I was one of the Nordic artists (even if as a theorist) commissioned for the 2017 Works for Radio for the radio station The Lake. Based in Copenhagen, and transmitting via the Internet, the station asked the four commissioned artists to produce a piece between one and eight minutes in length and to relay the invite to four other Nordic artists.
The works are launched on Saturday 14th of January in Copenhagen and can be then listened as part of the programme flow at http://www.thelakeradio.com/.
The original call for artists described the idea behind the commission:
“Radio art as a genre has a long tradition in the European public service institutions. Especially in the 1960s, the different national broadcasters commissioned new works from artists, writers, and composers made specifically for radio. This practice has declined over the years, and in Denmark it is almost lost. As a radio station The Lake wants to revive this tradition! Furthermore we want to bring more sounds into the aether, that are not necessarily music. How can art for radio sound? Through the project Works for Radio, The Lake is commissioning eight new sound pieces from Nordic artists.”
A short context for my piece is described below.
The piece is a speculative theory performance for radio. Jussi Parikka’s text and reading together with artist, researcher Dr Jane Birkin (Southampton) starts with a reference to the German media theorist Walter Benjamin’s (1892-1940) radio play Lichtenberg (1933). On Lunacy is less a commentary on Benjamin’s play than an attempt to bring some of the themes into a discussion with contemporary issues of politics, technology and ecology. It starts with the roar of approval at the Tory conference in October 2016, after the prime minister Theresa May dismisses the work of human rights lawyers and activists. This roar is chilling and it resonates across many countries as a wave of populist, destructive contempt that takes different, varying forms in Europe, the USA, Russia, Turkey, etc.
On Lunacy discusses the media technological conditions of politics of voice and lack of voice, of what is heard and what is too painful to listen to. It enters into a discussion with a range of current debates about media technological transmission and interception, as well as nods to many relevant contexts in the history of radio too – from Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds (1938) to the satellite broadcasts since the 1960s. I also had in mind the various sonic and artistic voices of past decades; from Gil Scott-Heron’s Whitey on the Moon (1970) to the various sounds of Afrofuturism since the 1970s to name some even if they do not feature as explicit references in this work.
Radio is approached not merely as a medium of entertainment but one of military communication as well as the tactics of misinformation, confusion and mind control. Radio persists and is constantly reinvented, and the signal worlds persist in and out of the planet. The narrative trope of the moon and the interplanetary play a key role in this theoretical voice piece, but also offers a way to resurface back to the contemporary politics that features the return of the mainstream acceptance xenophobia, racism and politics of violence against particular ethnicities as well as the ecocide that haunts the contemporary moment.
On Lunacy ends with the recurring, burning question of politics (that also for example the French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari posed): why do people desire their own enslavement?
Stephen Cornford offered assistance in editing and post-production of the sound. Thank you also to Ryan Bishop, the co-director of AMT research centre, who offered key thoughts on the cold war contexts of satellites and sound transmission.
The work stems from the new research and practice platform Archaeologies of Media and Technology (AMT) at Winchester School of Art.
Cue in Gil Scott-Heron, Whitey on the Moon.
Capitalism. Think of it as a military drill operation. In order for us to be consumers and subject to advertising, we need to be trained. We need to realize choice, we need to understand selection, and we need to be trained to realize that advertising…is only for our benefit. Right?
>BBC Breakfast Show this morning reminded me of something I have been lazily following, i.e. some new ways of embedded video to print media. As shown in this Wired-article, this is a quite clumsy system where the digital screen was embedded inside the magazine making it quite thick and lacking from the usual portability of print media. It was not the ePaper dreams that actually might make video quite a functional part of magazines, etc.
As a tool for advertisers, the ability to embed short spots as video onto pages was discussed from the view point of attention management, contextualised in the overcrowding of perception space where the implicit question seemed to be where to find more space to cram adverts. I remember when interviewing the media artist Marita Liulia years ago her flagging her eagerness to participate in any project that would develop shelters from such attention catchers…
Interestingly, some of the people commentating the embedded video took it as a granted fact that we have a desire to actually want to see adverts; something that struck me at least as absurd. A woman commentating this from the viewpoint of print media pointed out how the Internet is filled with video adverts (really?) and everyone who wants to see them goes there. But are we not actually most of the time avoiding such videos that stick to the screen often more persistently than your average malware? This begs the question: how much would actually an audiovisual video that automatically starts playing when you turn the page irritate, disturb and eventually put off the magazine reader instead of being just the normal add-on that you can live with, like with still advert images? Attention management, folks, again; it cannot be on your face, but a more subtle way of negotiating catching the perception without making it the main feature. Sorry, but I feel this just does not work.