Mobile Radio

art project by Sarah Washington & Knut Aufermann

Bem-vindos à Mobile Radio!

You have come to this site via the QR code in the catalogue of the 30th Sao Paulo Art Biennial.

If technology allowed, the sound you have just heard would have jumped straight out at you from the pages of the biennial catalogue. It was chosen to illustrate the way sound affects and influences us. When we listen intently (with eyes closed), sound can produce profound effects – it can sometimes leave you feeling that your neurons have been joyfully rearranged.
This sound relates to much of the work we do, and it serves as an inspiration because it is a mini radio mystery. In 1999, the astronomer Patrick Moore suggested that the British public try an experiment during the solar eclipse on the 11th August. He proposed that a radio tuned to a station abroad (which was usually audible only at night) may pick up a short burst of the station’s output as the earth passed into darkness in the shadow of the moon. But the radio did not pick up the station that had been selected the previous night: this sound recording from the instant of eclipse instead offers us a strange artifact. Possibly the sound was created as radio waves momentarily bounced higher or lower in the ionosphere – along the path from the radio transmitter to the radio receiver.

The images we present in the catalogue represent three ages of radio:

The first image is written in morse code and in translation reads Act always so as to increase the number of choices. (Heinz von Foerster). Morse code is an early form of digital code that was used during the first decades of radio to enable communication through the sea of noises presented by the analogue transmission system. The quote by philosopher Heinz von Foerster is an encouragement for us to diverge from the trodden paths of radio.

The second image shows the process of feedback emerging out of a field of white noise. The use of feedback in electronic circuitry, closely related to resonance and tuning, enabled radio to carry sound and voice and banished the background noise into the no man’s land between stations on the dial. Interference with the signal from other sources however, proved more difficult to eliminate and we find it to be (as the colourful radio character Harmon E. Phraisyar once declared) often more interesting that the programme itself.

The third image, which brought you to this page, represents the return to a binary system as radio embraces digital technologies. Radio is at crossing point with the internet. As the internet begins to forfeit its initial freedoms ( just as radio did after its anarchic jump start by radio amateurs some 100 years ago), can analogue radio break lose from its given boundaries and develop new forms of creative usage?