– by Georgia Kartas

Image courtesy of You Are Here festival

Image courtesy of You Are Here festival

As I walk into Gentle Nails in Garema Place, I’m not quite sure what to expect: I’ve never even had a manicure before, let alone one complemented by an atypical audio experience. Nonetheless there’s not one but two beaming faces to greet me – the first being one of the nail salon workers, the second the YAH rep Nikki. In the back corner sits a giant, fairy-lighted sign with the words ‘TALON SALON’ emblazoned on it.

Here’s the drill: you pick from one of four nail polish colours and, depending on your choice, you listen to one of four audio clips. Each goes for around half an hour and centres on Vietnamese-run nail salons in Australia. One, for example, is a mixed-up soundscape of a salon’s day-to-day noises, while another is an audio play whose characters are nail salon workers and their family members.

I select an obnoxiously bright orange colour that leads to a clip entitled ‘The Chair’. The Vietnamese woman in front of me starts clipping and buffing my nails with nimble, thoroughly calloused fingers; the irony doesn’t escape me. Through my headphones comes the pleasing, soothing voice of ‘Annie’, whose character seems to alternate between service provider and customer. Annie, accompanied by recorded background sounds of a nail salon, addresses me directly. She talks to me about how tired she is, how she deserves this manicure; she talks to me about her insecurities, but she tells me that I’m full of potential, that I could be an astronaut. She recites magazine headlines; she advises me that all I need is a “warm, sexy smile”, using a warm, sexy voice.

The woman tending to my nails patiently mimes that I need to move my hands beneath the nail-drying machine.

Annie’s words are like witnessing a woman’s mind turning inside out. She’s obsessed with the image of being on top of everything, of achieving a distorted view of our full potential as women. It’s the voice of an everyday woman seeking refuge from self-imposed pressures in the chair of a salon, and offering refuge for the listener in turn.

Afterwards, to help me readjust to reality, Nikki offers me candy, which I gladly accept while awkwardly juggling personal effects without smearing my still-wet orange nails. Although I’m still spacey, my head still in that strange bubble where it was just me and Annie’s voice, I emerge feeling calm, enriched, and well-groomed.

Talon Salon will be running Sunday 24 March, 10am – 3pm. Presented at the Gentle Nails salon in Garema Place with any manicure purchase. To make an appointment, call Gentle Nails on 6230 4857 or drop by during the listed event hours.

Georgia KartasGeorgia Kartas has been published in Spun, Burley and Us Folk, and blogs about fashion and shiny things at www.red-magpie.com

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