Table of Contents
Gintas Tirilis, Chris Myhr, Amos Latteier, Alexandra Gelis and Jennifer Cherniack
Geoffrey Shea and Alan Boulton
Featured here is a selection of articles presented at the first ever TransX Transmission Art Symposium in May 2012, presented by New Adventures in Sound Art.
Please see the TransX Transmission Art Sessions page for the paper and events schedule.
This first edition of the TransX Transmission Art Symposium took place from 25–27 May 2012 as part of the Deep Wireless Festival of Radio & Transmission Art, and focused on Transmission Art, with particular interest in contributions that summarize, examine or reframe traditions and histories of transmission art practices, technology, education and pedagogy. Additionally, presentations were sought that go beyond the local contingent to give a sense of how new technologies of international transmission activity might be experienced.
Rooted in the earliest experiments with radio, Transmission Art has continued to flourish into the 21st Century with experiments using wireless communications technology over the past 100 years, including the exploration of a variety of mobile-based platforms and lesser-known forms of transmission, such as VLF. The terrain of transmission art is dynamic and fluid, always open to redefinition.
It’s a pleasure to be here and an honor to have been invited to present on the occasion of this gathering.
I’m here to talk about the Foundations of Transmission Arts. Let me qualify this now as an incomplete and subjective look at a genealogy that might inform the genre. I hope my presence here contributes to a conversation and is by no means an assertion of a definitive history or definition.
free103point9, where I serve as Executive Director in New York State, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. Throughout this history the organization has been focused on fostering artists making work with, for, and about the transmission spectrum: Transmission Arts.
Contemporary transmission art is united by a spirit of experimentation and innovation. Transmission artists find their audiences in galleries, museums, public and private space, and educational contexts. Audiences take the form of listeners, viewers, readers, participants, and students. Transmission projects defy exclusive classification. They take shape as sound artworks, and are presented as composition or live performance. They sometimes appear as moving-image works transmitted as television broadcast or video art. They may appear in installations that draw from the transmission spectrum, perhaps sampling multiple radio or scanner feeds, or adding to what is on-air by creating site-specific radio stations inside a gallery or public space. In addition, reproducible multiples or distributed objects share technology and access in the form of transmission tool-kits, while radio theatre works engage radio space as a stage for storytelling. Interventionist acts intentionally blur the lines between art and activism. Mobile artworks repurpose ubiquitous wireless consumer technologies for creative means. Regardless of a bewildering variety of approaches, transmission art projects all celebrate the imaginative use of tools of communication
Now there is also a conversation to have around terminology. I know there are those that love the term transmission used in this context, as well as those who find it problematic. The wonderful and wise Anna Friz argues, I believe, for the use of “transception” in order to better represent the importance of two-way participation–transmitter / receiver. The act of transmission—taken literally as the wireless sending and receiving of electric signals by means of electromagnetic waves—is of course a term interchangeable with “radio.” But, “Radio art,” we feel, denotes works conceived for FM broadcast, and it is my position that while radio artworks play an important role in the history of transmission art, it is not a comprehensive one. But I digress… a conversation to continue over dinner.
Let’s start with free103point9’s own 15-year history which will guide us through some recent projects, artists and works, and then we’ll jump farther back to trace a trajectory of inventors, experimenters, and organizations contributing to the formation of the genre, at least in my eyes.
free103point9 was established in 1997 as a microradio collective in Brooklyn, New York.
The founders of free103point9 (then journalist and DJ Tom Roe who is here at the conference, and to whom I am married; drummer Greg Anderson; and visual artist Violet Hopkins) were among thousands of participants in the U.S. microradio movement. As this audience surely knows, the term microradio became widely used in the mid-nineties when media activists performed acts of civil disobedience by broadcasting without a license to demonstrate the importance of making low-power FM radio available to communities, as an alternative to a corporate monopoly of the airwaves.
Concurrent with the movement’s relative success, in terms of lobbying for the licensing of low-power FM (LPFM) in 2000, free103point9 witnessed members of its community of microradio broadcasters (who took the shape of noise and free jazz musicians, poets, sound and visual artists) shift their practice with micropower broadcast from simply a means of distribution, to creating conceptually driven, sometimes rigorous, transmission-based projects utilizing the electromagnetic spectrum as an artistic medium. I entered the picture in the year 2000, after meeting Tom Roe, and in 2002, free103point9 transitioned into a nonprofit organization focused on cultivating and defining a new genre: transmission arts.
In order to cultivate and define this genre, free103point9 ran a small somewhat underground venue in New York, which we called the free103point9 Gallery and Project Space.
The Project Space not only served as a place for experimentation for those artists who were starting to self-identify as transmission arts practitioners, but it also continued to serve the experimental music scene in Brooklyn. Participating noise and free jazz musicians were tasked with confronting a microradio or transmission component in the conception of their performances. This strategy seduced many into truly considering and engaging the electromagnetic spectrum, in some cases for the first time. Artists started incorporating shortwave, walkie-talkies, homemade transmitters (audio and video), 2.4 GHz technology, and more into their works.
Simultaneously we established several large-scale “transmission arts projects.” These projects were, at their essence, expanded microradio frameworks, which included a rotating cast of artists. Here, artists whose work may have been primarily based in experimental sound or moving image practice, found themselves working with transmission media and concepts. Many of these artists would then start to include transmission art ideas and technology in their future work.
These initial touring project frameworks I’m referring to include Tune(In)))/Tune(Out)))side, Radio 4×4, and Microradio Sound Walk. I’ll describe of each of these briefly.
Premiering in early 2003 at the NY Center for Media Arts, in Long Island City, NY, Tune(In)))s are sound events designed for a virtually silent environment in which listeners experience simultaneous live performances in individual radio headsets as opposed to amplified within a performance space. As many as six individual microradio stations (and 60 performing artists), are set up within an event space. Each station microcasts on a unique frequency. Participants are provided with a detailed schedule outlining the multiple frequencies to tune into as well as the live performances taking place on each “station.” In order to access the performances, listeners must engage and consider the radio spectrum, traversing the dial to the Tune(In))) FM frequencies, encountering other commercial stations available on FM radio as they turn the dial, or the minimal ambient room noise.
Artist and audience relationships are challenged in this simultaneously isolating yet communal space. Two friends who attend the event together might stand close together, but likely are experiencing two completely different performances. A performing artist might have a crowd of attentive listeners assembled at his or her performance location, but can’t know for sure which performance they are listening to. Our second Tune(In))) was presented in 2004 at The Kitchen in New York in conjunction with the city wide festival New Sound, New York. Subsequent Tune(In)))s and Tune(Out)))side (an outdoor version) have been presented at Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, free103point9’s former Brooklyn location, and Wave Farm in upstate New York.
In Radio 4×4, (which was conceived in 2003) four simultaneous performances are separately sent through FM transmitters to radios (often boomboxes) positioned throughout a performance space. Each radio receives only one of the signals. The audience is instructed to move about the space, creating their own “mix” of the audio feeds determined by their movement in the space, among the four signals. Radio 4x4s have been presented at numerous venues including the Guggenheim in New York [which is what the slide here illustrates], the Philadelphia ICA, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, and in international contemporary art venues in Poland, South Korea, to name just a few.
Microradio Sound Walk, was conceived in 2004, for Spectropolis a project of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council which examined the expanding use of wireless technologies in urban environments, underscoring their implications for art, aesthetic play, community, and shared space. In Microradio Sound Walk, three radio stations, microcasting on the same frequencies, are setup along a designated path. Each station is given a thematic focus: Social Spaces, Local Frequencies, and Environmental Surroundings. Audience members are provided with radio receivers tuned to the appropriate frequency, and headphones. As they proceed on the walking route, participants hear the performance happening at the station they are in closest proximity to. As they walk out of range from the first station and proceed to the next (moving from signal to signal) the changing soundscape reflects an invisible architecture and sonic phenomena of transmission space. Microradio Sound Walks have taken place at the Warsaw CCA in Poland (the program for this event is illustrated here) Hallwalls in Buffalo, and the Ingenuity Festival in Cleveland, among other locations.
In the same year that Microradio Sound Walk was conceived, 2004, we decided to expand north. free103point9 Program Director, Tom Roe and I relocated our residence from Brooklyn, to rural upstate New York (about 2 hours north of New York City). We secured approximately 30-acres of land that we named Wave Farm.
Programs envisioned for Wave Farm included an outdoor summer performance series, transmission arts sculpture park, and an artists residency program that would both continue to cultivate the genre and provide artists with unique access to space, both in terms of the physical landscape and the transmission spectrum. (Most of our visiting artists would come from urban centers where land and spectrum real estate is difficult to come by…)
As we worked to get programs underway at Wave Farm, we kept up with quite a lively roster of activities in New York City and abroad. A couple of highlights to mention are:
On The Air, which was conceived on the occasion of the first Performa biennial for performance art in New York City in 2005. This “architecture in motion for the reception of polyphonic radio signals” was a four-day installation at the White Box gallery. On The Air used the Radio 4×4 framework as a springboard, but here small radio receivers were attached to helium balloon clusters. Each morning the balloons, and radios which dangled from them, would start on the ceiling of the exhibition space. As the day progressed the balloons began to fall and moved slowly around the space. Each day featured interventions in the space from a roster of over a dozen artists.
On The Air was equally visual and aural; free103point9 programs have regularly featured transmission art works that are made manifest in installations or sculpture to demonstrate that transmission arts is truly multi-disciplinary. We don’t simply mean radio (in terms of FM broadcast) and we also don’t just mean sound art or performance.
As part of this effort, free103point9 has frequently commissioned new installation-based works and web-based projects, often in collaboration with institutional partners.
As part of the New Museum for Contemporary Art’s Transmission series, the exhibition Airborne in 2005 profiled exciting new projects by New York-based artists who investigate the aesthetic, sonic, and socio-political aspects of the wireless spectrum.
Selected from an open call, artists 31 Down, Paul Davies, Melissa Dubbin + Aaron S. Davidson, Tarikh Korula, LoVid, neuroTransmitter, and Mendi + Keith Obadike exposed otherwise fleeting and invisible transmissions through conceptual projects, networked installations, live streams, and audio-visual works. I’ll discuss a few of these in detail:
In Wanderlost, 31 Down considers personal privacy issues and the paranoia surrounding new technologies by eavesdropping on live police scans to search for clues in the world of the dispatcher. Employing the central motif of a 1940s style detective radio program featuring the fictional case of missing nightclub singer Helen Tremble, Wanderlost creates a tension between fact and fiction.
A visitor sits down and puts the headphones on to experience the piece. The radio play’s playback system is tied to a live police scanner. When there is activity on the scanner it is played and the radio play pauses. So there is a constant site-specific and live personality to this work where real and fabricated crimes and crime stories are interwoven.
In a two-fold project titled “Last & Lost Transmissions,” collaborating artists Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson focus on lost and found messages. In “Last Transmissions,” the artists rebroadcast an amalgam of final messages made by individuals — a disc-jockey signing off one last time or a lost sailor’s plea, creating an opening into divergent narratives. In “Lost Transmissions,” the artists collect and rebroadcast, radio messages that have been lost during the process of transmission. Dubbin and Davidson offered these messages a chance to be found by devoting a small, temporary radio station in the museum space to their re-transmission.
Exploiting the techniques of current commercial radio practice, Chop 10 by Tarikh Korula re-mixes a live, dynamic assemblage of commercial radio streams as a commentary on the current state of regulated radio. As Chop 10 moves from one Arbitron-rated Top Ten radio station in New York City to the next, the hyper “scan” makes it impossible to discern any single station’s content, resulting in a jumpy, never-ending parody of commercial radio.
In Ether Ferry, LoVid manipulates signal breakdown and establishes a tactile relationship with technology. Ether Ferry features a live video feed generated by an electrical signal simultaneously broadcast between multiple video transmitters and receivers. The video signal is pure feedback of raw electrical signal through transmitters and receivers vintage analog video mixers and processors.
In the installation video transmitters and receivers are placed in two sliding boxes. Visitors are able to slide the boxes and change the levels of mixing and decay between the signals. The change in the relative locations of the transmitters and receivers affects the resulting video produced by the system. The sliding boxes and the plasma screen are covered with handmade fabric patchwork. The patchworks are created from video stills printed on fabric. The video stills are screen captures from a video recorded with the Ether Ferry system before the exhibition. The video-generated fabric is an example of LoVid’s explorations of the translation and preservation of signals. By printing the video on fabric and bringing the fabric back into the installation, the artists draw visitors into a tactile hands-on interaction with technology.
12 Miles Out is a visual and sound installation that merges analog radio transmission with line drawing. Specifically referencing Radio Caroline, this work continues our exploration of offshore (pirate) radio practices prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s. Installed, the drawing-as-antenna represents a blueprint of one in a fleet of Radio Caroline ships. A sound collage – created from archived broadcasts of Radio Caroline and sound recordings of a voyage taken out to sea – is transmitted through the antenna drawing and received by radios placed within the exhibition environment.
In 2006, free103point9 and the acclaimed new media organizatonRhizome announced an open call in conjunction with an online exhibition of web-based projects. The exhibition Surge included works by artists 31 Down, Abe Linkoln and Marisa Olson, Angel Nevarez and Alex Rivera, New York Society for Acoustic Ecology, Jimpunk, and Leslie Sharpe. The featured projects employed new media tools to both conceptually and formally address different possibilities for transmission art online. Some consider the nature of signals as they move through the ether; others appropriate forms of wireless transmission, such as the military’s aerial ‘drone’ or the programming language AsCii, to propose new kinds of digital communication.
2007 marked free103point9’s 10th Anniversary season, jam-packed with projects in New York City and upstate. In the fall of that anniversary year, free103point9 took a big leap, when the Federal Communications Commission in the US opened a rare application window for new Non-commercial Full-power FM stations.
For the next several years, free103point9’s focus turned to applying for and then creating the radio station WGXC 90.7-FM. WGXC was conceived both as a community media project as well as one that would dedicate considerable airtime to the experimental, in a way no other station in the country (at least to our knowledge) did.
WGXC 90.7-FM went on-air in February 2011, serving a potential 80,000 listeners with 24/hour programming seven days a week. Approximately 60 hours a week on WGXC are devoted to transmission arts and experimental sound programming.
Since its inception, WGXC has worked to implement three unique studios (Acra, Catskill, Hudson) in order to be accessible to listeners and programmers throughout the listening range.
The third studio at Wave Farm in Acra is located in the very recently completed Wave Farm Study Center pictured here. This building was first conceived of in 2006. Construction has just recently been completed, and the facility is finally opening this month. The Wave Farm Study Center houses our artist in residency program, providing work and presentation space, in addition to the WGXC 90.7-FM studio. The Study Center also features a library (reading and listening) focused on transmission arts, media art history, and experimental sound and music.
It’s this library and archive component that I’m particularly excited by; I believe that through these kinds of resources that free103point9 best serve our mission: to define and cultivate the Transmission Arts genre. Answering the question “What is Transmission Arts” or “What are the foundations” has been a constant refrain throughout our organization’s history. This brings me to talk a bit about the book “Transmission Arts: Artists and Airwaves” published last fall by PAJ Publications.
The book project was actually first initiated in 2003, free103point9 staff members at that time: Tianna Kennedy, Sarah Lippek, Matt Mikas, Tom Roe, and I worked together drafting an outline for a book that would define the genre, cite early experiments, celebrate the microradio movement, and identify contemporary practitioners working within an arts context. However, we were a newly formed nonprofit, and establishing and executing programs meant our efforts toward the book did not move much beyond early research and the project outline. Years later when the book idea was revisited with certainty, thanks to the collaboration of my co-authors Penny Duff and Maria Papadomanaloki, and the commitment of PAJ Publications as publisher. This time, our intentions focused on publishing a resource that would establish a genealogy for the genre by presenting 150 representative artists and works. The citation of these 150 projects, would provide a foundation for an expansive transmission arts online archive, and we hoped inform future scholarly work on the genre.
Like the works encompassed by the genre, transmission art’s lineage is anything but linear. Transmission art practitioners demonstrate an interest in an expansive idea of radio and often pursue its demystification and innovation through a do-it-yourself, hands-on relationship with transmission technology, paying homage to the inventors who were making large, often simultaneous, strides in wireless technologies in the mid- and late-nineteenth centuries.
So who are the key inventors to cite in this discussion of foundations and/or origin? There are the obvious bright spots and those who are less recognized. The following is a short-list of eight innovators born in the nineteenth century whose work, I believe, has made critical contributions to the Transmission Art genre. And I’ll inevitably mispronounce names as I say them aloud, so please feel free to discretely correct me.
Born 1815, Abbé Giovanni Caselli was an Italian physicist and inventor of the first fax machine prototype. Caselli began to research different ways of perfecting the transmission of images using telegraphic technology when he was a professor of physics at the University of Florence. In 1860, Caselli presented the first almost complete Pantelegraph. Caselli’s invention caught the attention of Emperor Napoleon III, who facilitated Caselli’s experiments, providing access to the region’s telegraphic lines. In November 1860, a telegraphic line was assigned to Caselli for the realization of an intercity transmission between Paris and Amiens. Caselli’s experiment was a resounding success in part thanks to his set of synchronization timers immune to the changes in the electrical current of the telegraphic wire. The first pantelegraph was officially registered in 1861.
Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla (born 1856) is well recognized for his strides in electricity and electromagnetism. In 1894 he wirelessly lit up single-terminal incandescent lamps in New York, and in 1896 he successfully demonstrated wireless communication through radio. His electrical work in the late 1800s developed alternating current (AC) electrical power, which formed the basis for modern electricity. (In what is referred to as the “War of Currents” Thomas Edison was at odds with George Westinghouse, Tesla’s employer, regarding the preferable means for electrical power distribution. Edison advocated for direct current, DC, rather than Tesla’s alternating current, AC). Tesla proposed his system for “the transmission of electrical energy without wires” dependent upon the earth’s conductivity as early as 1904, in his essay published in the periodical Electrical World and Engineer.
Charles Jenkins (b. 1867) was an early cinema pioneer who created a projector he called the Phantascope. Jenkins is also among the inventors credited with developing television. In general, Jenkins used mechanical rather than electronic technologies. His article “Motion Pictures by Wireless” was published in Motion Picture News in 1913, and in 1923 Jenkins demonstrated transmitted moving silhouette images. It was not until three years later that he formally presented a synchronized transmission of pictures and sound, and secured the related patent. In 1928, the Jenkins Television Corporation launched the first television broadcasting station in the U.S., W3XK.
Italian inventor Guglielmo (goo-yell-mo) Marconi (born 1874) is responsible for numerous improvements to wireless telegraph devices developed by earlier inventors (Hertz, Popov, Brantley, Tesla, and Lodge). More notably, Marconi plays a major role in the lively discussion around the origins of radio transmission and related patents, which has been a topic of controversy in the courts and recorded history for well over a century. While the success in terms of transmitted content received is also not without controversy, his transatlantic transmission experiments in the early 1900s are indisputable documented events. On December 12, 1901, Marconi’s first radio signal was transmitted across the Atlantic from Poldu, Cornwall England to Signal Hill at St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
Responsible for 180 patents in his lifetime, Lee de Forest (b.1873) is widely regarded for his innovations and improvements to the vacuum tube used in early radio and television. In 1906, de Forest’s Audion added elements of control and amplification to earlier vacuum tubes developed by Thomas Edison and Ambrose Fleming. De Forest’s Audion detected radio signals and converted radio frequency into audio frequency ready for amplification.
Born in 1874, Frank Conrad worked for the Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Originating from a Westinghouse building with his own garage as backup service, Conrad launched the first licensed broadcast station in the world, KDKA, 1020-AM, in November 1920.
Born in 1888, John Logie Baird was a Scottish engineer and inventor of many successful electronic systems for grayscale and color moving-image broadcast, which would later be called television. Baird publicly demonstrated the product of his first experiments, the scanning disk (or Nipkow disk), from his London laboratory on January 26, 1926. One year later, he successfully transmitted the first long-distance television signal between London and Glasgow; this demonstration was followed shortly thereafter by the first transatlantic television broadcast between London and New York. In 1939, he produced the first experiment with color television by installing revolving color filters in front of a cathode ray tube. He publicly demonstrated the first electronic color TV in 1941. This early system employed a 600-line color patent, and Baird planned to improve the system by increasing the resolution to 1000 lines, making it almost comparable to contemporary high-definition television. In addition to his television innovations, he also contributed to the development of fiber optics, infrared night vision, and radar technologies.
Born in 1890 in New York, Edwin Howard Armstrong was an American electrical engineer and the inventor of frequency modulation radio. While studying at Columbia University, he invented the regenerative circuit, which he patented as Wireless Receiving System in 1914. The patent was claimed by Lee de Forest in 1914 and sold to AT&T, spurring a lengthy series of lawsuits over radio patent ownership. Twelve years of legal dispute followed, and, though Armstrong won an initial round in the courts, he eventually lost the case, and the patent was granted to de Forest. While in the midst of this legal struggle, Armstrong began a series of experiments that led to the creation of a wide-band frequency modulator in 1933. These efforts resulted in what is commonly known today as FM radio. In support of his discovery, Armstrong conducted a number of large-scale FM test transmissions from the Empire State Building, from 1934 to 1935. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) resisted Armstrong’s innovations, articulating an allegiance to the then dominant AM radio technology. Armstrong’s FM patent was claimed by RCA, and once again Armstrong found himself entrenched in legal battles. Following his death, Armstrong’s position was ultimately vindicated through a court victory obtained by his widow.
So where do these inventions leave us and lead us? Inventors of transmission technologies were innovators and experimenters. Some might say they were consumed by ideas of what a future society empowered by their tools could achieve.
In the early decades of the twentieth century, works created under the artistic and social umbrella of Futurism celebrated noise, speed, and experimentation. Improvisation with and about machinery and technology were commonly explored. Luigi Russolo’s Futurist manifesto “The Art of Noise” (1913) classified “noise-sound” into six discrete groupings including thunderings, whistling, murmurs, rustling, percussion with common objects, and vocal noise produced by people and animals. Eight years later, Velimir Khlebnikov’s manifesto “The Radio of the Future” prophesized an evolution of the medium where text, images, scents, and even flavors could be communicated through broadcast. In what is perhaps the first articulated conception of transmission art, Khlebnikov also envisioned a future where radio would emit ethereal art exhibitions.
Artists Brian Dewan and Max Goldfarb produced an interpretation of Khlebnikov’s The Radio of the Future on the occasion of Transmission Arts programming during WGXC 90.7-FM’s first pledge drive in April 2011. It is accessible on the free103point9 Transmission Arts Archive at http://transmissionarts.org/audio/jegqyk
Similarly interested in the synesthetic possibilities of radio, the first Hörspiel was broadcast in Germany in 1924. Translated literally as radio play, Hörspiel uses sound effects, music, and dialogue to embolden the imagination of its listeners. In both an ironic and self-reflective exercise, Hans Flesch’s Zauberei auf dem Sender (Radio Magic) describes a radio station’s struggle to present a program on the air through a compendium of dialogue, noise, and experimental music. It seems Hörspiel was slow to be embraced in the U.S. In the mid-nineteen eighties FM stations KPFA (the country’s first community-supported radio station) in Berkeley and WDR (V-Day-Are) in Cologne united with assistance from the Goethe Institute in San Francisco to produce Hörspiel USA, a series of nine programs presenting twelve Hörspiele never before heard in the U.S. The series demonstrated a broad definition of radio theatre that encompasses works situated within traditional definitions of theatre, as well as theatrical works driven by poetics, performance, and sound art.
In 1935, the German electronics company, AEG, unveiled the first audio tape recorder at the Berlin Radio Show, an international radio exhibition occurring regularly since 1926. This device would make a considerable impact on electronic music, placing new tools in the hands of musicians, composers, and engineers. After World War II, artists began using the tape recorder to produce works that employed a new method of composition called musique concrète. Pierre Schaffer, the French musician and theorist, popularized this technique in 1948, in Paris, with his Five Studies of Noises, a series composed solely for tape. In the years following, works by Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage, among others, pioneered the use of real-time media, including radio, as a viable instrument in composition and performance. Cage’s work, in particular, which privileged chance operation and nonmusical instrumentation in conceptually-driven composition over musical aptitude, serves as a primary influence on many of the contemporary artworks cited in the book Transmission Arts: Artists & Airwaves.
Cage’s Experimental Composition classes at The New School for Social Research in New York City from 1957 to 1959 served as a fertile ground for the convergence of early practitioners of the avant-garde, including Jackson Mac Low, George Brecht, Dick Higgins, and Allan Kaprow. Lithuanian-born artist George Maciunas, who was also at The New School, became a propelling force of Fluxus as a movement rejecting intellectualism and “artificial art” in order to promote “living art,” “anti-art,” and to elevate the ordinary. In a resounding illustration of these priorities, transmission works often embrace live, ordinary media in order to reveal a present moment in time without being beholden to a specific location or instance. For example, in Keith Sonnier’s Scanners (Quad Scan), a series of radio scanners are installed in an exhibition space and tuned to emergency frequencies. The transmissions received in this work’s first installation, in 1975, vary considerably from installations in recent years, and in each instance the installation takes on a new and prescient social awareness and critique.
In an explicit act of social engagement occurring with the anti-war movement in the U.S. in the late 1960s and early 1970s, artists gained access to portable video equipment. (Sony’s Portapak, the first portable half-inch video recording system, became commercially available in 1967.) Often working as collectives, video artists saw a radical opportunity in transmission media as a tool that might at long last realize democratic cultural and global communications networks. Collectives like TVTV (Top Value Television) and the Videofreex produced subversive works that challenged corporate media and exposed a corrupt political system. In the 1980s, global communications experiments connected a broad network of international video artists. Satellite and other telecommunications technologies promised new possibilities of live and remote collaboration. In recent years the ubiquity of wireless devices tied to the Internet have once again inspired artists interested in communication networks. In a consistent thread, independent and community media is revered as a means to combat a dystopian political, social, and creative climate.
An investment in public access to the transmission spectrum is intrinsic to the engagement of airwaves for artistic purpose. Transmission art often emerges from an interest in spectrum regulation and a critique of the limited public access that exists for experimentation with electronic communication. Not surprisingly then, transmission artists have deep roots in media activism and share concerns regarding corporate control of the airwaves.
Individuals and efforts to mention in a short list of activism contributing to Transmission Arts’ genealogy include:
Mbanna Kantako pioneered microradio as an activist tool in the U.S. in the mid-1980s. While living in a public housing project in Springfield, Illinois, Kantako, a blind African-American, began transmitting a low-power (one-watt) FM signal to the public housing residents in 1987. The station, WTRA, became a tool for activism and empowerment of a community that until then was without voice. Residents went on air to speak about social issues, including reporting on mistreatment by authority figures, and other injustices connected to race and economic class. The success of WTRA soon drew attention from the Federal Communications Commission, which ultimately charged Kantako with unlicensed broadcasting, precipitating a series of events that emboldened Kantako’s energies rather than stunted them. Heralded by many as the microradio movement’s founder, WTRA influenced and inspired countless other microradio stations around the country, and spawned a movement credited with influencing legislation that licenses limited low-power broadcast. Today, WTRA is known as Human Rights Radio, an international organization devoted to black studies and radical politics.
Free Radio Berkeley was founded in 1993 as a free speech advocacy organization that challenged the regulatory structure and power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Free Radio Berkeley broadcasted twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week on 104.1-FM with fifty watts of power, serving the greater Berkeley/Oakland area in the mid-nineties. When the FCC took steps to shut the station down, Free Radio Berkeley and its founder Stephen Dunifer engaged in a lengthy and legendary court battle with the FCC, asserting first amendment rights to be on the air. Part of Dunifer’s legal argument was that since (at that time) there was no licensing for stations smaller than 100-watts, Free Radio Berkeley’s operations were not in violation of any law. During this protracted case, Free Radio Berkeley achieved an unprecedented accomplishment by securing a judicial ruling that allowed them to remain on air for eighteen months. While ultimately their FM transmission was silenced by a court injunction in 1998, Free Radio Berkeley was instrumental in helping to embolden a microradio movement in the U.S. intent on liberating the airwaves from a corporate media stronghold. Today Free Radio Berkeley continues to work towards putting broadcasting tools into the hands of the public. Their program IRATE (International Radio Action Training Education) provides transmitter kits, technical support, and training to educate and empower citizen activists involved in liberation struggle movements throughout the world.
New York City activists, squatters, and radio enthusiasts came together to form Steal this Radio in 1995. Initially a mobile operation equipped with a five-watt transmitter acquired from Free Radio Berkeley’s Stephen Dunifer, STR produced radio parties and performances around New York’s Lower East Side in the mid-nineties. STR grew quickly, and soon began transmitting with twenty-watts, serving a potential 75,000 listeners with programming that included anarchist news and events, a nightly community calendar, weekly interviews, and talk shows, as well as several hours of Spanish-language programming. After a visit from the FCC in 1998, STR fought-back with a press release titled “Community Radio Defies FCC: Steal This Radio Returns to the Airwaves and Announces Lawsuit after Threatened with Raid.” Eleven months later a U.S. District Court issued an injunction against Steal This Radio, from which STR was unable to recover.
Founded in 1996, Radio Mutiny was a pirate station operating out of West Philadelphia until it was shutdown in 1998. Prometheus Radio Project emerged from those ashes several months later when activists working within social change movements (many of whom were involved in Radio Mutiny) united and organized during the 1999 Pirate March on the FCC and National Association of Broadcasters in Washington D.C. Prometheus members successfully joined with hundreds of pirate stations across the country to pressure the FCC to create a legal option for community broadcasting. Following newly adopted legislation, Prometheus Radio Project focused on advocating on behalf of these new community stations, and ushered countless organizations through the LPFM application and building process. When a full-power application window opened in 2007, it helped over one hundred organizations, including free103point9, apply for a non-commercial FM station license. In September 2010, free103point9 and our emerging FM station WGXC were lucky enough to be Prometheus’s first full-power barn-raising effort. Prometheus’s celebrated “Radio Barn-raising” events bring together hundreds of community media volunteers who work to build a station’s infrastructure.
Communications technology and activism working together to ensure public and artistic access to the transmission spectrum provide the foundation from which the transmission art genre emerges. Like the works encompassed by the genre, transmission art’s lineage is anything but linear. As just outlined, inventors were making large, often simultaneous, strides in wireless technologies in the mid- and late-nineteenth centuries. Over a hundred years later, the microradio movement of the 1990s empowered a wave of radio practitioners and activists dedicated to a specific cause: providing the public with licensed access to their own airwaves.
In the arts, organizations’ work fostered the emerging genre of transmission art within a contemporary art and cultural context.
Now I’ve used free103point9’s history throughout much of this talk, but there are other organizations whose activities have been equally, if not more, influential.
Formally launched in 1967 by engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer, and artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman, E.A.T.’s initial efforts, in 1967 and 1968, were aimed at recruiting engineers to work with artists. E.A.T. arranged for artists to visit technical laboratories like Bell Labs, IBM and RCA. Interdisciplinary collaborations characterized a majority of their programs, including their legendary 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, held at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York in 1966. E.A.T.’s projects succeeded in broadening the artists’ role in mainstream contemporary society and aided in the integration of artistic practices in emerging technologies.
In 1974, ZBS Media, an innovative radio production company, established the ZBS/AIR Program, in Fort Edward, NY. AIR provided audio facilities, personnel, and services to artists working with electronic media. Originally designed as a residency program, AIR quickly became a networking resource, as well as a focal point for production and distribution of a wide range of transmission art. The AIR Program supported both the adventure of individual creative vision, and the political possibilities inherent in cheaper, more portable means of transmission. During its nine years of operation, AIR worked with dozens of now widely recognized artists who were then experimenting and exploring at early stages in their careers.
New Radio and Performing Arts was founded in 1981 to foster the development of new and experimental work for radio and sound arts. From 1987 to 1998, the organization commissioned and distributed over 300 original works for public radio, and introduced American radio art to European audiences. New American Radio is archived at Wesleyan University in Connecticut; the entire catalogue and 140 full-length works are available at somewhere.org and will soon be featured in a monthly program on free103point9’s FM station. In 1996, NRPA extended its mandate to Net art and launched its pioneering Turbulence Website. Turbulence has commissioned over 170 works and hosted more than twenty multi-location streaming performance events.
Founded in 1987, Kunstradio is a weekly program on Oesterreich 1, the cultural channel of Austrian National Radio, ORF. Conceived as a space for radio art, an art that reflects the radio medium itself, Kunstradio’s weekly program almost immediately broadened its mission, serving as a point of access for international visual artists, media artists, composers, and writers. Kunstradio was a major contributor to Re-Inventing Radio: Aspects of Radio as Art, an important publication including texts by international media theorists, art historians, curators, and artists who approach radio as a creative communications space in the widest possible sense.
The Center for New Media Culture RIXC (formerly E-LAB) is a multi-disciplinary media arts center in Riga, Latvia. Their annual festival, Art + Communication was established in 1996. For several years Art + Communication focused on ideas intrinsic to the transmission art genre: Waves (2006), Spectral Ecology (2007), Spectropia (2008), Energy (2009).
Founded in 2002 by the London Musicians Collective, Resonance104.4fm is an FM station with an exemplary commitment to creative radio. Intent on securing a space for artworks that have no place in traditional broadcasting, Resonance considers itself an invisible gallery, a virtual arts center whose location is at once local, global, and timeless.
Founded in 2005, the Radia Network is a group of international independent radio projects that share a commitment to radio as an art form. Radia projects are united in the goal to foster an audio space where something different can happen. Participating stations produce and share content on a rotating basis, and are based in Belgium, Canada, Germany, U.S., Austria, France, New Zealand, Italy, UK, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary, and the Netherlands.
Radius, a relatively recent project out of Chicago, features a new project semi-monthly with statements by artists who use radio as a primary element in their work. Radius provides artists with live and experimental formats in radio programming. Their goal is to support work that engages the tonal and public spaces of the electromagnetic spectrum.
And fitting then to end this talk with a big nod (a bow even) to New Adventures in Sound Art, our host.
New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA) is a Canadian nonprofit organization, founded in 2001, that produces performances and installations spanning the entire spectrum of electroacoustic and experimental sound art as well as workshops, lectures, and demonstrations that teach a new perception of sound. NAISA’s Deep Wireless Festival of Radio and Transmission art is a month-long celebration of radio and transmission art that features performances, installations, and radio broadcasts of commissioned works. For ten years Deep Wireless culminated with the weekend-long conference, Radio Without Boundaries, which was focused on the potential and boundaries of radio and transmission arts as contextualized by international guest radio art luminaries. And of course this year Deep Wireless concludes with TransX. This weekend, the papers presented, the performances, and workshops will make a significant impact on the dialogue around Transmission Arts, and I am so looking forward to what the next two days here in Toronto will teach us.
Galen Joseph-Hunter is the Executive Director of free103point9, a New York State-based nonprofit arts organization whose mission is to define and cultivate Transmission Arts. Over the past fifteen years she has organized and curated dozens of exhibitions and events focused on artist’s experiments with broadcast media and the airwaves. free103point9.org, transmissionarts.org
A recurring problem in discussions of radio art is the lack of a dedicated discourse for the medium. Eighteen years ago Dan Lander addressed the lack of a coherent conceptual framework for radio art work and a need for or shared discourse to demarcate its own independent discursive space and achieve a satisfying dialogue away from music; as he put it “[t]he imposition of a borrowed musical discourse  applied to all sound phenomenon, stripping away any social and/or cultural referentiality, thus creating a situation in which aurality in general is perceived as music, as if the origin, context and phenomenology of any given sound or noise can be measured only by its contribution to a renovation of western art music.” (Lander, 1994, p.13)
Much contemporary writing on Radio Art, for instance texts by Brandon LaBelle and Kersten Glandien, have moved forward from this by deriving their conceptual apparatus from the fields of sound art and experimental music, thus expanding the dialogue but putting aside the formation of a definitive radio art discourse.
As Glandien has written “[w]hen art is on the move, definitions become blurred. This is true for radio art too; in fact, the changes in and around radio in the course of the twentieth century have made this condition the rule rather than the exception.” (Glandien, 2000,p.167)
However this lack of a clear definition has not necessarily diminished radio art from the perspective of actual creative practice. It can be argued that the ‘blurry’ definition has, in fact, produced a positive outcome for many practitioners drawn to work with radio, since much has been achieved artistically from the slippage between mediums. However, as Glandien and Lander acknowledged, this lack of distinctive practice has ultimately led to a deficit of critical reflection and an under-appreciation of the creative heritage. As Glandien writes, this vagueness
“[h]elped facilitate communication and exchange between producers, artists and organisers whose interest in sound and work profiles otherwise significantly differed. At the same time this terminological indistinctness was evidence of a considerable lack of critical reflection, historical awareness and self-understanding.”(Glandien, 2000, p.168)
Thurmann-Jajes, Head of Research at the Centre for Artist Publications at the Weserburg Museum for Modern Art, Bremen Germany, has written of the “reciprocal relationship” (Thurmann-Jajes, 2008, p.398) between sound and radio art and the difficulties in the classification of the Radio Art Research Archive, an initiative providing the first facility in which radio art is available for research purposes.
Colin Black has also acknowledged that an ongoing challenge for radio art has been its problematic nature to resist clear classification: “is it a media-based art-form, is it music or does it pluralistically span both?” (Colin Black, 2010, p.198). The late cultural historian Nicholas Zurbrugg defined radio art as “[w]orks constructed primarily for radio, as opposed to audio art or experimental music” (Zurbrugg ,1989, online). Richard Thorn’s notion of radio art “being subsumed” (1996) by sound art infers something negative, whilst Zurbrugg (1989) approached this issue in a different way.
Rather than understand radio art as a sub-genre, there is a sense that radio art – and the notion of the radiophonic – might actually be a wider category from which the whole “vast interdisciplinary sonic realm” can be understood. At the very least, Zurbrugg proposed, we should remember the role of broadcast in radio art and, further, think of Radio Art as something which represents a number of different approaches that can be arranged historically. For Zurbrugg, Radio Art might be both pure and hybrid.
Black and Glandien both refer to German academic and active practitioner Sabine Breitsameter1 who has created numerous radio plays and radio documentaries, mainly for German public radio ARD. Breitsameter makes the distinction that radio art is an acoustic media art that has a technical side and political core2.
Taking onboard the myriad definitions outlined here, I conclude that radio art is currently best understood as a branch of acoustic media art, one which is concerned with the interplay of the relationships between the radio broadcast and its reception.
To help frame my own understanding of the medium I have highlighted five reoccurring subcategories of radio art practice. These subcategories represent five recurrent facets of experimental radio practice, and should be considered a discursive device rather than an attempt towards implying formalities of ‘genre’, and as such the boundaries between these different facets of practice is to be considered porous. These categories also derived from a broad overview of the history of experimental practice.
Five recurrent facets of experimental radio practice
My own practice has been framed by the concept of Radio asevent -radio being ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary through its familiarity androutine consumption; extraordinarythrough producing a simultaneousevent experienced by a geographically dispersed public in myriad listening environments and contexts. I have endeavored to make a series of radio art works incorporated and crossing into the radio art practice types I have identified.
(artwork Richard Guest: using feedback fiesta audio )
Feedback Fiesta was part of the Sonic Arts Expo. Broadcast live on Radio Reverb 97.2 via a studio with telecoms at Commercial Radio Station Juice FM Brighton, the feed was broadcast to Reverb via a pirate transmitter then across Brighton legally on 97.2FM from 12-2pm Sunday 6th July. Listeners were invited to phone in and hold a radio next to the telephone to make live positive feedback as a two hour interactive feedback jam.
It was the first of several live actions, part of Switch Off [dead air].
Switch Off [dead air] was aimed as a work of fiction to reflect the possible use and misuse and sound of the FM spectrum, predicting how it may sound after it has been abandoned by mainstream broadcasters. Feedback from the work is to be used as part of the final surround mix of Switch off [Dead air] project which has grown into eight distinctive stations that reflected and used the radio art practices outlined.
The eight trace Stations: Radio Mind, Commercial Break, Lone Broadcast, Numbers, Sound Train, Radio Jam, Babble Station and Radio Recall have been conducted between Sept 2011 and the end of 2012. All are part of the final Switch Off [dead air] project, which considers the boundaries of radio art practice and the possible futures for FM radio long after digital switch off. Divergent radiophonic works form eight fictional speculative radiophonic trace stations, where fragments of familiar, strange, overlooked and unheard sounds coalesce with experimental drama and radio art. The work is themed as the imagined futures of FM analogue radio once abandoned by sanctioned broadcasters, presenting future sonic possibilities of analogue radio after ‘switch off.’ These fictional stations represent different aspects of how FM radio could sound in the future and form the basis for generating a narrative, a loose dramaturgical structure. Each trace station functions as an abstracted self-contained narrative as well as being part of the overall suite. Frances Dyson, wrote that “in contrast to the singular authoritative voice, radio art encourages “flux” “the serendipity of the production process – when one improvises in the studio or collaborates with friends” and certainly this is the case with several of these works, which encourage collective production and engagement.
RADIO MIND: A spoof religious healing station Radio Mind was inspired by current Religious Pirate stations broadcasting in South London and early protestant experimentalist3Radio Mind investigates the shifting terrains of the transcendent and the quotidian through new communications technologies. Drawing on early 20th Century experimental radio, Protestantism, historical and mythic seafaring cults and the powerful mythology of the radiophonic ether, notions of radio art and religious imaginary are brought into question. The Old Lookout became the chapel of a religious pirate radio cult whose radio station Radio Mind, was relayed by its Missionaries across the golden sands of this popular seaside resort. Inspired by an obscure group of early 20th century Anglican clerics with a shared interest in telepathy, psychic research and psychology as paths of divine/human communication, Radio Mind took place at the Old Lookout Gallery, Broadstairs, which became an outpost from which to re-open the paths of transmission through performance, broadcast and participation. It is part fiction and features the writing of Archbishop Frederick Du Vernet who broadcast telepathic healing via “law of divine vibration.” The work takes its name from chapter two of his book Spiritual Radio (1925). The broadcast also drew on David Burliuck’s 1926 Manifesto, Radio-Style. Universal Camp of Radio-ModernistsFuturist David Burliuk founded the Universal Camp of Radio-Modernists in New York. His radio manifesto informed his own artwork and was broadcast worldwide from New York in 1926 pronouncing a “radio age” with the goal of uniting all Radio. His sentiments echo some of fellow Russo-Futurist poet Khlebnikov’s positive ideas on the radio medium. Radio Mind (2011-12) was realised as a site specific micro FM broadcast installation at the Old Lookout Gallery, Broadstairs, in 2011 and subsequently exhibited at The Burton Gallery, the Lightworks Festival, UK and the Deep Wireless Festival of Radio and Transmission Art, in Toronto, Canada 2012. It also continuously broadcast for seven days on Boat Radio DAB UK July 13th – 20th 2012 and aired on Radio Futura in Porto Portugal 2011. Excerpt from Radio Mind broadcast a short film of the artist at the Old Lookout Gallery by Ben Rowley.http://vimeo.com/32043583
(photo Ben Rowley at the Old Lookout Gallery 2011)
(photo Magz Hall Lightworks Festival 2012)
(poster Magz Hall/Theo Sykes)
(photo Ben Rowley at the Old Lookout 2011)
(photo Magz Hall Lightworks Festival 2012)
Sound Train was a live pirate broadcast of an interaction of a live soundscape on a high speed train HS1 between Canterbury and London aired on FM. The work embraces soundscape and embraces that fact that FM will be used for all kinds of micro and personal broadcasts in the future. Sound Train employs direct soundscape from the radio and allows people to listen following the timetabled route of the train and its locality as it passes.
(poster Magz Hall/Theo Sykes)
Commercial Break sounds the discarded ether as sonic debris of commercial radio heard as glitches, noise and fragments; remnants of consumerism. This plunderphonic work incorporates found sound and appropriates digital radio adverting. This is a site specific micr-FM broadcast installation at the Old Lookout Gallery and was also repeatedly aired on Boat Radio DAB July 13th – 21st 2012.
(photo Magz Hall Old Lookout Gallery 2012)
Numbers is in part an homage to shortwave numbers stations, on air since the cold war, and will play a series of coded messages from provocateurs of the future, currently sampling tweets from the Occupy movement. The work portends numbers stations will move to FM and will remain there after licensed FM services are switched off, to be used by outlawed gang’s groups, agents and political movements. Visitors were invited to write coded messages for future broadcast.
(photo Magz Hall Old Lookout Gallery 2012)
Lone Broadcastimagines a future where FM may be used as a frequency for distress signals. It is a transmission realised as the futile and unheard FM mono broadcast of a lone women stranded at sea (voice and poem) Sonia Frost, additional sounds Xylitol. A site-specific micro-FM broadcast installation first exhibited as part of a group show in Barcelona, then at the Old Lookout Gallery, Kent.
(poster Magz Hall/Theo Sykes)
(poster Magz Hall/Theo Sykes)
Radio Jam was a live-networked radio art interaction. Listeners of V22 Summer club radio were able to take part in a live radio jam using analogue radios as an instrument to improvise with. This trace station considers through a live action that future FM frequencies will be used by musicians as a space to jam and analogue radios will become excepted musical instruments.
(poster Magz Hall/Theo Sykes)
Babble Stationimagines that in the future, FM will be used as a frequency for baby monitors. Babble Station will be realized through recordings taken a drop in space which parents can bring a baby or toddler who is not yet talking in order to record their pre-speech vocalizations. This is a project focusing on pre speech / early speech sounds. These pre-linguistic vocal utterances, will be edited together to be realized as a site specific interaction and installation initially as a Satellite project for the Whitstable Bienalle at the Horsebridge Arts Centre.
Radio Recallis a fictive drama/feature which addresses and discusses current broadcast technology when it is obsolete and embraces FM as the natural home of community radio. The work will be aired on community radio stations. It will be initially broadcast as a micro-FM radio installation to playfully broadcast future community radio using elderly and retired voices.
Switch Off enacts the afterlife of analogue FM, played out through disparate possibilities that take a projected fantasy, which works as singular and equally separate body of work to engage dialogue of the everyday as a peculiar theatre of the quotidian.
All images, text and sounds copyright the Magz Hall.
Black, C; 2010. An Overview of Spatialised Broadcasting Experiments with a Focus on Radio Art Practices. Organised Sound.15(3). Cambridge Univeristy Press.pp198-208.
Breitsameter, S; 2007.Transmission To Procession Radio in the Age of Digital networks in Jensen, E, G and La Belle, B, eds; 2007. Radio Territories. Errant Bodies Press. LA/Copenhagen, pp 48-56.
Breitsameter, S; 1998. Resonance FM RSL, London. 4 July 1998. Evening radio panel discussion.
Breitsameter, S;1999. Geräusche am Rande der Skala: Radiokunst in den USA, radio programme of the Deutschlandradio Berlin.
Glandien, K; 2000. Art on Air. A Profile of New RadioArt, in Emmerson, S, ed; 2000 Music, Electronic Media and Culture, Ashgate.
Lander, D;1994. Radiocasting: Musings on Radio and Art in Augaitis, D and Lander, D; 1994 Radio Rethink, art, sound and transmission. Walter Phillips Gallery.
Thorn, R; 1996. Hearing is Believing, [online] http://www.kent.ac.uk/arts/sound-journal/thorn981.html [Accessed 20/1/06]
Thurmann-Jajes, A; 2008, Radio As Art: Classification and Achivization of Radio Art in Grundmann, H, ed et al; 2008. Re- Inventing Radio Aspects of Radio Art. Revolver, Frankfurt.
Zurbrugg, N;1989. ‘Sound art, radio art,and post-radio performance in Australia’
Continuum:The Australian Journal of Media & Culture, 2 (2). Performance Theory
Australia. Shoesmith, B & McHoul,A,eds, ‘Sound art, radio art, and post-radio performance in Australia’ [online journal]
Switch Off exhibitions/radio interactions
2012 Horsebridge Arts Centre, Whitstable, Babble Station, 2, 9th and 16th September.
2012 Boat Radio DAB Radio Mind and Commercial Break, 13- 21st July repeat broadcast 24/7.
2012 The Old Look Out Gallery, Broadstairs, Kent, micro radio installation Numbers, Commercial Break and Lone Broadcast 12- 18th July.
2012 V22 Gallery London, Summer Radio Jam, July 7th.
2012 Barcelona group show Lone Broadcast, UntitledBCN. Calle Topazi, 14. Gracia, Barcelona Spain, 1-10th April CCCU.
2012, LCC, University of the Arts, London, Numbers and Radio Mind film by Ben Rowley part of PhD group show. Research In Progress Pushing Boundries and Practices. March 1st -17th.
2012 HS1, Radio Train live soundscape interaction, Feb.
2011 The Old Look Out Gallery, Broadstairs, Kent, micro radio installation Radio Mind. 2-7th Sept.Burton Gallery, CCCU, Broadstairs, Exhibit #1, group show, 19th October – 1st December 2011. Radio Mind broadcast on Radio Futura 102.1 MHz — Porto, part of Future Places, Digital Media and Local Cultures, 19-22 October 2011, Porto Portugal. http://futureplaces.org/.
2008 Sonic Arts Expo Brighton Feedback Fiesta live Radio Art interaction on Radio Reverb Brighton, 6th July.
Magz Hall UK Based Radio Artist and lecturer Magz Hall, has exhibited in Europe and across the ether. A founding producer of Resonance FM. Magz is researching a PhD in radio art practice at University of the Arts London and is a member of CRISAP her full biog can be found at www.crisap.org
This is the first artist talk I’ve given in English in almost 20 years. I’m used to speaking French, although English is my mother tongue, so I’ll try and reconnect. But already I’ll dispel the notion that anyone’s listening to me.
I’m going to go through a series of works that I’ve done using transmission. I think it’s interesting for me to look at it from this aspect. I’ve usually looked at my art as site-specific art interventions and I’ve been pretty indifferent of classes and looking at it through the notion of transmission has been really interesting. I’ve created some mechanical transmission pieces, radio transmission pieces, FM band, etc. And also digital, using internet as well as personal LAN systems and little WIFI devices etc. So I’ll go through these pieces.
My art is basically situated [with]in site-specific institute art where I have a sort of predilection for working with contextual art and by contextual art I mean the entire amount of circumstances that create a fact, that create a space, that creates a situation.
This piece is called Par leurs os, it kind of roughly translates into something like “by their bones” but the sound Par leurs os was kind of like “by their waters” or “speaking waters” because Par leurs is like Haut-Parleur so there’s kind of several resident frequencies that come out of this. For this piece, I was invited to work with a company at a place called Saint-Christine, which is known for it’s zoo. So I worked with the zoo but I also worked with a little company called Clinique electronique and the city of Saint-Christine and I went to the zoo and did a series of recordings of the animals during their feeding times and I used a mechanical form of transmission a mechanical form using the sewer systems of the city as a spatialization system for sound and its actually quite an efficient system. Sound energy within a closed cylinder like that, travels quite well and they’re all interconnected, and it goes all over the small city so it was really a great system to use. So I aluminum-plated the manhole covers. I worked with the Clinique electronique and developed a system that would last 24 hours, would play non-stop, would be resistant to water – as obviously water was an issue with this system – and I transformed the sewer system into a speaker system. Everybody had their own interpretation of what was going from beneath from water pumps to ghosts to all sorts of animals. The key to this piece is the fact that nobody was aware that it was actually a piece of art, and then it was announced as an intervention in the sewer systems.
In Par leurs os there is actually a combining of three different infrastructures: one is a technical infrastructure that underlines the whole city; another one is an infrastructure in the term of globalization meaning that all these modern cities must have some sort of system like either tourism or heavy industry or what you have, so a zoo becomes sort of an infrastructure on the global stage that attracts people; and also working with aluminum, and aluminum is one of the major economic motors of this region. So as I was saying with contextual art I’m trying to work with the specific circumstances of this city. So I’m working with the zoo and the aluminum which are economic motors and I’m putting them in play with the sounds from the zoo and bringing it into the city. So that was Par Leurs Os. It was a mechanical specialization.
Another piece that I did with Avatar with Dianne Morin and David Michaud is called Il y en effet quelque chose, which could be described mostly as an effect. There is something, and it’s sort of a sound intervention, during conferences. In it, there is a little motor, and I have attached to the motor, a little microphone that I bought in Korea. It’s a wonderful little microphone that I smuggled into Canada. It was illegal here and it broadcasts on an FM band and so I set up a sort of web of wires going around this maple-syrup “Sugar Shack” where we’re talking about rural art. Throughout the whole day I would just do a series of presentations, interruptions during the conferences, kind of like what we just experienced with Cristof Migone and his own tapes being played behind his voice. So there is the physical sound of the object going through space and there is also the sound of the transmission of the object going through space and we’re sending it around, so it is referencing transportation, communication. Effectively shutting up the conference for a moment. There are fast motors, slow motors. Pulling audio tape out of a cassette player. Replacing the stationary motor for a mobile motor. So that would be I guess what I would call a hybrid system. We have two sound transmissions going on at the same time.
Another hybrid system would be this house, it’s called Gazon de luxe, which was destined to be destroyed. So we squatted at the house while the landlord made plans to destroy it and actually he decided to renovate it. But the renovations were literally destroying the house in the sense that on the side of the house you could see the plastic clapboard and things like that. So this piece worked around the idea of every evening, as the landlord would work on his house, he’d fill up this container in front of the house full of garbage, and in the evening we would empty the garbage and build something in the house. So for example the floor in the lunar became the roof of the neighbour’s house, it’s on a slant etc. and we would transmit every evening our day’s work in our windows which became televisions and I used my audio tape pulling technique to do an audio guide of the neighbourhood and from here I was using just a small wireless microphone which I would transmit back into the house and from the house we would transmit to Sequi our entire performance piece to the whole city so there was sort of a relay going on of the local events and delocalized events.
Another piece I did was called Ligne de Site III, so line of site 3. This was a residency that I did at La Chambre Blanche at Quebec City with Luc Levesques and Michelle Saint-Ange. And we were working with, at this point, Avatar and we put this piece into a larger structure which was called Rivers and Bridges, which was actually part of another larger structure which was called Horizontal Radio etc. They were pieces being put in together, so Radio-Canada came and set up a little transmission booth in the gallery and we recorded just our architectural surgery that we did on the gallery, there were no real objects that we used, we used the envelope of the gallery, as our raw material. And of course pulling up these boards, making creaking sounds and everything so we were transmitting these, as Christof was, in I believe Montreal with Martin Tétreault and Jocelyn Robert was in Quebec city. They were sending sounds off of the bridges of Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal and Pierre Laporte in Quebec city, and all that was being sent through a huge network of radios with Ars Acoustica in Europe. So this was like pouring water into a river. We were making our sound and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. We were tributaries to an actually amazing radio event worldwide.
This piece is called Ligne of Site V. You just saw Line of Site 3. Line of Sight 5 was kind of for me my initiation to transmission of data through the internet. In this piece, I had a physical incursion into the house, as well as a virtual one. We made a shortcut, an urban shortcut, cutting through the house, from the front door to the back door, where someone could walk through, and that was available to the public for several months, and so it became their daily passage. They would walk through the house. There was also this virtual passage, where you could go to the house and click on several icons and, actually items in the house. So this table was robotic, and if someone saw the image of the table on the internet, they just clicked on it, and the table started turning at any hour, so my supper would just take off and come back etc. At any hour, that’s maybe the problem with the internet, and these kinds of pieces in private spaces. So this was coupling private space and public space. As you can see, the passage went straight through the house. It was isolated. So there was a series of motors that you could actually house and add contact mics so there was a sound event in the house, and these images were actually being projected on the web and on the front window of the house. This might be transmission, I don’t know. You’ll have to tell me.
This is Quebec City, working again with the tourist infrastructure. Basically, we just took postcards and did small interventions in the city, where at a specific time, people would fall down. And simultaneously, the sound we did, post sound, postcards of our falls. In the same way a postcard would be highlighted blues and highlighted different colours, and these falls would just, BOOM, explode into space. But there was no real transmission, these were timed events, so what I’m showing you is a program, and so at exactly, lets say noon, we would fall in the city and this sound would happen. So these were simultaneous events, I don’t know if that falls into transmission or not.
This piece is called City Hack. Basically we go to City Park. We set up a series of 50 switches that we could control from a van, and we squatted in the park and set up little sound devices, turned on and off lights and kind of made a presence throughout the park with a mesh network. Just an interesting note on the transmission the XB was named after a Wagodance which is really interesting, because if the bees come back to the hive and do a little dance it informs all the other bees of where the flowers are. So I guess there’s the transmission, which is transmitted in the way that the bee is situated and the length of the dance gives the distance.
So this is another event where the public didn’t know that there was an art intervention going on. Over 10 nights we did this in the park. So you know you’re walking down the street and a light goes off, and a little further another light goes off, and you’re asking yourself questions, and finally the third light goes off and suddenly you start looking around, and you feel the presence of something else, the park suddenly seems inhabited by a presence, speaking to you. It was a form of communication. People would actually start pointing to things or talking back, making electronic bird sounds back to the electronic bird sounds. We had little solenoids in garbage cans, we had little alarms that were going off in the trees. At the end of the festival, we documented our intervention and participation in the festival was the conference where we showed everyone what we had been doing for the past 10 days. In the piece, people were saying comments – I had a shotgun mic in the trees – this place is possessed by the devil. Since it was a live transmission, we could react on what was happening.
I’ll just conclude with what I’m presenting this evening, Transects. You’re probably familiar with the term, from jiagi, of creating a line along the ground and study what was actually being grown for several kilometers. This piece had a rigorous conceptual base at the beginning. I was in a gallery and the whole idea was to go to the front door and just keep going straight to avoid the grid of the city, to avoid the grid of data, and just walk straight. So if I came upon a house or a business or anything like that I would knock on the door and explain my project and ask to walk out their back door. And see how far I could actually get in the city. I would do recordings, sound bytes, and kind of like transects, in a straight line all the way from the gallery. Of course I hit dead ends, but it’s amazing how many people let you walk through their house, and it was a way of setting up a directive installation where someone would go inside a small box. And in the box there were no visible sound devices – I used stealth speakers, speakers that were in the wall, they’re a type of speakers you can paint 10 times and still gives a fairly decent sound.
I wanted to completely reduce any visual information, and the chair itself is actually an electronic compass. You could turn the chair in any direction and in the arm of the chair there was an audio slider that was usually used for volume, and I just translated that into the idea of distance. So if you’re at the bottom of the slider, you’re where you are, and if you point in this direction and move the slider for a little bit, you’d be out in the main hall over here, go a little bit further and you’d be on the street, in a cafe, in someone’s house, etc. And you could do just virtual tours within the space and make your own sort of composition I guess. And its worth mentioning that the recordings were ambisonic recordings, so every time I took a recording I used a compass, and put the head of the microphone toward the north, so there’s an actual representation of the physical space of the city in the box, so you could feel the traffic going left, right, etc. I’ve done several cities: Casa Blanca, Quebec city, Toronto, and there’s 16% of Toronto – I didn’t get into any of the houses.
James Partaik’s truly hybrid creative practice embraces a range of non-mainstream contemporary art forms and media audio, video, electronic site specific installations, performance art and installActions. He is a founding member of AVATAR, at Meduse in Quebec City. Professor at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, he directs the Digital art sector. He has participated in international meetings and exhibitions in North America, South America, Europe, North Africa, the U.K. and Asia and has published notably in the Artextes’ anthology Sound in Contemporary Canadian Art.
Lalya Gaye, Ramia Mazé, Lars Erik Holmquist, Sonic City, 2003
Sonic City is a mobile device that re-imagines the urban environment as an interface for musical expression. Developed in 2002 by Lalya Gaye, Ramia Mazé, Daniel Skoglund and Margot Jacobs at the Viktoria Institute in Göteborg, the piece consists of sensors and a software interface that enables users to “create a real-time personal soundscape of electronic music by walking through and interacting with urban environments.” (Gaye et al, 2003)
Ten years later, as mobile devices continue to merge our physical selves with our virtual representations, sound still occupies itinerant territory, situating listeners between physical and cognitive spaces and facilitating exploration, engagement and interaction within public space. This paper examines, through a discussion of Sonic City and related artworks, some of the conditions that inform how mobile sound can create new modes of performativity in urban environments.
My methodology in this presentation will move from the inside to the outside. I will begin by discussing the ‘body as site’ — how engaging with space through sound shifts the parameters of site-specific practice from the body’s position within physical space to the liminal space articulated by the moving body. I will then look at how generating sound through the body can heighten our experience of the acoustic ecology of cities, creating dialogues between body, artwork and site through embodied gesture, human-computer interaction, novelty and play.
Part 1: The Body as Site
Over the past three decades, site-specific practice has expanded from conceptual artworks that rely on a specific physical location for context, such as Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc, to include artworks that conceive of ‘site’ through a set of artistic parameters that sit beyond the realm of a work’s physical location. Writers such as Miwon Kwon and James Meyer argue that as increasing numbers of artworks address ‘site’ through economic, political, or social conditions, our understanding of place has shifted from geographic specificity to spatial indeterminacy:
Dispersed across much broader cultural, social and discursive fields, and organized intertextually through the nomadic movement of the artist – operating more like an itinerary than a map – the site can now be as various as a billboard, an artistic genre, a disenfranchised community, and institutional framework, a magazine page, a social cause, or a political debate. It can be literal, like a street corner, or virtual, like a theoretical concept. (Kwon, 2002, p. 3)
James Meyer defines this space as a “functional site”, a site which “may or may not incorporate a physical place – Instead, it is a process, an operation occurring between sites, a mapping of institutional and textual filiations and the bodies that move between them… a place marked and swiftly abandoned.” (Meyer, 2000, p. 25) Because functional sites do not ‘privilege’ place, location need not function as a precondition, and the moving body takes on new significance and authority.
The Body as Context
Lalya Gaye, Ramia Mazé, Lars Erik Holmquist, Sonic City, 2003
Sonic City uses the mobile body as a compositional device, generating electronic music through the various stimuli within the urban environment. Sound is generated through an ongoing dialogue between body and site though a process of mapping discrete input factors (incidental events, such as a car passing, or a sudden change in route) and continuous input factors (ambient events, such as heart rate and light level) to sets of sources, sequences and other parameters which in turn form a musical composition.
By using the body as both discrete and continuous input, Sonic City positions the user as both performer and audience. Users engage in the site in almost tactile fashion, drifting from one location to the next, pausing, reversing direction, and changing speed. While it may be tempting to misread the work as a sonic interplay between the worn devices and various architectural spaces, (in the video documentation of the work it is not uncommon for the filmed subjects to describe how different locations and buildings “sound”) the body, rigged up with sensors and encased in headphones, remains the primary site of reception, an interface where signals recombine and where site, sound, and motion coalesce.
Christina Kubisch, Electrical Walks, 2003
Christina Kubisch’s Electrical Walks are a series of exploratory soundwalks that take place in various locations around the world. Audience members are invited to borrow a set of headphones, which generate sound in response to electromagnetic fields, WiFi networks, cell phone towers and underground power cables. According to the artist, “the basic idea of these sound spaces is to provide the viewer/listener access to his own individual spaces of time and motion. The musical sequences are experiencable in ever-new variations through the listener’s motion. The visitor becomes a “mixer” who can put his piece together individually and determine the time frame for himself.” (Kubisch, 2006, ¶ 2)
The experience of the work is described by Betsey Biggs in her dissertation, Everyone Play: Sound, Public Space and the (Re)Making of Place:
By walking through the city wearing special headphones, which amplify these frequencies, the listener is invited to explore a sonic topography of drones, buzzes and whirs. The experience is one of wonder and exploration, of discovering a layer of magic hiding just beneath the surface of the everyday.
By positioning the body as site, gestures such as exploratory walking become a form of personal, cultural and spatial encoding, a form of cognitive mapping. Because functional sites do not ‘privilege’ place, the body takes on new significance and authority.
Jessica Thompson, walking machine, 2003
Unlike locative artworks such as Janet Cardiff’s Her Long Black Hair, (2004) and Teri Rueb’s Core Sample, (2007) which engage audiences in both literal and functional sites by facilitating the peripatetic exploration of specific locations, works such as Sonic City, Electrical Walks, and my own walking machine, can be performed almost anywhere. While geography is implied by the body’s position at any given moment, that position is always changing. The only constant is the body. By encountering ‘site’ through the body, motion and gesture becomes a form of personal, cultural and spatial encoding — a form of cognitive mapping where the residual effects of the encounter become a form of notation.
Part 2: Embodied Gesture
In the same way that we can have our understanding of site to include the body, we can also, through traditions of body art, phenomenology and human/computer interaction, explore how sound can create reciprocal dialogues between body, artwork and site through embodied interaction, improvised choreography and play. In Where the Action Is, Paul Dourish defines embodied interaction as “the creation, manipulation, and sharing of meaning through engaged interaction with artifacts.” Drawing from Heidegger’s concept of Dasein, or “being-in-the-world,” Dourish argues that embodied action is determined through an interpretive phenomenology where meaning is created through the process of doing.
Prosthetic artworks extend the body by fusing the affordances of the body with the affordances of objects. By acting through devices, artworks are able to facilitate actions, contexts and situations that are not possible with the body alone.
Rebecca Horn, Finger Gloves, 1972
Rebecca Horn’s Finger Gloves are two glove-like devices that extended the artist’s fingers to the floor. In her description of the piece, the artist describes the work as an ‘instrument to extend manual sensibility’:
The finger-gloves are light – I can move them without any effort – feel, touch, grasp anything, but keeping a certain distance from the objects. The lever-action of the lengthened fingers intensifies the various sense-data of the hand. The manual activity is experienced in a new operational mode: I feel myself grasping, I control the distance between me and the objects. (Vergine, 2000, p. 115)
Rather than describing the work from the perspective of her audience, Horn describes the finger-gloves from the inside, positioning her own body as site. The edge of her body is no longer where the devices meet her fingers; it’s where her finger-gloves meet the floor.
Alex Braidwood, The Noisolation Headphones, 2011
Alex Braidwood’s Noisolation Headphones is a wearable piece that enables users to engage in selective sonic encounters in public space. The piece consists of two horn-like extensions protruding from studio headphones, topped by two flat ‘sound prevention’ valves. As the user moves though various soundscapes, the valves flip on and off, isolating the listener from the acoustic environment according to a predetermined score. Users may also control the valves with a remote control switch. The piece shifts the act of listening into the realm of performance by enabling users to control his or her reception of the sonic environment. Drawing from Murray Schafer’s observation that we have no ear lids, the piece forms ‘a critical investigation that transforms the relationship between a person and the noise in their environment’.
Jessica Thompson, Swinging Suitcase, 2010
Swinging Suitcase, (2010) is a mobile sound piece that generates and broadcasts the sound of a flock of house sparrows in response to the act of swinging. When the suitcase is swung, the ‘birds’ begin to make noise, which calibrate to reflect the swinging — accelerating, and multiplying in response to the gesture of the user, and then confounding the interaction when they become bored. As the suitcase moves, the birds respond according to a prescribed pattern, becoming more agitated as the suitcase is swung. This pattern is complicated through the element of time – after eight seconds of continuous movement, slightly shorter than the average time a user will continue a gesture before trying another, the piece resets, and the vocalizations abruptly change – the ‘birds’ become restless. The natural response to a change of sound is a change of motion, which in turn changes the vocalization pattern. As the user continually relearns the piece, the gestures become more complex, shifting exploratory gesture into the realm of performance, and using the cognitive process of the user as a compositional tool. As you ‘play’ the birds, the birds ‘play’ you.
Part 3: The Politics of Broadcast
In Noise, Jacques Attali historicizes economic development through sound, arguing that noise serves as a precursor to social and economic change. Conditions within cities are often revealed through sound, indicating territory, demographics or functionality, and politicizing urban space through its sheer capacity to invade the acoustic space of others and to affect behavior.
Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Returning a Sound, 2004
Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla’s video, Returning a Sound (2004) was filmed on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and shows an activist riding a motorbike with a trumpet affixed to the tailpipe. The sputtering of the exhaust is similar to the buzzing of lips, creating a musical tone that trills and spurts in response to the acceleration of the bike and the revving of the engine. From 1940 to 2003, Vieques was occupied by the US Navy, which used the island as a military base and weapons testing site. As the young man speeds through decommissioned roads, the soundtrack modulates from single notes to improvised structures that resemble free jazz.
Kanarinka, It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston, 2006
Kanarinka’s It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston is a performance in which the artist ran the city’s entire evacuation route system and attempted to measure the distance in human breath. The city installed the system in 2006 as a way to demonstrate its preparedness for evacuating people in snowstorms, hurricanes, infrastructure failures, fires or terrorist attacks. During the performance the artist wore a backpack to simultaneously record and broadcast her breath, which was later used for an online archive.
Steve Symons, Aura: The stuff that forms around you 2011
Steve Symons’ Aura: The stuff that forms around you is a mobile sound piece that uses the tracked paths of users as a compositional device. He describes the piece as follows:
Imagine a playing field after a fresh falling of snow. The snow lies evenly and untrodden. This represents an empty aura sound world and, if you wore an aura backpack, would sound like soft white noise.Someone walks across the field leaving footprints, the snow is sullied, eroded, the walker has left a patina in the world. In the aura world this patina is represented by filtering applied to the soft white noise. So a user walking with an aura backpack will hear soft white noise (virgin snow) then lower tones will emerge as they cross the path left previously by another aura user. (Symons, 2011, ¶ 2)
By enabling users to experience the piece while at the same time contributing to its destruction, Symons creates a dialogical relationship between physical and virtual activity removing the element of privacy in both arenas. To experience Aura is to mark sonic territory, while at the same time willfully destroying it for others.
Since Sonic City, our tools and methodologies for creating mobile sound have become smaller, more accessible and more economical. The backpack containing sensors, microprocessors and a small laptop that we see in the video documentation may now be replaced with an iPhone app, downloadable from anywhere and filed away alongside games and various navigational and organizational tools. The ubiquity of mobile devices enables us to curate our experiences completely in private, silencing the social and isolating us from both our environment and from others. It is in this arena that performative action serves as a catalyst, forming, through the convergence of site, body, object and action, new territory that, by virtue of its own itinerancy, enables artists and artworks to transform everyday life.
Attali, J. (1985). Noise: the political economy of music. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Braidwood, A. (2012). Noisolation Headphones. Retrieved May 11, 2012, from http://www.listeninginstruments.com/index.php?l=LI+No.+W02011.01-0008
Dourish, P. (2004). Where the action is: The foundations of embodied interaction. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Gaye, Lalya, Ramia Mazé, Lars Erik Holmquist. (2003) “Sonic City: The Urban Environment as a Musical Interface” Proceedings of the 2003 Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME-03) Montreal
Kanarinka. (2006). It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston. Retrieved May 11, 2012, from http://www.ikatun.org/kanarinka/it-takes-154000-breaths-to-evacuate-boston/
Kubisch, Christina. (2002) Works with Electromagnetic Induction.Retrieved August 23, 2010 from http://www.christinakubisch.de/english/klangundlicht_frs.htm
Kwon, M. (2002). One place after another: Site-specific art and locational identity. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Meyer, J. (2000). “The Functional Site; or, The Transformation of Site-Specificity” Space, Site, Intervention: Situating Installation Art, ed. Erika Suderberg Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Schafer, R. M. (1994). The soundscape: Our sonic environment and the tuning of the world. Rochester, Vt: Destiny Books.
Symons, S. (2011). aura: the stuff that forms around you. Retrieved May 11, 2012, from http://stevesymons.net/aura2
Tarsia, A. (2007). Whitechapel Laboratory – Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla. Whitechapel Gallery. Retrieved September 13, 2010, from http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/exhibitions/whitechapel-laboratory-jennifer-allora-guillermo-calzadilla
Jessica Thompson is a media artist whose projects investigate spatial and social conditions within the urban environment through sound, performance, and mobile technologies. Her work has been shown in exhibitions and festivals such as ISEA, (San Jose) FINE/LINE (Denmark) the Conflux Festival, (New York) Thinking Metropolis, (Copenhagen) (in) visible Cities, (Winnipeg) Deep Wireless, (Toronto) Beyond/In Western New York, (Buffalo) and most recently at the Norsk Teknisk Museum (Oslo) as part of NIME 2011. Her projects have appeared in publications such as Canadian Art, c Magazine, Acoustic Territories, and numerous art and technology blogs.
Darren: Most of the pieces take the form of an installation, the first one by Gintas is one that you can’t help but participate in because it takes place in the public washrooms. It’s called Streaming Audio and here is Gintas to describe it.
Gintas: As Darren said my piece is called Streaming Audio which I guess is a bit of a pun. The idea is that these sort of enclosures – which I’ve been calling puck as they emulate the little scented pucks that go into a urinal – in the male washroom these go right into the urinals and the female washrooms the enclosures are placed behind the toilet. Basically what happens inside is an arduino, a programmable chip, tells the device to send out a particular tone at a certain frequency, I use different notes for each of them. There are six all together. What happens is that signal is being sent to two outputs, one of which is a speaker that is on the enclosure itself and the other one is a radio, which is outside of the washrooms in the hallway. There are six enclosures, each one transmitting to a particular radio. Where it gets interesting is the fact that the wire that sends the signal to the FM transmitter has been severed so the audio does not go through. Those two ends are basically using urine to send the electrical information from one to the other. So rather than having the wire transmitting the audio, it’s having the urine and its conductive properties sending the signal thru. Each of them is a different note that composes the A minor pentatonic scale so the idea is that if more than one person is using them at a time it will create a harmony between them and I guess that is sort of exploring the social dynamic that goes into using a public washroom.
From my personal experience I think of going to a truck stop with my parents when I was younger and you really have to go to the washroom and there’s a bunch of greasy looking guys, and you get a little bit of stage fright, start getting nervous, in some cases you can actually hear whether or not someone is urinating and the stage fright worsens. There’s also the stereotype of females always going to the washroom together, so there’s a communal aspect to that as well. So it’s basically bringing that whole dynamic to the forefront so now you are hearing this much louder sound that puts you on stage.
I pulled out my synthesizer and decided this is one I liked, I’ve been learning guitar recently and I know the chord A minor I like. I thought it sounded cool and then I started wondering [what would happen] if the female and male washrooms could be two separate chords. So basically in the female washroom because the two wire ends are in the water it will be a more sustained sound although there’s more on and off. I envisioned the female element being longer, so I chose lower tones so that they would be less dominant and present throughout. Then I envisioned the male one like soloing. I would assume that it varies from person to person depending on how conductive their urine is. I encourage everyone to experiment with it. I’m the one who made it but now you guys are the artists.
Gintas Tirilis is a Mississauga based visual artist working in video, installation and sound. He graduated from the University of Toronto at Mississauga in 2008 and studied early childhood education at Nippising University. His sound sculptures and video installations have been exhibited in the Young and Restless at Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (Toronto) and Lennox Contemporary (Toronto) among others.
Darren: Thank you Gintas. Gintas Tirillis’ installation is running all weekend in the washrooms here at the Artscape Wychwood Barns. Next up here at the microphone is Chris Myhr. His installation is called Never Was a Shade and is located in a less obvious place. It’s on the 2nd floor in a stairwell you may not have seen yet, it’s a stairwell that is at the end of the hall from the NAISA space and goes back down to street level on Christie Street. It will lead into a beautiful oasis of sound that Chris has created and maybe you can tell us about it Chris?
Chris: Yes sure. The piece has followed this really wild and woolly trajectory of development and I’m not quite sure how to talk about it yet, but I’ll talk about the ideas behind it and how it emerged, then talk about what is going on beneath the hood. Essentially it’s a five-channel audio installation that is driven by a software patch created in Pure Data. As Darren said it is on the west side of the building suspended from a beam there. The departure point for this piece had to do with an interest in the aspect of modulation and demodulation – the process by which we send the voice over the airwaves where sound moves from an acoustic form of vibration to electromagnetic and then back to acoustic. I’ve always been fascinated by that. I’m fascinated with this idea that at any moment we are kind of immersed in and are moved through this cacophony that exists in a form that is beyond our faculties of perception and it’s the radio that draws this out of the ether.
I was doing some research into early radio and came across the figure of Reginald Fessenden who is a Canadian figure who was the first person to successfully transmit voice over the airwaves. In 1906 he transmitted this piece called Ombra mai fu, which is an area from an opera by Handel called Serse. I was imagining this really uncanny experience of hearing this operatic voice manifesting itself out of thin air and coming out of a speaker for the first time. I got a few versions of that work and I was listening to it in the studio and playing around with it post production and I wanted to do something that would link together these various areas of interest.
My proposal to NAISA was initially to build an apparatus that would be sensitive to fluctuations in electromagnetic activity and then map that information into the exhibition space. I was initially interested in Wi-Fi and cellphone bandwidth and essentially giving form to these fields with acoustic events of some kind. Through the process of hunting for a technical solution I learned that paranormal researchers use similar devices that are sensitive to electromagnetic fluctuation and of course they interpret this as paranormal activity or supernatural presence. So I bought an entry level ghost hunting kit and started to play around with these devices in the studio trying to figure out how to put them in the piece and one of the devices that I was particularly interested in was called a ghost box and essentially it’s this little device that sweeps up and down through the FM spectrum and it spits out little bits of voice and music together with a steady stream of white noise. So paranormal enthusiasts claim you can use this device as a way of communicating with the dead. I found this idea really fascinating and moreover I started to see these kinds of murky connections with this idea of the disembodied voice and I wanted to make a piece that sort of explored this idea.
So the installation that came out of this is called Never was a Shade which refers to that aria that I mentioned earlier: Ombra mai fu translates to Never was a Shade and although the Italian is referring to the shade of a tree I kind of like the play on words. So what’s happening is that the aria is looping inside a patch designed in Pure Data – an open source programming environment, which allows you to set up relationships between sensors and actions. The piece has been pulled apart into very narrow bands of frequencies. If you listen to one on its own, it sounds like just very high-pitched whistles. It’s the partials that make up the piece. These are all looping and the patch is hooked up to one of these ghost boxes and it knows how to recognize the steady stream of white noise. Whenever there is a fluctuation in the signal, it indicates a voice that has come through the patch is triggered and it selects one of these bands of frequency and spits out an envelope of sound and places it in the sound spectrum from left to right. The duration of that envelope is determined by the strength of the signal so if it receives a strong signal it spits out a long envelope, if it receives a quiet signal it spits out a short envelope. So essentially you have, as the patch is being triggered, these envelopes begin to overlap each other and reinforce each other and the aria starts to flesh out. What happens is the experience in the space, is one of the piece forming itself around you at various points in space and varying and decaying and so it’s a generative system. Each cycle that it goes through is different – sometimes very quiet and soothing, sometimes very rough and stormy. I’m very interested in the idea of generative systems and pieces that are very responsive to their immediate environment. I encourage you to check it out. In addition to being a sound piece, with the weather we are having, it works like a sauna, so you can sweat off a couple of pounds as you enjoy the sound. It’s provided me with a new area of research that I’m looking forward to unpacking and looking at in the studio and add to subsequent pieces, I’m very happy to discuss it.
Chris Myhr his studio practice deals with what the artist refers to as the ‘sound-space-body dynamic’, or the ways in which the natural and built spaces we inhabit, together with our acquired and conditioned approaches to listening, shape aural experience and perception. Myhr is currently based in London, Ontario. http://www.chrismyhr.com/
Darren: Chris will be around this weekend and he can answer any questions. Next, Amos Latteier is going to talk about his project.
Amos: Hi it’s nice to see you. My name is Amos Latteier and I want to tell you briefly about a project that I’m doing called Birdcast (originally called Pigeon Voice Over). What I’m doing is sending personal messages on this ultra-directional speaker that I have to pigeons. I’m a pigeon lover and I’m interested in just sending out messages that are personal and positive and maybe counteract some of the more received notions that we have for rats with wings. It’s hard to explain so I’ll just show you a little about how the technology works and then maybe I’ll say another sentence or two about it.
Darren: The speaker that he’s using is called the Holosonic audio spotlight and it shoots sound in a very narrow directional beam. Amos has a microphone that is going to the speaker.\
Amos: What I’m trying to do is make an absurd freudal kind of communication but one that’s important to me and maybe has some meaning to other people. It’s kind of like a strange project. I really haven’t done anything like this before. It is like the opposite of doing the field recording of a bird and getting a really directional mic and hearing what they are saying and instead getting a directional speaker and talking to them. It is also a project about stream of consciousness and about free styling and improvising, trying to connect to what you are thinking and the truth of what you know and the truth of your voice and the truth of the technology and to try to either have that come out of your mouth and into a place somehow.
Darren: I had a question you once called the piece Pigeon Voice Over and you changed the title. Maybe you can give us some insight on why that happened? You said something about wanting to go into it with one type of relationship with the listener and with the animals and when you started working with it you needed to redirect that.
Amos: There’s a lot that goes into the process. Most of you all know because you’re all artists. I’m looking for this truth and looking to be true to what I’m saying and how I’m saying it. I realized that this speaker is really f***ing awesome and it is an amazing piece of technology. As soon as I saw it I knew that I wanted to work with it. But I didn’t understand how it works. It creates distance, it is not about a kind of conversation. It’s the type that is about a broadcast and having a distance from people. Originally, I thought what I wanted to do was like a voice over, like a mystery-science theatre 3000, where I’m just cracking jokes over a scene and people are receiving those. But I realized it was totally not turning into that because of the distance the speaker was creating between myself and the viewer. I kept feeling like I was turning into Vito Acconci, if that makes sense, getting really creepy, and stalking around and even vocally that’s how it was becoming. I felt uncomfortable with that. That wasn’t the relationship I wanted to have with people. I realized that rather than stalking around people and admonishing them to understand pigeons in a different way, it was better to just make an affirmative statement directly to the birds themselves. They were already distant from me and would fly away if I got too close so this made much more sense to use the technology to talk to the animals despite the fact that they can’t understand me. That’s some of the evolution of the piece and I’m sure everything changes so if I do it more it will probably change more every time with experience. It usually sucks the first couple of times and then you have to make it better. You can also pre-imagine a lot of that process, feel it and think about it and in that way you can make it better.
Darren: What did you learn about pigeons?
Amos: Not much because I’ve raised them and I’ve built condos for them, strapped cameras to them and I’ve done a lot of portraiture of pigeons. I have a lot of knowledge about pigeon history and physiology and so in this piece I honestly didn’t learn much about pigeons because I already had that background and maybe it was blinding me to new experiences.
Amos Latteier builds machines and give lectures and is now based in Montreal. Past public art works (some using mobile phone technology) include We’re Not Going To Take It, Call of the Wild and Pigeon Condo. http://latteier.com/
Darren: Thank you Amos. His piece will be on tomorrow at 10am and 5pm. Some of those times conflict with what is going on at the symposium but some of them don’t. So at 5 tomorrow you should wander to the south side of the building to watch it. Next is Alexandra Gelis who has a piece coming up and she will talk about that right now.
Alexandra: Thanks Darren, my residency hasn’t finished yet. I’m just in the preliminary part of the project, where I’m building a cart, a food cart, and we will be selling snow cones next August in the Barns. My name is Alexandra Gelis I am mainly a visual artist and my work is in video and photography and I’m completely new in Adventures of sound. Everything started in Columbia, where I had a piece called Raspao. I will show you a 5-minute video to give you a better idea of the project. The Raspao is a traditional cart that we use in Columbia to sell snow cones; Raspao is a snow cone. It has a website component name raspao.net so here is the video. *video showing*
Alexandra: So that was Raspao Columbia. At the end, Raspao is a big camera that can capture special kind of images and have access to places a video camera cannot go. So my work has an important component in the document part. The new snow cone is a big sound mixer machine called Snow Cone. It is a living sound sculpture and the programming, I’ve been so lucky working with Hector Centeno, he’s been wonderful working with him as a programmer and he works in sound design as well, and Warren Wells is helping with the building of the cart and this is part of the residency funded by the Canada Council.
Snow Cone is a vehicle, a moving sound sculpture with moving components that captures and reproduces sound and video in real time. The vehicle will allow the viewer to create sound compositions by mixing sounds in real time from the sound background environment and the sound made by the internal components of the cart. The vehicle is a food cart, a hybrid vehicle part of the Raspao cart in Columbia used to sell snow cones and the food cart that Portuguese and Greek Canadians use to sell roasted nuts and other sweet goods in Toronto. The piece also serves as employment for the operator of the cart. He or she will be trained in all aspects of the functioning of the vehicle. This person will receive a salary in a similar way that happens in Columbia.. Snow cone is a sound piece that aims to open a place for social interactions, a place of meeting, conversation and playful interaction. Utilising technical mediums, social video cameras, microphone and other components, which facilitate visualisation, the carts purpose of generating conversation is reinforced.
It has also a website component which I mentioned before. This is the first initial drawing of the project [shows picture]. At this point it is very similar to the one we have here in Toronto, and I was thinking of keeping that part which is the hotplate. For technical reasons and security, I have decided not to work with propane. The piece, has some buttons where you are going to be able to mix the sound that is coming from six microphones allocated in different parts of the cart. We have one microphone here on the pedals, two hydrophones inside the juice containers, one microphone behind the ice shaver, and we have another one. Then we have six speakers and the user making the path is going to be able to control the movement of the sound through the six speakers. So the viewer can mix the sound, can put some sound effects as well, then record and send it to the website. This is the piece. To be a bit more technical about the sound system and the mixer: I’m using four contact microphones and one hydrophone, six speakers to controller panels and one LCD controlled by arduino that is going to show the name of the piece. Then the video I’m using, can switch the cameras or to turn them on and the programming is used with Max MSP and arduino. The power sources were a tricky part. I’m mixing the sources of power right now and I’m going to be using solar panels and a dynamo as well that will preserve energy and power through the pedaling. I’m working on a piece that I can travel with wherever I go so the big aim here is to be able to disassemble the piece.
The Raspao is difficult because it has a lot of technology inside and is expensive so I’ve been using it just in some special events or exhibitions, but it’s more because of security reasons. And it is really heavy. it has been invited into different exhibitions but it is almost impossible to send easily.
Alexandra Gelis is a Colombian-Venezuelan visual artist based in Toronto. Her artistic practice involves photography, video, electronics and digital processes. Her media art works address the use of images in relation to displacement, landscape and politics, all of which are conceived beyond borders or culturally specific subjects. http://www.alexandragelis.com
D: Ok thank you Alexandra.
Instead of the transcript of Jennifer Cherniack’s participation on the TransX Residency panel, her paper is included below.
Jennifer Cherniack, NAISA 2012
I love stories. Whether it be the history of Art of the story of Fran Fine from the 90s sitcom The Nanny, no narrative is too big or small. Through text, video, and performance, I take well-known stories and reorganize them to create new ones, shifting the focus to allow a new perspective or take on these popular narratives. My projects are developed using pre-existing data such as an entire television series, song lyrics, or a book on how to write jokes. I have a specific methodology that I implement in all my work: I cull through a vast database to find discrepancies, subtexts, underlying themes and different ways to look at how narratives can function. This process ultimately generates and decides the content of my work.
My practice often involves the visual translation of language, using typography and design to shape and provide context to the narratives I construct. The media I use reflects my interest in popular culture and the different formats used to convey information, drawing from such things as television, advertising, and educational materials. The aesthetics of my work also stem from my everyday life and the media that surrounds me: from signage used in storefronts to press releases used for promoting an exhibition. My focus is on how language affects not only our surroundings, but also how we communicate with one another through these media.
TransX Residency, February – May 2012
From February to May, 2012, I participated in the TransX Residency at New Adventures in Sound Art. This residency was for emerging artists with little experience in sound art, and aimed to foster projects dealing with the idea of transmission. During this time, I developed two performance-based projects: The One with all the Noise, and The One with the Big Game. These projects interpret the theme transmission in very broad and basic terms that consider transmission as the transference and displacement of information, namely in regards to television and radio broadcasting. Within these two works, sound and image are replaced or recontenxtualized using two popular forms of broadcasting: the radio play and sports commentary. Both projects were performed in their early stage of development at the TrasX Transmission Art Symposium on May, 2012.
During my time at NAISA, I was developing my Master of Fine Art’s thesis project, THE ONE WITH. This body of work celebrates textual gaps and incongruities within the television sitcom Friends, looking specifically at how the treatment of language – oral, visual, cultural and textual – has impacted contemporary vernacular. The One with all the Noise, and The One with the Big Game are part of this larger body of work, using the hit 90s sitcom Friends as its source material These sound-based projects consider the gaps and inconsistencies that occur when information (sound) is being transmitted from one source to another.
The One with all the Noise, and The One with the Big Game will be featured in my thesis exhibitions in January 2013 in Montreal, QC.
THE ONE WITH – A Project Description
THE LANGUAGE OF COMING OF AGE, THE COMING OF AGE OF LANGUAGE, or, WHY LIKE, UH, TOTALLY, SO AND VERY ARE, LIKE, UH, TOTALLY, SO, VERY IMPORTANT
In the fall of 1994, two game-changing cultural entities made their way into the hearts and homes of North Americans: the hit television program Friends, and the World Wide Web. Friends ended its television reign in 2004 and the Internet lives on – but those ten years of co-existence mark an important era in our recent history. Friends represents the only generation whose ‘coming of age’ story parallels that of the Internet. In a sense, Friends is an artifact of a time so different from today; a document of the growing pains of a society adapting to new forms of communication.
Concurrently, in the fall of ’94, I started junior high school. At thirteen, puberty had hit, the awkwardness of adolescence set in, and my own ‘coming of age’ tale began. All these ‘coming of age’ stories – the Friends in their early 20s, trying to make it in the real world, the World Wide Web, new and exciting but not yet fully integrated into the everyday, and of course my own common, but nevertheless difficult transition into womanhood – mark moments where there are gaps and slippages between one state and another.
THE ONE WITH takes these moments of ‘un-clarity,’ when there is a gap or disconnect in language as its starting point. In this body of work, I use Friends, and the metaphor of ‘coming of age,’ as a text – a narrative, cultural, linguistic and historical text – to celebrate incongruity in popular language during a time with the work – and myself – was in flux and in transition. THE ONE WITH considers the spaces in between one thing and another.
THE ONE WITH manifests itself through seven goodies of work that come together to form a larger narrative about language, and how these moments of incongruity within language define, change and become part f our contemporary vernacular. Specifically, THE ONE WITH looks at the transformation of language through different media – written, spoken, performed, transcribed, mimicked, recorded, documented – and the mishaps and changes that occur during translation. Two of these projects were develop with NAISA, and are described below.
The One with all the Noise
The One with all the Noise is a live performance that uses Foley sound – the reproduction of everyday sound that is added in post-production to film, television and radio – to substitute for digital noises from a sequence from the episode The One Where No One’s Ready. Performed in front of a projected video of the sequence, I recreate all the sound effects – with a main focus on digital sounds – and reproduce them live through analogue means. I used a variety of props, from shoes, to coffee grinds, to a children’s karaoke machine, to reproduce the various sounds in the show. As the purpose of a Foley artist is to create fully synced and integrated sounds – with goal of going unnoticed – in displacing, but also replacing the sound from its original source, the focus shifts from onscreen dialogue to the actions and sounds of the Foley artist (in this case, me!). In this performance, the stakes are high and the possibility of failure, mishap, and humiliation are likely, much like they are in the sitcom genre. In my performance at NAISA, all of the above came to fruition. Generating empathy from the audience – in both my performance and on television – is also a goal. Sitcoms work as a form of entertainment because the audience feels connected to the characters and this keep them coming back week after week.
The One with the Big Game
Using sports commentator jargon such as play-by-play commentary, instant replays and telestration to analyze a sequence from Friends, The one with the Big Game treats the sitcom – and the cast of Friends – as if it were a sports team playing an important game. Both sitcom and sports have a language and structure of their own, and in this project, the two are merged to highlight these formulaic and populist forms of entertainment. In The one with the Big Game, a video of a hired sports commentator will take the audience through the same sequence used in The One with all the Noise, playing part commentator/part animator of the language of the sitcom. Set up as sports are broadcasted on television (graphics, bad special effects, sports desk and man in suit), The one with the Big Game goes through joke structures (eg the triplet, extended triplet, button, blow), character traits (eg the Dumb One, the Neurotic, The lovable loser) and story arc, using the terminology as though it is a common and known language At NAISA, I developed this project as a performance, and presented it as such for the TransX symposium, but have since decided to turn it into a video with a hired actor/sports commentator.
Elephant Bucks, Sheldon Bull
The Eight Characters of Comedy. A Guide to Sitcom Acting & Writing, Scott Sedita
Andy Malcom and the team of Foley artists at Footsteps Post-Production Sound Inc, , Hector Centeno, Darren Copeland and Nadene Thériault-Copeland for their patience and support! Rob Cruickshank for the answering machines, Chris Myhr, Alexandra Gelis, Amos Latteier, Gintas Tirilis for inspiration, moral support and shop-talking.
Jennifer Cherniack holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario (BFA, class of 2003) and in 2004 completed a Peggy Guggenheim Internship in Venice, Italy. From 2004-9, Cherniack resided in Toronto, working as an educator and administrator for several organizations including InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, Regent Park Focus and the National Film Board of Canada. She has exhibited in various venues, from artist-run centres (Centre Vu, Quebec, Gallery 44, Toronto), to university galleries (the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto, the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal) to off-site events and artist multiples (Foire d’art Alternatif de Sudbury with la Galerie du Nouvel- Ontario, and the NY Art Book Fair). At present, Cherniack is completing her MFA, and teaching performance art and project-based courses in the undergraduate program at Concordia University, Montreal. Recently, she participated in such projects as PIN UP at Mercer Union, Toronto, and Spark Video, Syracuse, NY. http://jennifercherniack.com
I want to thank NAISA and the organizers in general for inviting me, I’m very thrilled to be here. I’m really happy to be part of what has been, for me at least, a really illuminating conference so far, and I’m sure it will just get better. I also want to thank everybody for getting out of bed and being here.
I’m going to start with two things that I’m not going to explain in addition to the sound that I’m not really going to talk about. The two things that I’m not going to explain; a serffor me is really zen cones. For this topic that I want to talk about today is really the question of the media specificity of sound, so what is actually specific to sound as a medium. So the zen cone right is contemplating the sound of one hand clapping so these are two things that for me have served as that sort of function, one is this equation that you can see on a screen, for the people on the radio it’s an X over Y and an X over Z. So you can probably see how this would solve, I’m not a mathematician so tell me if I’m wrong but I presume it could be solved one of two ways; and one is to have X=0 which is of course a total abstraction or the other is to have Y=Z which is just to say X over Y equals X over Y. To me again I’m not going to explain why this is beguiling to me but it is something I spend a lot of time thinking about because numbers are always abstract, sound is always abstract and I think there are correlations between the history of numbers and the history of sound. You know the Ancient Greeks had no number 0 so it’s a total abstraction and something to contemplate.
The other maybe less serious cone is something that has been with me for about twelve years and if you’re one of the like twelve people in the world who’ve heard my music from twelve years ago then you’ll know that I used to feature in a number of pieces when I was still a composer. I’m a cultural theorist now primarily and that’s a joke and it goes like this: So there’s these two farmers watching the installation of the first telephone lines in their region and one farmer turns to the other and says “you know I just don’t understand these contemporary technologies, they are so complicated” and the second farmer says “well you know they are not actually. You just need to know how to think about them. So take the telephone for example, it’s just like a really long wiener dog, and you grab its tail at your house and it barks somewhere in the middle of the city. So the guy thinks about it and says “Yeah okay, I get that but then how do you explain radio?” To which the other farmer says “Well it’s exactly the same but without the dog.”
So as I said I don’t have time to go into why these are beguiling to me but I think they both point to the ways we are thinking about when we are thinking about this and that is what I recognize as a somewhat academic but I hope also artistic question of medial specificity. So what I’m going to try to do today is just offer some thoughts on the medial specificity of sound which is to say on a set of metaphors, materials and discourses that we imply while talking about sound, when we’re talking we’re always talking in metaphors, materials and discourses. So I’m going to just address the question of transmission obliquely rather than directly. What I hope is that I can catalyze some emergent connections that I think are there between transmission art and the discourses of sound art, new media and contemporary critical theory which is kind of my lingua franca. So maybe I can kind of contribute to this collective storm that’s been happening at this symposium, it’s really been making my head spin in the best way.
I think there is a connection between sound art, new media art and contemporary critical theory and transmission art and I think that’s actually in this institution NAISA which has a strong history of sound art and so obviously that’s leveraged in transmission art. So as somebody who does cultural theory, for lack of a better word, I’m in the business of crafting arguments so rather than talking about pieces, maybe just one, but really I’m in the business of crafting arguments and that’s really what I want to do, is talk about my work. When I say I’m in the business of crafting arguments I mean I’m in the business, well maybe it’s not a business because a business needs to make money, but I’m in the habit of crafting arguments, the habit of building fictions about what it is that I’m doing that can help us live in the world a little differently. So some of what I’m going to say is going to enter conversations that you’d encounter at conferences or through certain literature. But I’m really entering it, not in the spirit of proving someone right or wrong, so much as trying to pressure some of these things saying how can this help me and by extension possibly you think differently about our art practices.
So the argument that I want to enter into is specifically one that is somewhat well known and published in a book by Seth Kim-Cohen and the book is called “Towards a Noncochlear Sound Art.” In it, Kim-Cohen is arguing for a discursive term in sound art, a movement away from thinking about sound as this way of just thinking about this kind of world, uncovering the truth of the world and instead thinking about sound art in connection to visual art practices, I’ll talk about that a bit more. What I want to do with that argument is just push it a little bit towards something that I’m calling as of this week the “sonic effect.” So for me what I mean by this term “sonic effect” is what Brandon LaBelle, who I know many of you know, calls “micro-epistimologies” which is just his way of recognizing things like echoes, vibrations, rhythms for instance. If we think through those metaphors we open up specific ways of knowing the world. That is sort of what I’m trying to do is try to take these two very divergent arguments and kind of mash them up a little bit in the spirit of audio art. So you can see already I think that there is an obvious connection to the concerns of transmission art which pushes many of these oral metaphors which have a history in sound art and pushes them in the direction to understand waves very differently when we start to understand transmission than we do in the history of sound and music. So I’m going to make that argument and then I’m going to talk about creative work that I think specifically enacts that, the piece Exurbia. What this piece does is it experiments with oral avatars in a non-visual online community so it’s non-visual, non textual, telepresence community, a term that doesn’t get used much anymore. Then if there’s time I’ll talk about SRMP but I can already see that is unlikely to happen and of course I’ll be happy to answer any questions when we’re done. You can share any questions or thoughts you have or we can discuss further.
So part 1, media specificity and the sonic effect.
The problem of media specificity for those of you connected to the visual arts is actually quite familiar and what’s interesting is to a large extent as a question there’s a certain sense in which it’s long resolved and specifically the way that it is resolved is through the notion of expansion. This we find in Gene Youngblood’s 1970s, talking about Expanded Cinema, Russell Crowe famously in ‘79 talks about expanded sculpture. Basically what expansion is – it connects to a contemporary time and philosophical movements but basically it’s just a way of recognizing the porousness of an artwork’s boundaries. So the implicit verb in any frame. Mica Bow, the visual theorist, talks about every frame is actually a framing, it’s not just a frame to a work it’s the act of framing in time. And then also expansion is just a way of recognizing the way art works. Culture, discourse are all tangled up in one another. If you know Clement Greenburg, expansion is just explicitly in opposition to some of his writing, sometimes correctly sometimes falsely, but it’s just saying Greenburg to the contrary, the work of a work of art when we talk about it doing something we can’t reduce that to just the boundaries of just the work itself and those boundaries aren’t uncontested or fixed so you can think about a picture in a gallery and say “oh yeah that’s the work.” But by putting it on the wall the wall becomes part of the work, the gallery becomes part of the work, the mechanism of entering and leaving the institutional support, all those are in a sense part of the work of art which sounds stupid in some ways but if you’ve ever worked in an artist run center you understand these things come about in really material and specific ways.
I was involved with a great artist run center and none of the artists would even consider paying to enter the space and yet you had to pay to enter the space to go to a concert. So all of a sudden our community would be split between the visual artists who would come to all the free openings but not pay 10 bucks to sit still and listen to a show for an hour. So the way that it’s framed, the mechanism of ticketing of paying and all those things are part of what the artwork is. Part of being a visual artist in that context is not paying to see work but the work is kind of a discussing point. So this conversation is pretty much old hat in the various discourses that we’ll just call the visual arts but it has remained only peripheral, not excluded but peripheral to the discourses of music and I would argue also to sound art. The latter is in a bit less obvious way.
So with respect to music just as a quick digression talking about music that has these awesome terms like western art music is an actual term and to describe this notated music that is performed by orchestras and ensembles. So in that respect maybe it’s not surprising that there’s a kind of foundational conservatism to that discourse that comes from having a history in sacred practices and history in colonial practices as well. So it’s not necessarily that shocking that it’s difficult for that to move, for those institutions are flexible in the way visual art institutions are. But also with music which will get us to sound art and I think more importantly is a medial purity really at the heart of music and it’s endowed with as music and the most famous statement that summarizes this is the 19th century critic and essayist Walter Pater makes this famous or infamous claim that gets repeated: All art constantly aspires to the condition of music. And the reason he says that, or what that claim does is it perfectly encapsulates the fiction of music and we live by fictions all the time in every way so it’s not to say whether it’s good or bad but the fiction of music as a kind of pure abstraction, something that doesn’t relate to anything in the world, only relates to itself.
Pater’s claim, the one that all art constantly aspires to the condition of music puts music as the purest of the arts precisely because of its “artness” only refers to itself. You don’t listen to a piece of Bach and say oh yeah that’s about the terrible oppression against the first nations people in Canada. It is very difficult to do that at the level of the music. Another way of saying this since it is always nice to have multiple ways is to say that music is positioned to be a-semiotic, which is to say that it is positioned as not reflecting anything but music, and that is the heart of music. And Seth Kim-Cohen points this out really brilliantly in the book I’m going to discuss saying only music has a term like “extra-musical” a term that actually describes things like staging, political references, marketing, all that isn’t the piece of music. The term simply doesn’t exist in the visual arts and gallery arts, the extra-artistic part.
So music has at its core a fiction that the music itself is pure abstraction. The point I’m getting to means that you can’t necessarily address the problem of music in discourse, how music connects to the world just by expanding the semantic field of music because the semantic field and discursive parts of the world aren’t music. It’s like two ships passing in the night situation. The decisive example here and the most famous one, and the one which will get us closer to sound art, is the work of John Cage which would seem to on the surface deploy exactly into this kind of expanded field. He extensively uses chance operations and he technologizes silence he tweets silence as though it is something tangible and positive and these are both in service as well as other techniques of an understanding that would move music off of the page and beyond the purview of the intentional composerly rhetoric. So Cage’s intervention expands this musical pallet to include sounds in themselves and silence independent to other notation and organization, which is great. And indeed the ultimate sound in itself for Cage is silence. I’m sure everybody knows his story of the anechoic chamber, being in this chamber that seals him out from the world and he hears these two sounds to which he attributes to being the sound of his blood circulating and his nervous system. In fact the technicians at the time said it’s quite possibly the onset of tinnitus that he was hearing. But it doesn’t even matter. So he hears these two sounds in a situation that is supposed to seal him off from all sound and for Cage it is like an amazing revelation which is that there is no such thing as silence, which in turn means that sound isn’t just an addition to reality; sound is an ever present stratum of reality. If we want to talk about the world, like this coffee cup, you have to talk about it relative to sound as well as relative to its paper. Generations of artists continue to make work based on what that catalyzes.
So Cage’s gestures of expansion really broaden the rhetorical pallet brought to musicians and I think also constitute important politics within music, but they don’t impact the general purview of music, change how music can speak. But we can’t just assume that that changes what music can say. It’s kind of an expansion towards inclusivity of practices I would argue is accomplished via a kind of colonizing process but doesn’t address this fiction of music as being abstract. It doesn’t address what I would call the discursive insularity that prevents music from talking about its connections to the world. And this is the case because there is a really problematic assumption that lies at the heart of Cage’s project and again there’s a problem at the heart of everyone’s project right? All you can do is – love John Cage don’t miss understand that – but there is a problematic assumption that is at the heart of that project, namely that sound again just signifies itself, when we hear sound it’s a sound and language, discourse, experience, the world has nothing to do with it.
My friend Eldritch Priest argues that Cages effort to open musical experience to a wider materiality through these kinds of gestures can only be made effective through a rhetorical maneuver, which basically cyphers off anything in the sound that isn’t the sound. So any sound is musical as long as it’s intentionally heard as music and unheard in the world. Maybe a more famous source is Douglas Kahn in the book Noise Water Meat, and he says under the guise of an opening up in sounds to the world, Cage builds a kind of musical bulwark against auditive culture, one founded on a musical identification from nature itself. So Kahn argues convincingly that this is accomplished through these very techniques of expansion that we seem to put Cage in this visual arts discourse. So by extending the process of music making or music incorporation to include all audibility, potentially audible and mythically audible sounds, there are no longer any sounds to incorporate into music. Music then becomes a pure listening or pure concentration which refers to Cage’s 4’33” his silent piece.
So where is this taking us? The medial specificity of sound in music means that any additional elements that are brought into music become colonized by music – they become music. They are not political, they are not in the world they are music, and what is music? Music is this pure abstract thing, music can never be medially specific in a certain sense because its specificity exists only prior to any particular instantiation of it and whatever happens it’s going to be music. Indeed we see this in performances all the time artists leverage this all the time. In this setup if I were here as a musician and not a talking head each sound you’d have to prepare to hear would be music. If anybody is in contemporary media studies we’d say that music presents itself as an origin, or a kind of creation of sound rather than a history of sound and if you want to understand why that’s important than just think about the difference between creationists and history that have played out in the U.S. around the Christian right and evolution. That’s the difference between a creationist and history. One is in the world thinking about our values as being historically constituted, always changing; one says this is right and this is wrong.
So to speak about musical specificity in music is as fraudulent as to speak about truth in painting sculpture and all of these things that are all discussed within visual arts and in a certain sense dismissed with the decline of modernism, when painting leaves this gesture of being pure painting and starts to engage, its being in the world. But there is a really important distinction between how that happened in the discourse in music from the discourse of visual arts. In the case of visual arts there are always conceptual terms and I don’t mean capital C conceptual terms I mean all these different ways of thinking about how we think is part of these works and then one after another you think Deschamps, Picasso, I mean pick a name and pick a date and then after that date is filled with conceptual terms: 20th century conceptual art is in a certain sense defined in that way. And then explicitly engage this sort of paradox that we can focus on a work and by focusing on a work we can focus on the things that aren’t in the work if that makes sense? It’s kind of like a resonant object for the world, and in a certain sense that is what art does: there’s certain things that connect to the work. By focusing on the work you pretend that the work is cut off from the world so you can have fresh insight into the world.
Music deals with its excesses, deals with its way of connecting with the world in a really dramatically different way and that way is called sound art. Kim-Cohen says in his book and I think he’s right that “sound art is a positioned and discreet practice separate from music and it’s the remainder of music closing off its borders to the extra-musical.” So this isn’t the result and this is really important, it isn’t the result of specific decisions by specific people within sound art music, it isn’t like something says I’m going to be a sound artist or I’m going to be a musician. It’s just the result of a very different history and as far as music goes there is no other option available except to treat sound art as a separate set of practices all together. Again just think of the biographies of the individual practitioners and there is relatively little overlap.
So sound art in this story that we’re telling becomes a way of solving this problem of closing off its problems to the world, music becomes in sound art a historical practice which is a good thing. If we want to talk about music its history is concerned with itself and then you talk about sound art and all of a sudden it’s situated in the world, it’s a historical practice that is situated to the various political histories in the world. But the problem is not quite that easily solved. Here again we return once again to Douglas Kahn talking about Cage and he noticed that in this method of listening where Cage hears two sounds, whatever they are, and understanding that this is the moment, the origin, of sound art in a certain way when he hears two sounds he is hearing a third. You can probably predict what that third sound is and it is the sound of the little voice in his head saying whoa wait I’m hearing two sounds even though I’m in an anechoic chamber and calling this a sound is of course totally antithetical to Cage-ian listening because it means that there’s something in competition with the sounds themselves in the world. It means that sound isn’t a-semiotic. It doesn’t just come to us. It is always caught up in our experience of it. So you can even go one step further and say that insofar as hearing and listening, the way we might distinguish them is along the lines of concentration so that to listen is to concentrate and to concentrate is to listen discursively.
Language remains this technology through which we register experience even in Cage-ian listening, and Cage really doesn’t want that to be the case. So it’s a cypher through language as Eldritch would say and what this does, is it reveals both language and experience as being present in one another. An example I like to give is my digestive system happens extra-discursively, happens independent of language – put food in something comes out. However if I want to think of that as not just a series of random events, not as an actual process, that’s a linguistic fiction, a story, of what happens to matter in that scenario. So if I don’t want it to happen linguistically, say look it happens independent of language, then I have to give up the part that connects logically the food going into my body to the food coming out. Not to say that we can’t eat without language but to understand eating as eating as a kind of process requires language. There’s a soft claim that language and discourse are connected and there’s part of that I think a hard claim that Kim-Cohen makes against what he calls “New essentialist bestowals” that really frames music and sound art: one is Cage talking about silence as sound; and the other is Pierre Schaeffer talking about sound in itself. Where Kim-Cohen goes with this rightly and wrongly I think is to criticize a number of sound art practices and this criticism applies to certain transmission practices as well, that leverage translation into and out of the medium of sound. He says for example this fantasy that a person has where he sees this skull and in the skull there’s a suture where the skull has met, and he says whoa wouldn’t it be cool to take a stylist and play the sound of that line, that would be playing that suture, playing the primal sound of the skull’s formation, where the criticism isn’t whether one should or should not do these things the criticism is what one is doing when one does these things. So what Kim-Cohen is saying is look it’s based on faith in a kind of fundamental stratum, some fundamental existence of the world independent of experience it’s a media theory that says information is context independent. But somehow the information of the suture is the same as the sonic information that we get, it erases that process of translation so it’s revealing something we can’t have access to so like the process of revealing were totally neutral, and of course it’s not.
Maybe you can hear these resonances or if not I’ll just point; wars have been fought over this particular understanding of the world. Basically it’s saying there is a way that the world is and that’s exactly how wars get fought, it opens up a space for absolute right and wrong depending on your experience of it. So Kim-Cohen says that this implies that our sense of complete experience is just some weird misunderstanding, that we are somehow inadequate perceptually and maybe less extreme than wars getting fought.
This also is a really romantic sensibility, a sensibility towards the sublime, that results in a notion that information is somehow a medial and our task as artists is to just draw this stuff out, which may be true but it’s just a question as to how it’s true and to what extent. This perspective which is implicit in a number of sound art practices which feature similar translations is predicated on a belief in a kind of foundational metaphysics. That foundational metaphysics Derrida addresses as well as philosophers before him and after him, the visual arts addressed through his notion of expansion sound art – has yet to address that in I would argue a robust way.
So all of this points towards the difficulty that faces us as artists if we continue to create non visual or sound based works and namely just the question of what it takes to make a work and say that its not a work of visual art, what does that mean if we can’t take recourse to sound as being a-semiotic in the sound itself. So to my mind it’s the question that is just implicitly posed by Kim-Cohen’s call for sound art to follow what is called the non-retinal turn in visual art towards the non-cochlear turn, towards a kind of way to understanding itself as a discursive practice. If sound art can’t make any recourse to sound being a completely separate way of experience which he claims it can’t and if it is entirely captured by discourse, if we can’t gain experience except through language, in the same way the gallery arts are, then what is the distinction between sound art and visual art. In short, can non-visual practices be distinguished from visual ones? Should they be? And what would such a distinction be in service of?
So this is the kind of fundamental question to the politics of sound art, when we insist on a sound practice being a sound practice what does that in service of. It’s a shortcoming of maybe Kim-Cohen’s book for better or worse and there’s not very many examples that would address that. There’s one exception that I’m going to skip over which is Jarrod Fowler’s work where he does a sonic translation of this piece from Joseph Kosuth, these two billboards, and basically Fowler makes this sonic version with these texts that refer to one another, one in each channel of your ear, and it’s a really interesting discussion that Kim-Cohen has but in the interest of time I’m going to skip past it. So other than that there are very few questions that might address that question but one possible approach to answering these questions we can maybe find from what second order systems theorists such as Nicholas Lumen suggests which is he just points out whereas construction to use Doradus’ term, every encounter with the world is ultimately undecidable, there is no such thing as the sound itself. We nonetheless act as though sound exists, which is really worth remembering. When I say hey I’m gonna make a sound, you have some sense of what’s going to happen.
What Lumen’s project is, which I’m not going to go in to, is to say how this actually happens. He doesn’t talk about sound he talks about social systems he talks about all political systems and how these fictions take hold and propagate which is actually harder to answer than you would think. What does this mean I think? Simply put is the insistence in my mind that every constative claim, every claim to something, forms a supplement to itself, so if I say I’m going to give a talk, I perform telling you that I’m going to give a talk I do more than just telling you that a talk is going to happen. I say it in a certain way, there are certain things about the way we are exchanging information, I might say look I’m going to give a talk that is going to address a certain issue so no matter how much we speak we always perform more than we say and there’s kind of an infinite regress there. This is a performative dimension and I think it’s crucial in that it gives us maybe a possibility to talk about material specificity because it starts to think about sound as an operation instead of a fact. Sound is something that happens over time and provides the fact to register that not all performances of sound are the same, they all have their different ways. So we can insist on specific performative implications of oral experience without having to validate that in this kind of pure listening that Cage would have, provided that we keep in mind that these experiences are metaphoric.
One of my favorite theorists on this is Frances Dyson and she says we can claim sound’s phenomenal characteristics, it’s invisible, intangible, ephemeral, vibrational, all these things coordinate with the physiology of our ears to create a perceptual experience which is very different from the dominant experience of sight and we can say all that without having to say what sound is which is really nice to be able to say. That wouldn’t undermine this orientation that Kim-Cohen wants to make towards understanding the way that sound art has to the rest of the world. And it doesn’t require us a way to charter those connections but at the same time it’s different than pretending that the translation into sound is just this totally neutral thing, that sound art is just making literal the way sound is.
I have a really nice formulation of this, this doesn’t undermine Kim-Cohen’s non-cochlear orientation but it redoubles it, takes the materiality of discourse seriously enough to insist not only is all experience discursive but the paradoxical quality of this discursiveness produces the sense of something being outside of language as part and parcel of movements. So experience isn’t constructed by language but intensified as experience. Just as I’m speaking right now I’m reminded of this couplet by Emily Dickenson in which she says word is dead when it is said some say, I say it just begins to live that day. And I think that is a less confusing way of stating it; language has its own life and it’s a real life, a material life and that our experiential life is lived through that way our sense of things being beyond language is part of language but that doesn’t make it any less profound.
So returning to the question of material specificity of sound, this is what I mean by this term sonic effect. So we might provisionally sidestep this thing about what sound really is concretely without sacrificing its material capacities, affordances, what it allows us to do. We can give up any definition of sound but still ask about the unique intensities that reality caresses. We can at least postpone throwing this baby out with the bath water by directly equating sound arts and gallery arts. Instead the task becomes describing these events in such a way that they can couple with other metaphors not in the interest of reducing conceptual practices but in the interest of catalyzing new forms of fictions, new forms of nonsense, new vectors that discourse materiality recur with one another. So thinking through sonic effects is an attempt to avow the performative dimension of sound. Sound always does more than it claims, which like all performativities, is context specific. This to my mind is one of the key points of conflicts between the sonic effect and transmission art, both of which are deeply invested as far as I can tell in the vagaries of practices that take place live and in real time.
It’s always important to remember that you cannot pause a sound. It’s one of those clichés that maybe this is the third zen cone, there is no pause button on a sound, it stops.
This is the context in which I want to talk about what I think is a terrible piece actually but often bad pieces are the best ones to talk about. It’s by me so I’m allowed to say that. So I would say that Exurbia explicitly pressure sonic effects as they obtain in the context of contemporary digital network communities. I want to say too like most of my technology intensive work, this was a collaboration with a fellow named William Brent who works at my favoritely named University in the United States, the American University. So there are four distinct features about this piece, you can see it’s a digital sound editing program interface, is time intensive it is predominantly oral, executed in real time, editing is destructive, there is no undo feature, all the source materials which are sound samples are shared among all users but are used to produce discreet pieces so you go on the same way you’d go on to pro tools and then each edit on a single user’s computer impacts every instance of every file throughout all users’ computers so materials are dislocated in that sense. In essence the piece works as followed: you navigate to a website and you download the program and at the website you can also upload sound samples if you want and you can also listen to the other samples that are in the bank. So after you download the program you have to open it on a Mac or a Linux and have to authorize it to sync with that batch of sound samples, which can take up to 5 minutes because every time you open the program you have to do this and basically it is just downloading the most recent version of the samples that are on the server. Once those are synchronized you can start using the program that looks something like this. So you load an individual sample and apply one of these standard digital editing effects or multiple iterations of the same effect to that sample, standard things like amplitude, granulation, reverberation, etc. Importantly and unlike conventional editing programs whenever an effect is applied, the entire sample is played, and the majority of effects are used in real time while using a mouse so if you want to increase the volume of the sample midway through it, you select the sample, select the effect, play the sample and when you get to the point where you want to be louder you just slide the slider up, you slide it back down when you’re past the point you want it to be louder and you’re stuck with it, there’s no undo feature, if you want to make that part softer again you need to go back to the beginning of the sample, press play, listen to it and when you get to that part slide the slider back down to the equivalent. When you finish editing the given sample, you then insert it into a master track, which is completely unique to its user and you do so by entering a start time in minutes and seconds. So notably and once again unlike most editing environments there is no editing except for the individual samples so you can’t remove a sample once it’s in, you can’t re-edit it once you’ve inserted it, there’s no global adjustments for mastering the composition or anything like that. Crucially, once you’ve inserted the edited sample, all instances of a different file in the collective source material are replaced by what you’ve just made in this edited version. This substitution doesn’t take place until you quit the program so basically when you quit the program it updates the files on the server and then next time you open it that updated version will be there. So you can actually overwrite your own composition, every time you put something into the master track you hear the whole thing so it takes a while. You can also overwrite a bunch of different parts of you composition if you’re not paying attention and then the next time you open it, it will sound completely different; or someone else can overwrite it of course. The sample that’s going to be replaced is determined by the program but it’s done in a predictable way and you can see what it’s going to be. So if you want to, say if you like a certain motorcycle sound in your piece, and you don’t want it to get changed by your editing, you can wait until it comes up, select it, play through it and upload it to the master track unaltered. So it’s really time intensive in that way but there is a way to preserve your compositional process. While it’s not possible to insulate your composition from others’ activities, it’s possible to predict how your editing activities will impact your own and also you can within this environment, not within the browser, listen to other tunes if you want. So if you want to think of it as a community and you want to think about how your actions are going to impact the community you can take the time to open these files. Again, there’s no waveform track so you have to open them and listen to the whole thing and you can listen to what sound files are there, think about the bank, do some research and then decide how dramatically your edits are going to impact other people, if you want. It’s really cumbersome.
So it’s these technical machinations of Exurbia that constitute its intervention into institutions of the sound itself that are naturalized, that digital technologies produce new versions of what the sound is; every different interface with sound produces a new idea of what sound is. For phonographs sound is vibrations and there are different sets on thinking about what sound is in the context of a computer program like this one. So Exurbia’s mobilization of the Sonic Effect is a material discursive intervention and it amounts to a participatory experience of digital music composition that I think is fundamentally different from the way that sound is typically treated in these settings. So at the center of this conceptual gambit is a downplaying of visual graphics and other forms of visualization most notably manifested through the absence of anything like this there are no visible sound waves. So explicitly contrasts software like pro tools, garageband, audacity, logic, all these things in that its editing capability, even though it suggests them by the various edits you can do, contrast them because those are based upon waveform as a basic interface for manipulating sounds, and construction objects that can be manipulated according to their own instantaneous logics of manipulation these programs spatialize the temporal element of sound.
I’m not arguing that sound exists independent of its media. I’m just saying that this is a very dominant set of metaphors for what sound is now in the context of a computer so it’s worth reminding me at least that it can be otherwise in the context of a computer. This points to the way sound is constructed in the context of a computer. Waveform editors invite a conception of sound that aligns with the overall visual paradigm of the computer more generally. In that paradigm, everything is data, we hear this all the time, and in that precise sense is a-temporal. Data is always a-temporal in that it’s contextless.
If you want to talk about data like it’s a piece of information, data is something that can be moved from one context to the next without being changed, that’s what data means in a certain sense. When we talk about data it’s often referred the 1’s and 0’s of a computer and this invites that this sound we can move from here to here to here to here and assume that it’s not going to sound different when you move it around a wave form editor. So as a kind of a-temporality of data, to be clear that’s not an extra-discursive fact it’s just the way computers envision data and it constitutes our general fiction of how we interact with desktop computers so we can more specifically say that human agency vis-à-vis the computer takes place at the fulcrum of its two realities. A computer is both an ongoing computational process, literally voltage flows, but also the programs that are constantly running, we say it’s running we don’t say it’s on. At the same time it’s a series of discreet states, think about the metaphors that we use a computer with: Windows, Icons and also the way that those flows of voltage are translated by a computer into 1’s and 0’s which is how they operate. So to use a computer, when I say I use a computer for those who philosophize to a certain extent, it’s a really weird thing to say I “use” a computer. It means that I’m going to map these two incrementable realities – one is this constant flow and the other is this series of discreet states. I’m going to map that onto this object that I call a computer and specifically in the case of a computer that mapping is usually achieved by spatializing its various temporal vectors. So the dominant paradigm of a computer is spatial and visual. It’s not surprising then if we understand computers as predominantly visual machines provided that digital sound is conventionally over-determined by its visual components. Exurbia contrasts this not by eradicating visuality. We experimented when we were developing it with things like dark interfaces, but instead it uses visuality to instigate the types of temporal processes that are common to sound in analog settings. So you can click, drag and even type, those are all dependent on the spatialization of the computer but the effects of those actions in the sample composition and the network to community are only registered orally. You never see the results of your actions; you just hear them. So one result of this is that individual opportunities to edit in Exurbia literally go by in an instant because they are taking place in real time. They go by faster than an instant but for the sake of language we’ll say they go by in an instant, so editing then becomes less a process of cutting and pasting like we’re accustomed to discussing and is oriented more towards channeling, remixing; metaphors that promote this kind of entanglement of the edited sound and the act of editing, the act of listening. Moreover, I think it’s heightened by the exclusive use of destructive editing which again works to resist this notion of reversibility, which is a feature of data. To erase something on a computer is to move it form one place to another, which suggests that all these processes are reversible, non destructive editing is possible because data can be reordered so by making it destructive it suggests a different set of metaphors.
Actually I would say in general sound or the sonic effect tends to point to a way that sound can be resistant to being represented as data in at least two ways. Firstly like any wave or pattern phenomena such as radio waves, it’s differentially and temporally embodied and my favorite example of this is Aiden Evans, a theorist, and he points out that when we hear, we don’t actually hear air pressure, we hear pressure changing, and that is a really important distinction. If you hear a constant pitch I hear as constant something that is literally nothing but difference, nothing but change and it’s a really important distinction. So when we hear, we hear difference and this isn’t captured in the positivist framework of data, this change over time isn’t capture but it is activated in Exurbia’s editing procedures.
A second way that sound or sonic effects resists being expressed as data is being profoundly relational, and not in the sense of Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics but rather in the sense that sound is never quite where it purports to be. So think of, for example a light panning across the stage and you can point, okay the light is here, this is the screen this is where the light is hitting the screen, that is where the particles of light are actually bouncing off the screen in a sense, but of course if we pan across the stage we have more or less the same level of accuracy now but in a stereo field that placement here in the middle is achieved by a difference in relative intensity between the two polarized speakers. The sound is not where it appears to be in a certain sense but the twist, and this is what makes it a nice thing to think about, is that it’s also not exactly true to say the sound is actually just in the two polarized speakers because the sound only happens through this differential act of hearing. Part of a sound is our mechanism of hearing and that’s the mechanism that says it’s in the middle so it’s a kind of paradox in terms of thinking about sound and placement that happens. So there are a couple of ways that sound resists being expressed as data. So in the case of Exurbia this is emphasized through the impossibility of composing in isolation of others interventions, even though all editing is performed in the fiction of being isolated, you think you are editing being in one piece. So Exurbia emphasizes real time and acts as a program through an aesthetics of speed and dissipation.
If important elements of Exurbia can be captured through this temporality, I don’t want to say that this exhausts the metaphorics of sounds actually because the sonic effect is more than just an emphasis on time, so we can additionally note that only registering edits orally actually means that they are held pneumatically in a different way than in a waveform editor. Usually users are composing pieces and these pieces are made of different matter than is the case in this waveform editor. There’s this kind of dramatic vulnerability that happens to the fact that someone else can totally mess up your piece. You do get attached or at least I do get attached to these pieces because they take so long to make in this setting. But more interestingly there’s a kind of strange reorientation that happens by the fact that you don’t know if your piece has been changed because there is no visual guarantor. So if I don’t go to my piece for a few days then I have to rely on my oral memory which is very different than having this iconography to depend on. So there are all sorts of other features that we can talk about but what I want to go and skip ahead to is that there are all these strange tactics that happen as a sort of oral gambit if you will in Exurbia, and I think they’re also matched by the unconventional nature of its online community. So on one hand you can think about its communal experience as being kind of a multi-user online game in that everybody enters the world of Exurbia, you do your own thing and your actions impact one another and Exurbia certainly engages that paradigm but it’s peculiar because it’s so much work to understand how your actions impact other people in that setting. If we think about these pieces of music like avatars in this world of Exurbia, the effects of our actions, the way we understand these effects happen throughout the world but it takes real effort to coordinate that. And what that points to, to me, and what I’ll sort of close with is I have a number of thoughts about what that means but one thing it suggests to me is that when we talk about community online we tend to take the word community as though it means the same thing online as it means offline or it means something slightly different. And I don’t want to say that one is more important than the other but what I do want to point out is that the technologies through which that sense of community is created online largely dissipate in the absence of text or vision. When I can’t see someone being shot in an online game and I can’t see someone saying “hey what you’re doing is mean” on an online forum but I actually have to go seek it out myself, very few people in my experience did, the one exception was what might be called griefing, which is a really great composer friend of mine proceeded to make all the samples silent, you know predictably, he just overwrote them with silence. So it started to adjust, the way that when we talk about online community there’s a certain discourse, a certain materiality to how it operates that is really fundamentally tied to a certain configuration to the sense that happens through the computer.
So very briefly in closing, in Exurbia what I’m trying to do is find ways to leverage the sonic effect, to open new ways of engaging the world, new ways of understanding what actually is an online community, how does it operate, but without denying discursive contingency that overwrites these attempts. By approaching this through practice I aligned myself with what I see as a general principle of specificity that tends to invest most sophisticated artistic practices. The best art to my mind doesn’t demonstrate broad proofs of concept but instead enacts specific situations with specific materials. This specificity I think is one of the ways sound art, transmission art, new media art, all offer important purchase on many of the questions that we have to grapple with. Paraphrasing the theorist Katherine Hayles that you might know: If art not only teaches us to understand our experiences in new ways but actually changes experience itself, which I think it does, then sound art engages us in ways that really make real the emergence of new ideas of the body, experiences of embodiment that come from our interactions with oral communities with transmittive environments. Thank you.
Dr. David Cecchetto is Assistant Professor of New Media (History and Criticism) at OCAD University. David has published numerous academic articles and book chapters, co-edited a collection titled Collision: Interarts Practice and Research (CSP, 2009), and has a monograph titled Humanesis: Sound, Discourse, and Technological Posthumanism forthcoming on the Posthumanities series of the University of Minnesota Press. As an artist working with sound, David’s work has been presented in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Russia. www.davidcecchetto.net
I’m Geoffrey, I’m Alan, and you’ve seen the bios so we don’t need to introduce ourselves. How we came to work together, we met, there was a consonance, we had endless discussions about God and the world and just felt that, I think we talked about three or four different projects that we are kind of working on or will work on or have worked on. So this is the most concrete of them, this is a surprising overlapping despite our quite different origins, so mines sort of mathematical scientific sort of background but with a lot of dabbling and trying to apply that to a creative, artistic endeavor. And I’ve been doing art and trying how to figure out how computers work, so we mesh nicely. So this presentation we’re talking about a work in progress, in this iteration it’s called telegraph, it was called measured mile parade route in a previous vision of the project and its quite a ways away from being at the presentation level, but I thought it would be interesting for us to come in and talk about the process mid-project for a couple reasons: one to sort of reveal the inner workings of how a project like this gets manifested and you know many people here have done projects like this and I’m sure everyone’s inner workings have something in common with ours and a lot of things different from ours so I think it might enlightening, or it might be boring, repetitive; and the other reason is we’re sort of interested in connecting with other people who are going down similar paths because there are a lot of overlaps on certain levels.
So I’ll just jump right in and explain what the project is as its current incarnation. Actually I’m not going to do that because we had a little discussion earlier about transmission and positioning ourselves within that dialogue so a previous work that I had done about the Hertz In collective play. And it was about a bunch of people standing in front of a sculptural screen with multiple projections on it which they could control with their cellphones and play with different musical instruments the idea being that you would experience it, you would fool around with it, you would play with it, and then eventually you would realize that whether you meant to or not, you were collaborating with the other people standing next to you. That’s where the collective part of the title came from. The Hertzean part came from the fact that you were playing musical instruments and all the stuff was going over cellphone. The cellphone was the input device – it was the control device – and so I always thought the cellphone was a radio device. I think somebody was saying it’s a shame were moving from radios to digital devices. Well I always thought the cellphone was a radio device. So in that piece, one of the things that was happening is that it was encouraging the emergence of spontaneous community, people who didn’t know each other identifying for a brief moment with each other.
So with this piece the incentive for this piece was an event that I witnessed in a town not too far from my town on the shores of lake Huron at Kincardine, which is their weekly parade. So they have this parade every week in the summer, every Saturday evening after dinner but before dusk. We just happened to be in Kincardine one day – it’s about an hour away so we don’t go that often – and people were setting up their lawn chairs on the streets and I said, “what’s going on?” They said the Pipan band, a drum and pipe band one of those Scottish bands were doing the parade and we do a parade every week and I thought that’s fantastic. We’re going to have dinner and watch the whole parade go by, its going to be 30 minutes I’ve seen parades before. So the parade started and you could hear the pipers, they were way off, and its one band, the whole parade is one pipe and drum band. And as they went by on about a 3 kilometer length of main street, everyone got up from their chairs and fell in and walked along behind the band, and the band kept on playing until they got to the end of the parade route, and then they played all the way back main street to the other end and left, and everyone followed them back to their lawn chairs, packed their lawn chairs and left and went home, and they did this every Saturday. And this I thought was a magical moment, this community, community building, community generation, community participation, the sort of unstructured nature of the experience. And I thought I really want to create a somehow similar experience for people. That’s where the idea came to create an audio work, which would be very long and thin, ideally a mile long and that’s why it was called a measured mile. The idea was that there would be sound modals this route that people could walk along and experience this long, long sound installation, and walk back, and then it evolved, evolved, evolved, evolved, evolved, evolved, evolved until it was at the stage that it is now. But I just wanted to say that a little bit of genesis and how it connected to some previous work.
One of the things that we are doing with this is, okay ill come back to that. In our process we have gone through a couple of iterations, an iteration or 2 so we had some major headings which evolved, we started with the envisioned interactions, we imagined this long environment where people could move, and could experience the sound in kind of a narrative, linear way that sound would progress as you encountered one bit after another or that you could stay static and that sounds would move past you, come washing down the street maybe the sounds of vehicles or of some things washing over you. So this was the nature of the movement and we also early on talked about having sounds which could be speaker driven amplifier driven but also sounds which would be actuator driven, so this would be things that bang on things, motor attached to sheets of tin or something like that. So not everything would be coming out of a speaker or be manufactured sound.
We encountered some constraints, we identified constraints immediately in the project and thought were going to take those as fuel, and again somebody mentioned before about constraints and how they can drive a project and make it more robust. So a few things, we were looking for was something that was flexible. We specifically set aside the question for what the sound content would be for the time being, but we wanted something that would accommodate a range of different sorts of experiences and that would also be reconfigurable, you know maybe we should use some context other than this linear mile version. We wanted something that was low tech. You know Alan’s a software engineer and a real smart guy but neither of us have engineering degrees, so we didn’t want to be spending the bulk of the time struggling with tech glitches because you can spend a lot of time on that. It’s good to have an engineer team who can go off and solve those problems but we wanted the experience to be the focus. But necessarily I think we’ve been dragged in from the lack of other resources but also through how that drives a process and its intriguing. It’s almost like CHristof’s point – you can’t separate the content from the form. The process – the technical aspects, actually do end up in the content and that can be a good thing. You can struggle with constraints, you can consider them to be inspiration and shaping and treat what you’re building as an instrument, you’re mastering an instrument, or you’re learning its characteristics so you can play it well as well as what composition you can play with it. Designing an instrument, then learning how to play it, then composing, so it’s a little bit backwards. When a previous project we had a little one bar for sound instrument track, so we had four tracks playing at the same time and looping continuously to be played on a device that doesn’t take synchronization too well and you would start and stop the tracks, the idea wasn’t to turn tracks on and off so you can take but to be made in Sync, and we would turn them on and it would play out of sync, and after 3 or 4 iterations, your brain would rearrange them and go oh! That’s an interesting pattern, and you would start one and play it again. It would play anew, it would go out of sync in a new way, and your brain would repossess it and say that is an entirely different sound! Its more interesting that the last one. So we can take these liabilities and turn them into assets really quickly, our brains can anyways it seems.
Alan Boulton is a hacker and mathematical explorer who moves between the worlds of symmetry, experimental music and software design. He is passionate about the potential for technology to create magical and shared experiences, and to engage in play while inspiring change through authentic interactions. An Oxford graduate in mathematics, Alan has worked in software engineering for over 20 years, and is currently developing applications for mobile devices. This is Alan’s first foray into collaborative art installation and he hopes to contribute a fresh approach using his rigorous scientific background to encourage meaningful interactive play, while continuing to explore the limits and potentials of working within a framework of self-imposed technological constraints, adopting the Ouxpo philosophy.
Geoffrey Shea is a Canadian media artist and researcher whose work highlights the intersections and opportunities between technological systems, belief systems and identity. His productions incorporate interactive programming, site-specific installation, mobile phones, a philosophical twist and a critical voice. Working primarily in video and installation, Shea’s artwork has been exhibited widely and was featured at two recent Nuits Blanches in Toronto and the exhibition “Talk to Me” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Shea was a founder, in the 1980s, of InterAccess Electronic Media Art Centre in Toronto and an editor of the video journal, Diderot. He has curated numerous exhibitions and film programs, and is currently the Co-Artistic Director of the Common Pulse Media Art Festival.
Accompanied by a slide presentation at Prezi.com
The Weimar Republic occurred in Germany between 1919 and 1933. It was Germany’s first democracy—known for its cultural development and political volatility. It was also the first time that radio became a public medium in Germany. This period ended around 1933 when National Socialism came to power. Study of radio during this short historical epoch provides an astonishingly clear lens through which we can view and understand the vast field of radio phenomena. For practitioners of radio and transmission art, knowledge of this period leads to insights about the reciprocal relationship that exists between boundaries and transmissions.
[Put radio on desk]
There are three basic lessons that can be ascertained from the study of radio during the Weimar Republic:
There will be boundaries.
Working in tension with these boundaries might cause them to shift.
Even these shifted boundaries are still boundaries.
The boundaries that limited radio during the Weimar Republic can be divided into two categories: political and technical. These two types of boundaries are not unique to Weimar radio though. Similar boundaries existed in all types of radio, and, even today, they continue to exist and limit transmission.
The political and technical boundaries of any network shape the content of its broadcasts. For instance, political boundaries in the United States dictate that certain words are obscene and should not be spoken on the air. Technological boundaries determine the qualitative range of sounds that can be broadcast and how far away those sounds can be transmitted.
It could be argued that the political boundaries of radio during the Weimar Republic stemmed from an incident that occurred early in the period’s history. This incident resulted in a concern that radio might be used by more extreme factions of the republic for revolutionary purposes. Government officials had good reason to fear this. On November 9, 1918, the very same day that Phillip Scheidemann declared democracy from the balcony of the Reichstag, a group of decommissioned communications personnel returning from World War I took over a government radio station 20 miles south of Berlin in Königswusterhausen. This was called the funkerspuk or “radio nightmare.” It was a revolution for German radio, taking it out of the hands of the government and making it a public entity. While I cannot confidently say that this is why the Weimar government began regulating the airwaves, I can suggest that the funkerspuk formed a symbolic link between the medium of radio and revolutionary activity. To learn more about the political boundaries of Weimar Radio I highly recommend reading Daniel Gilfillan’s Pieces of Sound: German Experimental Radio.i
The figurehead of Weimar radio’s political boundary was Hans Bredow, who became the chairman of the Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft (or National Radio Service). Under his leadership an unofficial mandate for German entertainment radio programming was put into effect. Bredow felt that the transmission medium should be used to placate the working man and to educate him or her about German high culture. Radio should also remain completely nonpolitical so as to not stir up listeners’ passions.
The technical limitations of radio during the Weimar Republic came from the simple fact that transmission and recording technologies were all in their infancy during this time. A telling photo used by Karl Christian Führer in his essay, “A Medium of Modernity? Broadcasting in Weimar Germany, 1923–1932,” shows this state of technology.
(“Listening to the wireless in a German sitting room in the mid-1920s. Source: Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv, Frankfurt/Main”)
This household is listening to the radio. Interestingly, they are all wearing headphones. The wire hanging from the lamp delivered power from an external supply. The glass bulbs that appear on the receiver, not only gave this set better reception, it also made it prohibitively expensive. The cheaper alternative was to buy a radio that could only receive transmissions from the ground and via the air. There is a lot more about these technological boundaries in Fuhrer’s essay.ii
Together, the technical and political boundaries combined to form a structure. This structure emitted one-way radio transmissions to the public. Prior to this, German radio communication was a two-way medium with radio sets having both receivers and transmitters. This bidirectional mode of transmission essentially ended when radio became a public medium. Two-way communications were made difficult because of the political boundaries set up by the government and technological boundaries that reigned during the era.
Weimar radio programming that worked safely within these boundaries tended to sound pretty boring. Critics complained that this type of programming did not fulfill the aspirations of the medium. In the words of Ernst Schoen from the Frankfurt Radio Station this type of institutional programming broadcast “Culture with a massive capital C.”iii
Ernst Schoen worked with Hans Flesch, the artistic director at the Frankfurt Radio station. Flesch’s vision for radio was much different than Bredow’s. He saw himself as curator with the opportunity to put interesting people on the radio. Because of him, Brecht, Hindemith, Weill, Adorno, and even Walter Benjamin made it onto the radio.
Benjamin used his time on the radio to tell stories and create short radio dramas. He began a series called Aufklärung für Kinder (Enlightenment for Children). There is an extended essay by Jeffrey Mehlman that talks about Benjamin’s work for this series.iv The piece called Zigeunerlied (Gypsy song) is particularly interesting. Inspired by Goethe, this short piece consisted primarily of speech, not at all unusual for Weimar radio working within the political and technical boundaries. However, the speech in this piece deconstructed into simple musical syllables. Sonically, this piece echoes the utterances of the avant-garde Dadaists and Surrealists—both of which were politicized artistic movements and not capital C culture. Therefore, Benjamin’s work, ostensibly just for children, operated in tension with the political boundaries by acoustically alluding to the work of the lowercase c of avant-garde culture.
This is just one example of the way that a few notable Weimar radio pieces came into tension with the political and technical boundaries that regulated it. The force of this tension caused the Weimar radio structure to shake and vibrate with reverberations. These vibrations produced neither harmony nor dissonance, symphony nor cacophony, but, what I like to call epi(c)phony or for those who were listening, it caused epiphany. These caused the boundaries to re-sound with vibration, which made their presence known to the public. This act, the simple revelation that radio boundaries did exist, allowed for the epiphany that these boundaries also could be acted upon, moved, and potentially shifted.
Radio epiphanies generally came from one of two places. They were caused either by people inside of the institution or outside of it.
Benjamin worked from within the institution because he was commissioned to work at the Frankfurt radio station. He was invited to work there under the direction of Hans Flesch. Flesch’s own early experimental radio work, Zauberei auf dem Sender (Sorcery of the airwaves) provides another example of how boundaries can be shifted and radio epiphanies can occur. This radio drama basically depicted a meltdown of the technical boundaries that supported the Weimar radio studio. Listeners tuned in to hear a concert, but instead, they got a disaster. Flesch also commissioned Walter Ruttmann to create Wochenende, which experimented with a new type of recording technology called Tri-Ergon film.
Both of these examples according to Flesch, were merely technical experiments. He said Zauberei was not supposed to be artistic, and he commissioned Ruttman’s piece to demonstrate the potential of new recording technologies. However, both of Flesch’s experiments illustrated how the technology of radio could be shifted. It was not a fixed entity, there were other alternatives for transmission that could be created.
There were also epiphanies orchestrated by those outside of the Weimar radio institution. There were Workers’ Radio Collectives, which educated the public about how to create radio technology. They also led discussions about the radio system and transmission technology in order to educate the public about its possibilities. You can read more about them in Kate Lacey’s Feminine Frequencies.v
Then, there was Bertolt Brecht who created a form for radio that incorporated his theories about epic theater. He created the radio opera entitled Der Lindberghflug, which he later used as an example of his Lehrstück(learning play).vi In this hörspiel Brecht imagined that radio listeners at home would have scripts so that they could participate in the drama on the radio. These ideas are described in more detail in his quintessential essay, “The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication.”vii
[play Der Lindberghflug]
How does this piece sound to you? Does it sound very epic to you? Would you hear this on the radio and be shocked? I, for one, would not. To me it sounds a bit old-fashioned and overly dramatic. This brings me to the last lesson from Weimar Radio: boundaries are still boundaries. Even if they change, they will always stay the same. In the case of Der Lindberghflug, the reason this opera might not sound as incredible or boundary-pushing as Brecht describes it is that the style of theater created by Brecht became extremely popular. It became so popular that it became commonplace. It became a standardized cultural aesthetic, succumbing to what Theodor Adorno called the “culture industry.”
The result for the physiognomy of the culture industry is essentially a mixture of streamlining, photographic hardness and precision on the one hand, and individualistic residues, sentimentality and an already rationally disposed and adapted romanticism on the other.viii
Basically, the culture industry uses culture to create a profit. It often appropriates its resources from creative movements that developed their work without the intention of mass commodification. This happened to the Brechtian style of theater. It became highly popular via the culture industry. Once it became popular, it became cliché. It became the new standardized boundary that once again needed to be shifted.
Walter Benjamin described how this process worked in a particularly German context when he referred to the aestheticization of politics. He speaks about this process specifically when describing how National Socialism came to power using the media and elements of the culture industry.
Fascism attempts to organize the newly created proletarian masses without affecting the property structure, which the masses strive to eliminate. Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves. The masses have a right to change property relations; Fascism seeks to give them an expression while preserving property. The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life.ix
For Benjamin, politics continued to perpetuate an aesthetic that represented freedom, but it did not grant the public any of the political freedoms that ran corollary to that aesthetic. It gave the appearance of freedom without giving actual freedom.
Brecht’s appropriation by the culture industry can be witnessed during a scene in Triumph of the Will, where the Reichsarbeitsdienst performs a call-and-response routine that looks eerily similar to Brecht’s Lehrstück.
One more lesson can be drawn from this entire historiography of radio and its boundaries during the Weimar Republic. It seems that there is a cycle of boundary establishment, shifting, and re-codification that occurs in radio. Cycles similar to this continue today. In all likelihood, there will never be a way to break the constant recursion of this cycle. The moment one cycle is broken another will take its place. By accepting the existence of these cyclical processes of boundary making and breaking we can be better prepared. We can know that boundaries must constantly be shifted and that by working in tension with them we can prevent them from becoming stagnant.
1 Sabine Breitsameter, Professor of Sound Design and Production / Media Arts and Sciences at the Faculty of Media, Hochschule Darmstadt / Germany. German academic an expert on sonic media art, experimental radio, electro-acoustic art and design as well as sound and media culture.
2 (in an interview online with Eric Leonardson) – REF: URL
3Radio Mind: Protestant Experimentalists on the Frontiers of Healing. Klassen, Pamela E 2007
iGilfillan, Daniel. Pieces of Sound: German Experimental Radio. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009. Print.
iiFührer, Karl Christian. “A Medium of Modernity? Broadcasting in Weimar Germany, 1923–1932.” The Journal of Modern History 69.4 (1997): pp. 722-753. Web <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/245592>.
iii Benjamin, Walter. “Conversation with Ernst Schoen.” Ed. Jennings, Michael W., Brigid Doherty and Thomas Y. Levin. The Work of Art in The Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008. Print. Pg. 397.
iv Mehlman, Jeffrey. Walter Benjamin for Children: An Essay on His Radio Years. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993. Print.
v Lacey, Kate. Feminine Frequencies: Gender, German Radio, and the Public Sphere, 1923-1945. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996. Print.
viListen to version at http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/werke/bertold-brecht/audio/9/
viiBrecht, Bertolt. “The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication.” Ed. Strauss, Neil and Dave Mandl. Radiotext(e). New York, NY, USA: Semiotext(e), 1932. Print.
viiiAdorno, Theodor. The Culture Industry : Selected Essays on Mass Culture. Ed. J. M. Bernstein. Hoboken: Routledge, 2001. Print. Pg. 101.
ix Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Marx/Engels Internet Archive (marxists.org). 1936. Web., 2012 http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm
Hethre Contant studies and produces radio. She has a Master’s Degree from The New School for Public Engagement’s Department of Media Studies and Film. She helped to establish an internet radio station and produces a podcast for n+1 magazine. She has completed a German Fulbright Program and participated in the RIAS journalist exchange program. Her sound art work has appeared at Free103point9, Soho Gallery for Digital Art, 319 Scholes, Art In General, Brooklyn Arts Gallery, and Recess Art. She has conducted educational workshops at Eyebeam and Megapolis, and has taught at Pratt and The New School. She is currently seeking Ph.D. programs where she can study the phenomenology of sound.