6 Mar 2013

'selected radio memorials'

a suite of transmission works collected from the last few years' somewhat consistent low-level preoccupation with narrowcast radio and local seismic activity are to be included in Simulcast, a group exhibition of radio works running at the Audio Foundation's Auckland space from the 7th - 30th of March, also including work by Auckland artists Ivan Masic and Jay Hollows, and a 'radio wormhole' linking Auckland to central Christchurch, a sonic transfer of the everydayness of each locale opened up for the month's duration by Zita Joyce.

for Simulcast, radio cegeste put together a playlist of relevant programmes, including the transmission works dear friends who have died are all talking to me tonight / all at once, and a private swamp is where this tree grew feathers once, a radio memorial in four movements, which which were 'exhibited' in the radio-space of the Audio Foundation's new online and low-power FM radio station, AFM 88.3FM and on site via receivers tuned into the signal in the physical exhibition space.

An edition of 10 lock-groove lathe cut records, collectively entitled modified radio memorial #1 (a fissure in the line of a public silence) were made especially for the exhibition. These ten transcriptions of the radio silence broadcast 1 week after the Christchurch earthquake of February 2011 are all individual, cyclic extensions of public radio silence, a mourning ritual which included birdsong, prayer, and the extended diatribes of public radio shock jocks.

I also wrote a piece for the catalogue (which was slightly different in its published form):


how to listen to nothing : the radio memorial as ‘gap music’
it’s misleading to think about radiophonic space in sculptural terms, as a space to be “filled” with sound. (…) Radio space is more a series of cultural, social and political relations, to be engaged in some way. (…) The politics of making creative radio are similar to the politics of working in any other kind of public space.
-Gregory Whitehead

In the past few years, I’ve been increasingly re-imagining radio space as sitting somewhat specifically within its material apparatus of reception and transmission, one consequence of engaging with the active and creative use of the airwaves as a medium, is to see it as no longer analogous to, locatable within what can be perceived of as a neutrality of site. Attuned to the mobilities that the narrowcast potentials of the medium of Mini FM allow, I find myself mostly drawn to leave the studio behind, to wander off into the wilder, stranger landscape of radio waves, following the trail of a ‘plein air radio’ (art) practice befitting of a more nomadic sensibility, one increasingly attuned less to objects than to the way tecnologies of transmission activate the gaps and silences between them. Within this more fluid way of thinking about, of positioning radiophonic time and site, the radio programme itself can be reconfigured as a durational, event-based structure unbounded by the metered temporalities of an imposed radio-clock, and accommodating of the silence disavowed (the dreaded 'dead air') on the public airwaves. What emerges is sometimes more akin to a form of sited readabilty and decipering approaching a de-monumentalised land art, a genre of non-spectacular (even 'failed') nature documentary, or sometimes a form more aligned with, if not the same as, improvised sound performance. Any way you listen to it, this is radio that also listens to itself. That tends to be tangibly, if temporarily mapped out as a series of fleeting, roughly circular territories, constellations of localised significances, docking points within the conglomerate palimpsests of materialities that cohere more abstractly around it, that meet it, as cities, architectures, groups of bodies, discourses, forests, entertainment environments, human and non-human languages, disaster events. Such programmes become akin, from one perspective, to a soft criticality of such structures, in their sketching of a series of domestically scaled rooms, body sized portals which open in moments as interventions or understandings, counter-memorials, and then close again, often without anyone in the room noticing, although someone might have heard something in a lecture theatre in a city on the other side of the world. Jack Spicer perhaps anticipated these uncanny modalities best in the 1940s when he wrote of the poet as radio receiver, an Orphic presence, tuning into transmissions as the gap music of the universe: “the ocean does not mean to be listened to / a drop or crash of water / it means / nothing … aimlessly it pounds the shore, white and aimless signals / noone listens to poetry”. [1]           

[1] jack Spicer ‘thing language’