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Unlimited Editions: Radio Art Zone

A radical space on the airwaves is opened up by Radio Art Zone whose forthcoming 100 day project brings together experimental broadcasters from around the world. Image: Radio Art Zone event calendar

Imagine a radio station that sounds different every day. This is the key premise of Radio Art Zone (RAZ), an ambitious project that will broadcast for 100 days as part of the European Capital of Culture Esch2022. On air from 18 June to 25 September, the station will feature only two programmes each day: a bespoke 22-hour piece and an informal 2-hour lunchtime show. For the former programme, which will transmit different compositions every day, over 100 artists, groups and collectives were invited to contribute their durational radio artworks. Meanwhile, the latter show is a space for cooking, eating and relaxed conversations that will broadcast live from different kitchens in the Esch-sur-Alzette community in Luxembourg.

RAZ was conceived by Sarah Washington, Knut Aufermann and Luxembourg’s community broadcaster Radio ARA. Washington and Aufermann have been collaborating since the early 2000s, helping to establish London’s Resonance FM before creating the itinerant initiative Mobile Radio, in 2005. Mobile Radio fosters a global network of practitioners by creating temporary stations at festivals, conferences, and one-off events. Their previous projects include Radio Revolten festival held in Halle in 2016, as well as Mobile Radio BSP, a station set up in 2012 coinciding with the 30th São Paulo Bienal.

Over email, I asked Washington how Mobile Radio approached curating its new project. “The concept this time was to offer the largest on-air exhibition of radio art the world has so far seen,” she explained. “It’s part of our determination to enable more people to become aware of what thousands of artists have been working on for decades, typically with little recognition or recompense.” 

Planning began five years ago after Radio ARA approached Knut and Sarah about joining Radia, the international radio art network they co-founded. A meeting with producer Sandra Laborier led to a proposal for Esch2022. “One of my long-standing wishes was to run a radio station for a year, which [would] feature only live work by a different artist each week,” said Washington. “Working within the Esch2022 framework meant that we were obliged to reduce the scope of our ambition. The overall concept was to draw on as many disciplines as possible: radio, installation, performance, drama, algorithmic composition, spoken word, documentary, plunderphonics.”

RAZ has already transmitted several taster broadcasts in the run up to the main event, including an improvisation by Limpe Fuchs and Hartmut Geerken, who met for the first time live on air, and a textural turntablist set from dieb13. The complete list of upcoming participants reads like a who’s who of the radio art world. It ranges from familiar names like Radiophrenia’s Mark Vernon to American teenager Echo Roe, the youngest programme maker on the list.

With so much material, what are the pieces that stood out to Washington the most? “We were lucky enough to contact artists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti. Mega Mingiedi & Jaguar Ntumi operate their show out of Mega’s taxi, instigating interactions with passengers to excavate the cultural, social and political histories of Kinshasa. Jean-Daniel Lafontant presents the Easter rituals of Temple Na-Ri-VéH, a spiritual compound that provides shelter, food and services to the local community in Port-au-Prince. I’ve also been taken aback by the artists who decided to carry out endurance feats. Ralf Wendt will walk the highways and byways of the Capital of Culture area broadcasting his encounters live for the entire 22 hours of his show.” 

Aside from broadcasting on Radio ARA’s new 87.8 FM frequency, RAZ will be syndicated to a dozen international partner stations, including Wave Farm in the US and ∏Node in France, each of whom are free to choose how much of the stream to relay. Community project lumbung Radio will transmit some of the stream during documenta 15, while Resonance Extra will broadcast the entire 100 days.

Considering RAZ’s idiosyncratic programming, the whole project can be viewed as an artwork. Washington admitted that the station is also an opportunity to examine radio as an art form. “[It is] radio by artists,” she said. “We have refused to define it further for decades, fearing that any particular canon may emerge and become fixated upon. The beauty of radio art is that it is freeform and performed upon an endless canvas.” | radioart.zone

Ilia Rogatchevski
Originally published by Wire, May 2022

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