Art’s Birthday 2007: The 100th Anniversary of Radio: Network vs. Propaganda

Performances, Installations, Web-Casting and On-line Activities.

On Christmas Day 1906, Reginald Aubrey Fessenden transmitted music and voice across the Atlantic in the first radio broadcast in history. This broadcast changed the notion of radio as an open system of morse-code style signals to a medium that could be used to deliver the voice of authority to the masses. By the early 1930′s, the contemporary notion of radio as a receiver of propaganda was firmly established.

This year Art’s Birthday at the Western Front celebrates and
deconstructs utopian ideas of network, radio, and place (the mix between localism and globalism).

Wiencouver (Kunstradio, Western Front) with Anna Friz, Glenn Gear, and Absolute Value of Noise in Vancouver and Volkmar Klien in Vienna at 2pm PST (23:05 – 23:45 CET on ORF 1 in Austria).

Opening of the on-line diaries by Elizabeth Fischer and Lori Weidenhammer. Tuesday, January 16th – Telematic Robots and the Electro-Gaia-Gram.

Mawhrin-Skel robotics and World Briefing by Oliver Hockenhull – performance and exhibition opening, at 8pm PST. (Exhibition space open from noon – 5pm PST, Jan 17th – 20th.) Wednesday, January 17th – Local Long Distance. Art’s Birthday!

Daytime web-streaming performances and exchanges with: Don Chow in Tokyo, Guy van Belle in Prague, the Long Radio Night at Kunstradio and the EBU, and others. Noon to 6pm PST.

Anna Friz, Glenn Gear, and Absolute Value of Noise performance, Somewhere a Voice is Calling, at 8pm PST.

Screening of Petroléo Mexico by Italian artist Roberto Paci Dalò, at 9pm PST (following the performance).
Thursday, January 18th – Songs of Place

Live performance and screening of Steve Heimbecker’s Songs of Place Vancouver and Songs of Place Springwater, at 8pm PST.
Friday, January 19th and Saturday, January 20th – Installations.

Exhibition of the installation pieces: robots, World Briefing, and video works. (The exhibition that opens on January 16th will grow as time passes. The robots will be joined by World Briefing, and the DVD versions of works by Robert Paci Dalo and Steve Heimbecker.) Noon to 5pm PST.
Description of the Works and the Artists
Somewhere a Voice is Calling - Performance by Anna Friz, Glenn Gear, and Absolute Value of Noise.

Inspired by the history of Reginald Fessenden’s voice on radio and the secrets of radiation, these three artists have been working with the themes of invisible sounds, hidden voices, the early days of radio communication (primarily on the Atlantic Ocean from 1900 – 1907), and micro-casting using low-power transmitters in performance spaces. Drawing from tales of ghost ships and myths from the early days of radio that claimed the seafaring dead could be contacted via shortwave, this performance conjures an ethereal world of distant voices, sea, and static.

Anna Friz will consider the very human desire for remote contact as manifest in the notion of inaudible transmissions (from the living or the dead). She works with the extremely low-watt transmissions of voice and breath as captured through baby monitors, walkie talkies, and cordless phones, as she is interested in the way this very mortal sound has been rendered both fragile and monstrous through the compression of these lo-fidelity technologies. For this performance Anna will depart from a regular sound system to employ multiple small FM transmitters and receivers for diffusion.

Glenn Gear works with video and software to create dynamic visual montages – in this case focusing on the theme of the ocean, shipping, and early radio communication. In this performance, he works with the “distressed”, ephemeral video image – exploring the signal and video noise that is generated through broadcast and independent transmissions (ghosts and echoes from the aural/visual aether).

Absolute Value of Noise plays with VLF (very low frequency) receivers to convert radiation (from transmitters, cell-phones, different wireless devices and electronic equipment) into audible sound. In this performance, he uses large circular antennas to draw strange noises from the low-watt broadcast equipment (radio and TV) of the other performers.

On January 14th for Wiencouver, Volkmar Klien will work with the sounds of mechanical motors (spring driven devices) including sounds from Vienna’s clock museum. Before radio, clocks were used as an aid to navigation. Weincouver (an imaginary place invented by Hank Bull) is a series of exchanges, visits, and events that have taken place between Vancouver and Vienna since 1979, and continue with collaborations between Kunstradio and Western Front.

On-line Diaries by Elizabeth Fischer and Lori Weidenhammer. Interdisciplinary artists Elizabeth Fischer and Lori Weidenhammer will keep diaries of thoughts, poetry, and images, in reaction to the theme of the festival and the events in Vancouver and around the world. Elizabeth Fischer is a reknown musician, writer, painter and new media artist. She designed the interface for Reverie. Lori Weidenhammer works with performance, public art, photography and poetry. She is currently working on The Beespeaker Project and has done a number of on-line diaries for telecommunication art projects.

Mawhrin-Skel performance event and exhibition opening.

Robots by Deanne Achong, Kate Armstrong, Joelle Ciona, David Floren, and Matt Smith, with help from Dina Gonzalez Mascaró.

Mawhrin-Skel is a fictional character – an intelligent drone that, having failed to meet the conditions of its original purpose, is decommissioned and left to wander aimlessly through a near utopian environment where it becomes a social nuisance and prankster. This character – invented by Ian M Banks in his 1989 novel The Player of Games - provides an interesting social and cultural entry point into the study of robots as both cultural artifacts and autonomous members of society. This project examines ideas of function, autonomy, artificial intelligence and purpose-driven technology.

This work was originally developed during a residency and workshop in wireless robotics. The artists have created an eclectic collection of robots that react to their environment and communicate with each other. The works are shown both in performance and as installations. They include: a spinning top that winds up threads, a glass globe that uses hardware voice recognition to react to conversations in the space, a crow that sees the world through multi-faceted eyes, an instrument for measuring cell-phone and WiFi traffic, a long nosed creature that drives around and emits high pitched tones, and a set of chart recorders that output levels of data-streaming activity from the robots.
World Briefing (2006) by Oliver Hockenhull (Performance event and exhibition). This work questions and engages with ideas of immediacy, causality, randomness, and consciousness. The key feed to the study is The Global Consciousness Project (GCP) – an international effort involving researchers from several institutions and countries, designed to explore whether the construct of interconnected consciousness can be scientifically validated through objective measurement. The project builds on experiments conducted over the past 35 years at a number of laboratories, suggesting that human consciousness interacts with random event generators (REGs), apparently causing them to produce non-random patterns. Oliver Hockenhull works with a random event generator and with data from the GCP. These live data feeds are used to influence the play of a repository of video images, audio and textual elements speaking to chance, anamolie, synchronicity, and the abyss of the implicit. In performance, the work is staged as a “consciousness” event where the audience attempts to influence the random event generator. Vancouver artist Eric Metcalfe is featured in the video.

Remote from Tokyo, sound poetry collage and turntablism by Don Chow, remembering Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 15th).

January 15th is celebrated as Martin Luther King Day in most states of the U.S. Since the cultural and political impacts of the civil rights movement are felt far beyond American borders, it is only appropriate that the birthday of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. be acknowledged outside of the U.S. Don Chow proposes that artistic projects be developed and presented as part of an MLK festival in conjunction with Art’s Birthday which is celebrated annually on January 17th.

While MLK can be seen as an iconic representation of 1960′s revolutionary politics, anti-war protests and political assassinations, the civil rights movement was highly influential to the development of diaspora cultural movements such as Asian American jazz and Asian Canadian literature. The legacy of Dr. King is also deeply felt in house and techno – the postmodern underground dance music traditions of Chicago and Detroit which are a major subset of sound system culture. Sound system culture is an interactive, social application of media arts to music and performance, with technological, sociopolitical and colonial origins, a celebratory quest for oppositional, utopian space in racially and sexually marginalized urban communities.

In comparison, Filliou proposed (also in the 1960′s) that creatively enacting leisure time is a form of cultural, social liberation. Art’s Birthday stressed that while the creativity of spontaneous play was an admirable goal, the established system of art production was far from capable of providing it, and alternatives had to be enacted. Filliou’s idea of political versus poetical economy demonstrated his use of art as a non-instrumental site in which to position an important role for the artist and a place to advocate personal (rather than institutionalized) social responsibility.

This MLK event will incorporate turntablism, spoken word, new media, video, podcasting and networked art.

Petroléo Mexico (2005) by Roberto Paci Dalo (Screening).

Agamben says: “the face is the single place of the community, the only possible city.” Petroléo Mexico is a visual and sonorous meditation that moves between sweeping wide views of the city and faces that, without warning, unconsciously emerge from the crowd to become protagonists. A game of correspondence is created between images from today and their extraordinary likeness to the faces of Mexican antiquity in a place where myth is prevalent.

This work is the result of a residency project and performance at “Bienal de la radio” in Mexico City in May 2004. The work in Mexico involved collecting video images from the city and mixing these as a live cinema piece with a soundtrack provided by both musicians on stage and remote audio streams. The piece was one of three experimental videos to be shown at the 58th Lacarno Film Festival (2005). Roberto Paci Dalò has produced many works for live cinema (narrative digital-film improvisations) and networked projects between performance spaces.

Songs of Place Vancouver (2004) and Songs of Place Springwater (2004) by Steve Heimbecker <br/>(Screening of two works on Video with surround sound remixed live by the artist).

The Songs of Place series (Halifax, Montréal, Springwater, Vancouver, Vienna) are mathematical audio and video mappings of different places, mostly different cities. Steve Heimbecker studies the geography of each place and creates a unique approach to mapping that geography in 4 dimensions of sound and many windows of video. The works from Halifax and Montréal focus intently on the streets in a grid-like structure. Vancouver focuses on the water with the city placed fleetingly within the ocean. Springwater focuses on the fields that surround this small prairie town. In Vienna, the mapping is a spiral, like a snail’s shell, following the historic geography of this ancient city. In all the different versions, Steve Heimbecker uses a 4 channel audio strobing technique to take the listener through many locations in the given environment simultaneously. Sometimes the soundtrack is an intense barrage and other times everything goes almost quiet and the listener can pick out the individual points within the map. These works were developed through a series of residencies in the different cities.

This will be the premier screening/performance of the Vancouver work in its home habitat and it will include a live re-mix of the quadraphonic audio by the artist.

Art’s Birthday is an annual event first proposed in 1963 by French artist Robert Filliou. He suggested that 1,000,000 years ago, there was no art. But one day, on the 17th of January to be precise, Art was born. According to Filliou, it happened when someone dropped a dry sponge into a bucket of water. Modest beginnings, but look at us now.

Filliou proposed a public holiday to celebrate the presence of art in our lives. In recent years, the idea has been taken up by a network of artists and friends around the world. Each year the Eternal Network evolves to include new partners who work with ideas of exchange and telecommunications-art.

Artists have celebrated Art’s Birthday with lavish parties and gatherings, correspondence and mail art, and through Telematic networks using Slow Scan TV, Videophones, music composed for telephone lines, modem-to-modem MIDI connections, early bulletin board and chat systems, and Internet streaming.

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