The Canadian artist Robert Adrian passed away on 7th September 2015, aged 80. ORF Kunstradio, with which he had a long lasting and influential relationship, organised a memorial broadcast with many prerecorded and live contributions by friends and colleagues of Robert Adrian under the auspices of alien.productions. We provided a live stream that could be used as a back-drop for other artists’ contributions.
There are few better things than witnessing the birth of a new radio station. In this case Mobile Radio played midwife to the new “Radio im Fluss” which can be translated as “radio in flux” but is also a word play on the location of its host organisation, the Centre for Artists’ Publications, situated at the Weserburg Museum on an island in the river Weser in Bremen. Conceived as an outlet for the extensive collection of radio art at the research centre, “Radio im Fluss” also manifests as a weekly slot on Bremen’s community radio channel Radio Weser.TV.
We used an invitation to the opening of the city wide exhibition “Im Inneren der Stadt” to give our radio head Leslie an outing in Bremen, turning the evening party into a temporary pirate radio station.
Our stint in the US came to an end with a Tonic Train concert at the excellent Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson, organised and broadcast live by WGXC. Following our Wave Farm stay we happily served as jury members for their 2016’s crop of residency applications.
A long held wish came true when we could visit the Wave Farm in upstate New York. Galen and Tom had been longstanding cooperation partners as free103point9 in the Radia network but their rural transmission art venture Wave Farm kept being shrouded in mystery even though friends reported of wonderful radio activities. Writing this text almost a year after our ten day residency in Acra I still can’t believe the vision and pure determination that is manifest in the Wave Farm building and its beautiful surroundings, let alone the on air cosmos that is WGXC 90.7 FM which has is headquarters here.
Apart from great views, wild dears, turkeys and humming birds the Wave Farm also offers a number of installations by former residents and toys to play with, such as a radio truck with a built in AM transmitter (see below) that could be used for fm/am feedback experiments. Some results of this session can be found here.
After a trip around the WGXC infrastructure with their 3.3kW FM transmitter and antenna site we also got a tour of their studio complex in Hudson, where the odd freight train crossing gives nearby listeners instant proof that their community radio is live and direct.
Across the Hudson river, only one stop away from the newly opened World Trade Center station in Manhattan, we visit Jersey City to play at the legendary radio station WFMU. We are excited to tour the station with Dave Mandl, whose World of Echo was one of the first syndicated shows that played across the pond on Resonance FM. After showing us around and introducing us to manager Ken Freedman, we did a session for his show in a studio that oozes rock ‘n’ roll. You can listen to it below or download it in glorious 24bit resolution.
Our first visit to the Big Apple. Thanks to a recommendation by Viv Corringham we played a concert at Harvestworks on 596 Broadway.
On our return to Toronto to take part in NAISA’s Deep Wireless festival and Transmission X Symposium, our host Jim Bailey offered us to join him for a live session on his weekly radio show on local campus radio CIUT. Did we say ‘local’ radio station? With a transmitter power of 15,000 Watts the transmission can be heard across the border in the US.
Knut could not resist feeding the 15kW transmitter back though a tiny transistor radio and a mic in a plastic box.
Jim joined in on voice and objects for a trio performance before we steped back out into the night in the deserted government district.
Our collaborations with fellow experimental musicians continued at Deep Wireless, where our evening performance ended in an ad hoc quartet with Peter Flemming playing his electromagnetic installation and live surround sound diffusion by Darren Copeland gesturing with his data glove.
The following day we gave the keynote lecture at the Trans X Symposium entitled “What we’ve learned so far – 10 years of Mobile Radio”.
Our trip was made possible by the generous support from the Goethe Institut Toronto.
— Jutta Brendemuhl (@JuttaBrendemuhl) May 23, 2015
Our tour of Ontario radio stations continued with a day trip to campus radio station CFRU in Guelph, about an hour west of Toronto. There we met with programme manager Christopher Currie, who introduced us to some of the station’s radio producers. CFRU recently started to carry Radia shows, so we presented an overiview of the network’s activities.
Rachel Elliott from the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation interviewed us for her Sound It Out show which you can listen to here. We then had time to visit the university’s world-class arboretum before returning to play a live improvised set, which ended just in time to catch the last bus back to Toronto.
Our trip to Ontario offered us the chance to visit Radia member CFRC in Kingston. The campus based radio station has been on air since 1922 and is one of the oldest community radio braodcasters in the world. Still in their original building, everything oozes the station’s remarkable history. Operations Officer Kristiana Clemens and Music Resources Manager Cameron Willis (both history graduates) made us feel very welcome and cleared several hours of airtime for us to do a Tonic Train live performance, a Neue Deutsche Welle themed DJ set and offered their 50,000+ strong music library to be abused by Johnny Head In Air, his favourite thing…
To our surprise we found out that our old feedback friend Matt Rogalsky lives, works and teaches in Kingston and took the chance to join him for a trip to Wolfe Island to test out his new hydrophones. At the end of our weeks stay we joined him and further protagonists from the vibrant local music scene for a concert in his garden. Kingston is cool.
For our first project in North America, we decided to realise a long-held desire to produce a binaural radio broadcast using a dummy head. As it turned out, it was incredibly easy to source a suitable mannequin head in Toronto as there is a specialist shop for showroom dummy parts. We wanted a realistic looking head model to maximise the effect of using it in public space. It so happened that our head, dubbed Leslie (after the rotating speaker) and selected for the quality of his ears, was an eerily convincing representation of a secret agent. We used him to stage a temporary radio broadcast from The Stop’s Farmers’ Market.
The market is housed in Artspace Wychwood Barns, where our hosts NAISA are located. NAISA invited us in cooperation with Goethe Institut Toronto as resident artists for the Deep Wireless festival and key note speakers for the TransX Transmission Art Symposium.
Leslie was equipped to transmit from in-ear microphones in surround sound. He was taken on a tour of The Stop’s Farmers’ Market introducing him to the vendors and their wares. The idea was to perform a social sculpture dealing with the joint themes of ecological sustainability and surveillance-resistance. This was in part conceived as an inverse interpretation of How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare by Joseph Beuys. Leslie’s oppositions to the Dead Hare were as follows: the audience did not know they were an audience / the objects for interpretation (in this case foodstuffs) were produced by many people / Leslie’s perspective was made audible / anyone could participate by speaking – transforming audience into performers / the symbolic props (home-made jam, chocolates and wine from Germany, freshly picked high mountain green tea from Taiwan) were shared with the public as offerings.
There was also a potential secondary layer of live audience, both intentional and unintentional: listeners from elsewhere in the world could track the tour from stall to stall by picking up the advertised Deep Wireless radio stream, whereas local people could pick up the FM broadcast by accident, follow Leslie around the market with their own radios, or tune in when they returned home to the surrounding area. The broadcast frequency was not advertised, it was told to people individually. Listening in on headphones unlocked the binaural quality of Leslie’s transmissions enabling a simulation of the spatialisation of sound as it occurred at his precise location.
The produce we brought from Germany was shared in communion with the public, by way of exchange and in appreciation for the art of the artisan food producer and their importance as pioneers of the current conception of food sustainability. Above, browsers sample a 2004 Auslese*** from Weingut Karl Erbes. Another highlight was our own red gooseberry and raspberry jam which we teamed up with a loaf of local bread. Our gifts were much appreciated, meaning that during the two hour broadcast-performance Leslie only managed one round of the market.
The broadcast-performance had several interesting effects and outcomes. One was the ability of Leslie to completely break down interpersonal barriers. Almost anyone we passed was happy to talk to us and would continue even after we had explained that we were broadcasting. (A natural speaking manner is unachievable if you offer a microphone to people.) As soon as Leslie was out of your hands, you became invisible to passers-by once more.
Secondly, the surveillance aspect of the project was not immediately obvious to many participants. Where it did arise in the form of a query about our intentions, we countered with the suggestion that Leslie makes it visible that we are being listened to, unlike the other devices we are surrounded with. Also, we explained that no-one knows who is listening to Leslie on the airwaves. These were considered to be very novel ideas. We hoped to trigger further awareness of the current level of state surveillance and data capture.
Thirdly, there was a spooky element to the proceedings. There were many expressions of shock, and people ran around excitedly pointing out the disembodied head to their friends. One man saw the head and was instantly transfixed; mesmerised to the degree he was unable to deal with his small daughter falling over backwards at the same moment on the hard floor. Casting half a glance in her direction, he returned his eyes to the head and its bearer in disbelief, and then squinted as if to make an accusation: I don’t know how you did it, but that severed head made my child fall over and hit her head!
Our thanks to Claude Wittmann for the use of his radio transmitter, which in conjunction with small wireless microphones embedded in Leslie’s ears enabled us to broadcast live in the local area on FM.
Our tour with Haco came to an end in London with a concert at Cafe Oto (click on the left arrow to access more photos by Fabio Lugaro) and a Clear Spot on Resonance FM which is archived below. All recordings from the tour will soon be looked at for a potential future release.
The Mobile Radio Band arrived in Rotterdam just in time to perform at the excellent Vrooom concert series organised by our pal Lukas Simonis.
Our tour with Haco had a brief stop in Cologne where we performed at the Opekta Ateliers, an artist run studio space and residency in the up and coming district Nippes.