This year, Deutschlandfunk Kultur (the arts and culture program of the German Radio Broadcasting Company) has commissioned me to create a new radio sound art piece about radio history and colonialism, tentatively titled Interferences: Liminalities of Failures. Although, it will not premiere at the CTM Festival this year, Marcus Gammel and I will talk about the ideas of the project at the Radio Lab Artist Talk series. Please come by!
CTM Radio Lab: Interferences: Liminalities of Failures
Interferences: Liminalities of Failures explores the liminalities of wireless sound media and of grand narratives of histories as a history of repeated and repeating failures.
Epistemology and aesthetics stand at the end point of their historical continuum. We bask in new ideas and delight at artistic pleasures that have achieved coherence—neglecting the repeated failures that preceded them. Our triumphant euphony (aural pleasures) and acoustemologies (acoustic epistemologies) of sound in radio mark a history of imperialist experiments, of dead-air accidents, and of cognitive interferences. Our contemporary aesthetics are a historical configuration of pleasure shaped by the repeated failures of political and technological regimes.
This talk performs a metahistory of radio in its acoustic imagination of an intertwined modern world that is ultimately colonial in its construction—for as Walter Mignolo argues, modernity and colonialism are two sides of the same coin. This sound piece draws from archival recordings of historical radio broadcasts between Germany, the Netherlands, UK, and Asia during the colonial and Cold War eras. The Dutch company Philips began its broadcast to the Dutch East Indies in 1927. Shortly after this, the French also setup their radio stations in Indochina, and the British then began the Empire service of the BBC. It did not take long before the locals followed suit. The indigenous residents in Southeast Asia recorded their own music and built their own radios. Sultan Mangkunegaran VII of Solo in Java, for example, sponsored the Solo Radio company which, by 1933, started to air in the Javanese language transmitting traditional Javanese music to counter Dutch colonial culture. Local anti-colonial ideas were also aired in these radios, although they were often censored by the European colonial government. With radio signals travelling across territorial boundaries, the different Southeast Asian colonies listened to their neighbor’s popular music and heard about local struggles in the neighboring territories.
Interferences: Liminalities of Failures reanimates these historical broadcasts and compositionally places them in dialogue with contemporary radio discourses of imperialist and decolonial world-making experiments.
The CTM 2020 Radio Lab is an initiative by Deutschlandfunk Kultur – Radio Art/Klangkunst and CTM Festival, in collaboration with ORF musikprotokoll im steirischen herbst festival, Ö1 Kunstradio, Goethe-Institut, and The Wire magazine.
See the festival webpage for more information.