OTHER RANKS – LEST WE FORGET - Monday, 5 November 2012

The power of sound is the focal point in capturing the heroism and sacrifice of those serving under the British flag, in a new exhibition at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.

Marking the museum’s month of Remembrance, Other Ranks is the work of renowned sound artist Amie Slavin, who is blind.

The multi-sensory, sound-based installation aims to portray Army life to those on Civvy Street, in a vibrant and unique way.

Amie said, “If a picture can paint a thousand words, then a sound can trigger a million mental images. My aim, in producing sound-centred work, is to stimulate an absorption in and appreciation of the many and various ways in which sound can be used to represent and illuminate ideas, issues and voices. I hope to make my audience laugh, cry and think, through their ears – so to speak.”

Amie has been working on the Other Ranks project for the past four years. She captures the relentless pounding of marching soldiers’ boots to form a poignant backdrop to the installation.

Using 16 wall-mounted speakers and four subwoofers, Other Ranks broadcasts the sounds of soldiery; marching, drill exercises, handling weapons, tackling an assault course and training in urban warfare. All the while, the sound of an endless parade of marching feet is intended to turn museum visitors’ thoughts to the people who wore those Army boots – each the hero of their own story.

On the floor, small lanterns draw people’s eyes down as they listen. Underfoot, hundreds of photos, uploaded to the project by members of the public, carpet the floor, representing both the human cost of warfare and its destructiveness.

Amie added, “Other Ranks owes its existence to many contributors and friends and I am grateful to Royal Armouries, and to the British Army, for helping to make this project a reality.

“A project of this scale and scope requires a lot of research and preparation. The bulk of the work has been spent in pursuing every sound, every voice, and every piece of proffered advice or wisdom and by seizing ruthlessly on anyone not quick enough to stay out of reach!

“I’ve been on four different Army camps and visited a TA veterans’ group. I’ve recorded in the street, in fields, backrooms and a mocked-up Afghan war zone.

“Some guys will talk about almost anything and are eager to do so. Others are wary of speaking out of turn or of causing me distress with what they say. For example, I spent some considerable time and effort attempting to persuade someone to give me a good old-fashioned Army dressing-down. Two chaps very kindly had a crack at it for me but one eventually admitted it was just impossibly difficult to stand in front of a female civilian – my gender was more inhibiting than my disability, apparently – and deliver a proper telling-off. Both spoke to me in gently firm and moderate language instead.”

Other Ranks forms part of the Royal Armouries’ Inspired by …….project. It is set to run until the end of March.

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Notes to editors

To find Fort Nelson, follow the brown Tourist signs from the M27. The Fort is open seven days a week, from 10am to 5pm.

Download the PDF press release.