Hello Yes No Goodbye Poster

Hello Yes No Goodbye (3RRR, Melbourne)

Lachlan Wyllie, 14th October 2016
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By Nancy Lin

H E L O

When I was 16, my dead cousin spoke to me… after my friends and I tried summoning dead spirits into the human world. Using a ouija board we'd created ourselves, we conducted a seance in a shed in my friend's backyard. A ouija board, also known as a 'talking board', is used for communicating with spirits of the deceased. It contains the words HELLO, YES, NO, GOODBYE, all the letters of the alphabet, and the numbers 0-9. You use a small piece of wood or plastic, also known as a 'planchette', which is supposed to move around the board and 'communicate' its message to you… S P O O K Y  

During the seance we communicated with multiple spirits of the departed… most of whom we didn't know, but each of us spoke with a ghost who claimed to know one of us. 
My cousin presented herself to me at one point… 
Is there a spirit in this cup? Y-E-S
How old are you? 5
Who do you know in this room? N-A-C-Y
How do you know me? C-U-S-I-N
How did you die? S-I-K
Is there anything you want me to tell them [the family]? T-E-L-T-H-E-M-I-L-U-V-T-H-E-M

I produced a radio feature, in part an audio memoir, to explore the multiple perspectives around this experience; personal, cultural, scientific perspectives… I asked myself to consider not only the fragments of my memory on which I relied on to build a narrative, but to consider all these fragmented forms of communication, and to consider not only what gets lost in communication, but what gets lost in translation, in language, in knowledge production, across cultures? What are the gaps that we try and make coherent through our attempts to convey meaning? What are the chasms in knowledge that we try and contain through our own (human) lenses?

The feature is based on a true account of mine and three other women’s experiences with a ouija board back in 2008. It is not a piece of journalism or documentary per se, but rather a narrativization of an event, that – in all its absurdity – was a very real thing that happened to my friends and I over seven years ago. 

Cultural receptions of the ouija board vary from it being a silly board game to a strange and spooky cult-like ritual, and some religions warn against using them out of fear of demonic possession. Thus, whenever I told this story to other people it was often met with disbelief, judgement, or even mockery.

The competing perspectives in my story seek to explore the fraught and complex relationship between truth, memory, reality, the past, and the multiply-constituted and subjective experiences of the material world. The lyric essayist David Shields reminds us in his manifesto, Reality Hunger, that any act of remembering is a new experience in itself, and challenges us to deconstruct the notion of ‘nonfiction’. As Dumbledore said to Harry, ‘Of course it's happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it's not real?’

The aim of the feature was not to represent an objective reality – if such a thing exists – our experiences with the ouija board already belonged and felt real each of us in different ways – and that is our truth.

G O O D B Y E 

N L

This piece was made for the CBAA's National Features & Documentary Series 2016, a showcase of work by new and emerging Australian community radio producers, with training and mentoring provided by the Community and Media Training Organisation. The opinions expressed in National Features & Documentary Series content are those of the individual producers or their interviewees, and not necessarily shared by the CBAA or CMTO.

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