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In this review-essay, Virginia Madsen enters the polyphonous 'limbo zone of transmissions' created by Gregory Whitehead's most recent 'performed documentary' and radio provocation, "On the shore dimly seen". This composed voicing, drawn from verbatim texts courtesy of WikiLeaks and the dysfunctionality of America's Guantanamo Bay, is heard as a fortuitous chance encounter with a medium – and as an increasingly rare listening 'detour' while Madsen is on the road. This essay is thus both a reflection upon the nature of the radio offered here, the chance listening experience to work of this kind, and upon the distinctive body of work created over more than 30 years by this American performance and radio artist. Digging down into this new radio 'no play' as she calls it, a 'forensic theatre' and convocation created by Whitehead for international audiences, and drawing on her interviews with the artist and other research and critical interactions, Madsen aims to sound out this work's greater depths and to connect us to some of the unlikely voices which still haunt its 'woundscape'.
Bibliographical noteThis is a 7700 word article (review-essay) examining in depth a work of leading American radio artist Gregory Whitehead. This article was academically refereed by an international panel of experts on the board of the journal, Radio Doc Review. The essay also contextualises this work and speaks to the history it can be situated within, including within the larger body of work (documentary and fiction) of this prolific and internationally important radio artist. It draws on Madsen's research of the radio documentary imagination and its traditions. In part the article was assisted by funding from Macquarie University and the ARC Discovery Projects scheme – the project "Cultural Conversations: A History of ABC Radio National" 2014-2018. Whitehead's work here was originally commissioned by the ABC Radio National's Creative Audio Unit.
- performance documentary
- Guantanamo Bay
- radio documentary
- audio feature
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