside.
The heavy sound of the iron door open and shut marked the beginning of our visit, separating us from the outside world. The deputy warden guided us through the whole building. From prison cells to classrooms to the factories where they work, we roughly experienced what the life inside the prison would be like. Iron doors and railings were visible everywhere inside the building, making it literally a cage.
It was averagely quiet and even silent inside the building. Sounds could only be heard in where prisoners were working and taking classes. There were voices of teachers lecturing prisoners how to resist the temptation of drugs and restart a new life. There were busy buzzes of the sewing machines. There were sounds of prisoners folding cardboard. All these sounds involving activities were alive but deprived of the joyful atmosphere that can normally be caught outside the prison. There were working activities, but barely any chatting. There were classes, but no laughter. This gave me another kind of feeling of “vitality.” I know that they were under surveillance. They could hardly be happy. However, I could still feel their subtle emotions and faint hope for freedom through their eyes and the seemingly non-stopping, endless sounds they sent out.
After the visit of the building, we moved to the adjacent meeting center where prisoners can see their family members. This place was crowded, like a hospital or a post office. We could see many people waiting for the meeting. Some people would talk, while some others remained silent. There were children and they tended to be restless, crawling around the chair or their families. I wondered if they were the prisoners’ children. If they were, then I wondered whether they understood the situation-what happened to their mothers and why they could only see them occasionally and temporally. The waiting scene is quite similar among many institutions, but the different purposes and moods set the atmosphere a little more distinctive.
Before we left, we were invited to an auditorium to see a series of performances by prisoners. The deputy warden said that the prisoners’ practice for the performances is regarded as one of the many ways to transform them. There were choruses, dances and solo songs. I saw their smiles while they performed. I thought that these performances might be their few chances that they could change to different costumes and bear smiles which were probably scarce during their daily prison lives. Again, even if I already left the prison building, the atmosphere of imprisonment still shadowed me and made me feel more twisted while watching these performances. I couldn’t tell whether they really smiled from their hearts. I didn’t know whether I should clap cheerfully like a normal response to a performance.
In conclusion, I think “the sound of hollow” best represent the sounds in Taoyuan Women’s Prison, namely the sounds of walking down the aisle or the sounds in the working places. “The sound of hollow” does not mean soundless, but reflects the mental states people inside the prison projected into the air. I was aware that I entered into a place where freedom is absent and everything is scheduled. This psychological alert somehow affected the way I made sounds and perceived sounds echoing around me.