What is radio art?

Anna Friz

Since 1932, when Bertolt Brecht called for radio to exceed its contemporary one-to-many broadcast format in favour of a democratized, open medium, artists have gestured towards alternate histories of radio. How can radiophonic space be (re)created, current conventions highlighted and challenged, and different characters or imagined spaces (part radio, part acoustic) come to life? What else could radio be if not the disseminator of information, acoustic or digital? What might be the possibilities for transmission, and indeed, communication, if existing terrestrial radio transmitter and receiver technologies were experienced and reconceptualized in a new frame? Radio as a medium for artistic exploration is potent: at the moment when radio would seem to be an exhausted, ossified, or obsolete technology, radiophony also regains the potential for rethinking deeper questions of community and communication through active listening and sound making. Re-visiting and re-imagining residual technologies such as radio calls into question naturalized paradigms of communication while providing insight for emerging media applications. If radio to date has largely acted as an accomplice in the industrialization of communications, radio art may destabilize this process with renewed explorations of radio and electromagnetic phenomena, and the softly subversive potential of reverie.

Radio art is the artistic use of the airwaves, and designed for the specific conditions of broadcast. More broadly, radio art is an expression of wireless relationships between people and things, utilizing the electro-magnetic spectrum as the primary material for artistic investigation. Radio art began as a format for terrestrial broadcast, whereby artists created works which considered and amplified awareness of the circumstances and relations between studio, listeners, and transmission devices as artistic material. Radio art has since spilled out of broadcast studios to take place galleries, in site-specific interventions and in public spaces as live performances, installations, and durational events, involving micro-transmitters, sculptural antennae, repurposed radio receivers, portable interference strategies, experimental sounds and re-imagined programming conventions.

Anna Friz, Curator