Performing with radiophonic instruments, unique homemade electronics, micro-watt transmitters, and re-purposed objects, ANNA FRIZ, JEFF KOLAR and ERIC LEONARDSON create intimate atmospheres traversing acoustic and electro-magnetic space. Together their work can be characterized as a mindful collaboration with vibrational surfaces and unstable circuits; and with subtle treatments of potentially noisy, often lo-fi materials from which highly detailed landscapes emerge. Though all three artists have worked with one another in various constellations in Chicago and internationally, this concert is their premiere outing as a trio.
My transmission art performance with good friend Anna Friz is a prelude to the following weekend’s MEGAPOLIS Audio Festival, a celebration of sound art. On Friday, April 12 Anna and I will visit and talk about our work with students at The New School. Our performance/installation happens at Union Docs, a non-profit center for documentary arts. Along with the acoustic space inside a multichannel array of suspended radio receivers and micro-watt transmitters; we will be adding our sounds through the instrumentarium of Springboard, Tetrax Organ, Korg MS-20, accordion, harmonica, and various effects pedals.
As posted in mid-February, the MEGAPOLIS Audio Festival is a weekend-long event dedicated to the art of sound. Artists including documentarians, technologists, musicians, educators, urban planners, scientists, radio producers, and fans interact to share secrets on producing and presenting challenging audio works online, on-air, and on the stage.
Highlights, moments of curiosity, and conviviality: conversations with Trademark G, who performed on Saturday; capturing a spontaneous conversation about listening and the conference on my DAT with Amber and Andrea from Union Docs in Brooklyn; meeting Chantal Dumas; hanging out with Anna Friz, Peter Courtemanche, Glen Gear, who performed on Friday night as Absolute Value of Noise…and with Justin Groteleuschen, who helped Anna and me out last year when we toured to Boston, and wrote about this conference for Transom.org.
Kogawa is credited with starting free radio in Japan. He studied and teaches philosophy there, and uses the ideas of Felix Guattari to frame his own concept of radio and transmission art. Rather than belabor you with all that this richly implies, this statement encapsulates his concept nicely. Quoting from Kunstradio's announcement of Tetsuo's October 2007 live broadcast from Musikprotokoll, Graz:
"My performance consists of radio transmitters/receivers and my hands that wave over them. Every space of my performance has different airwave conditions. But the point is to create resonances and fluctuations of airwaves and to crystallize them into the sounds or/and images. I think radio must be understood as radiation. Radiation is communication of ‘messages' as well as artistic imagination. I am more interested in the latter function. Radio is based on the electronic transmission. This transmission is between mind and body, and brain and hands. Radio could give a model to link different zones of our body and our outer worlds. In the microscopic scale of our body, we have neurotransmitters while in the macro scale we have hands. By my hand-waving transmission, I move between virtual and physical areas, technology and techne (τέχνη) which originally means handwork."
My quick web search for an online version of Kogawa's talk revealed many references, but not the actual text of "Re-examining radio art". Kogawa's main page seems the best source for searching and learning about his ideas and work. One interesting link is a paper by Sarah E. Kanouse on transmission and memory. The PDF download link is here.
My search also reminded me that the latest issue of Leonardo Music Journal, LMJ17 makes mention of Tetsuo Kogawa. This is the same issue that carries my article on the Springboard. The companion CD compiled by Sarah Washington, entitled the Art of the Gremlin, has one track by Knut Auferman with Tetsuo Kogawa entitled fm:i/o.
As he stated in his talk, Tetsuo isn't interested in radio-as-broadcast, "...free radio does not broadcast (scatter) information but communicates (co-unites) messages to a concrete audience." In my hands it certainly is a radio-as-instrument, and Tetsuo demonstrated this most completely and convincingly in his performance.
This one-minute video from Sunday's performance doesn't give the full effect, but does hint at how the Tetsuo uses the proximity of a single trnasmitter to manipulate the sound.
"In accordance with my re-examination of the concept of transmission, I would like to demonstrate a short example to 'parenthesize' the "messages" of transmission and to let the airwaves emancipate themselves."
This is the sort of radio I'm most interested in. It connects the cultures of radio art, hardware hacking, and electronic music performance to one another. In the context of broadcasting it blurs the traditional roles of the sender and receiver making this relationship into one where you or I can easily become a sender-receiver, or a transceiver. The activity of "transception"—on the micro-scale-transmission range of one meter-that Kogawa is interested—results in radio that merges radiation in the electro-magnetic spectrum with the capacitance of his own body.
Here's a photo of the transmitter I built on Saturday, which was part 1 of the workshop. In part 2, participants built antennas for their transmitters with coaxial cable, as shown in Justin's photos. I've received useful knowledge from the Radio Without Boundaries conference on radio and transmission art, with applications in my own performance in hand and for potential student projects. I used the FM transmitter I built in Wednesday night's rehearsal with Auris, and want to experiment with it further.
Hopefully, there will be audio transcripts of the Radio Without Boundaries sessions available so that anyone interested in art, sound, and radio will be able to learn and grow.
The performances and talks begin Friday evening, May 30th and are streamed live on free103point9.org’s Transmission Art Radio. Use this for the online stream. All this continues through Sunday, June 1st. Visit the Radio Without Boundaries website for the schedule. I plan on participating in the Micro Radio and Text and Sound workshops, using the blog format of this web page to report on what I learn, so please come back and have a look and listen.
About the conference…
Radio Without Boundaries (RWB) is a part of the month-long Deep Wireless Festival, an annual event organized by New Adventures In Sound Art. The significance of the Deep Wireless Festival is in its intensity and caliber of invited artists. It is a month-long annual festival that brings together the world’s most influential artists, composers, producers, and thinkers in radio art and audio documentary. Continue reading →