Swarm Vs Stack

Sound(ing)Systems Poster

A close friend once described fugitive radio (and when it was initially formulating as Baracca do Sound System) as my ‘teenage-boy-fantasy-sound-system project’, which I went along with until I recently encountered Nik Nowak’s Schizo Sonics at KINDL Berlin.

Indeed, I had initially proposed to build some kind of mobile sound system — ‘a bicycle-mounted radio shack’ — and it may still come to fruition for Pixelache Festival, however fugitive radio seems to drift towards dispersal and the ephemeral, rather than the monumental and antagonistic. I am no stranger to the discourse of sonic weaponry and Nowak’s oeuvre has piqued my interest in the past at CTM. So as someone with an interest in sound system culture, it’s curious that Nowak’s sound sculptures have emerged as a counterpoint to what I now find myself pursuing. Below is a quick comparison of concerns:

Swarm Vs Stack
quotidian technologies at hand / customised industrial technologies
relatively accessible, low barrier to entry / requires access to equipment, skills & some expertise
ephemeral / monumental
guerilla dispersal / centralised soundclash
technology of the (performing) body / the body as driver of the machine

This suggests to me we are dealing with a different politics of space and dialectics when it comes to soundclash. At KINDL Schizo Sonics concerns histories and strategies of Cold War loudspeaker propaganda across a divided Berlin, with contemporaneous post-war sound system cultures in Jamaica acting as ‘the angle between two walls’, to cite A War of Decibels (2021) above. (Interestingly Nowak and his crew point to Hedley Jones, a Jamaican born musician, audio engineer, inventor, writer and trade-unionist who trained as a radar engineer with the British Royal Airforce and served during World War II. When Jones returned to Jamaica he began building amplifiers that were responsive to a much wider frequency range than those readily available, which he later incorporated into sound systems. He is considered one of the most important pioneers of sounds system electronics.) While a soundclash may present a dialectical war of ideologies, I think fugitive radio is concerned with a different politics of space and subjectivation.

Considering dispersed and covert forms of audio performance that I hope to produce in the near future, I was reminded today of discussions during the Onassis AiR School of Infinite Rehearsals: Movement I about how our group might enact different or new relations in the matrices of power we were entangled in as arts workers. Here Federica Bueti alerted us to Tina Campt’s discussion of refusal from her book Listening to Images (2017): ‘creative practices of refusal—nimble and strategic practices that undermine the categories of the dominant.’

I am also reminded again of the Sound Swarm protest performances devised by Grey Filastine that have occurred at numerous UN COP climate conferences, and also of cacerolazo noise protests in which agitators bang on pots and pans.

I am thinking about the ubiquity of blue tooth speakers and how a kind of ‘sonic entity’ might emerge, as political performance and even resistance, from what is at hand and everyday. Another example is the way people use bowls as resonating chambers to amplify the speakers on their mobile phones. For Pixelache Festival I would like to explore these improvised technologies and corporeal gestures further, to develop what I’ve discussed elsewhere as a ‘Choreography of Disobedience’.

Outside Broadcast

Cosmo[s]politan Radiophonic Picnic
Saturday 29/8, 12.00–16.00 (EEST/UTC+3)
Venue: In front of Pixelache office, Kaasutehtaankatu 1/21 Suvilahti (Bldg. 7), 00540 Helsinki

Hallo Helsinki and beyond! This Saturday marks the inaugural ‘official’ broadcast from fugitive-radio.net. We’re celebrating by throwing a ‘radiophonic picnic’. ‘What’s that’, you say? It’s a bit like a ‘teddy bears’ picnic’ for signal surfers, acoustic astronauts, crystal radio cultivators, outside(r) broadcasters and anyone with a penchant for experimental offbeat radio.

There will be an open mic/line, so feel free to bring your set-ups. Also bring snacks, your devices and portable speakers to listen to. If you have a bluetooth JBL we can ‘connect’ for a roaming broadcast or ‘Sound Swarm’.

The event will be streamed live, thanks to Open Radio:
https://play.openradio.in/public/fugitive-radio [web]
https://play.openradio.in:8050/radio.mp3 [media players]

If you would like to beam in from elsewhere, please contact: sumugan@protonmail.com

We will meet in front of Pixelache office at 12.00. Kahvila Katarsis opens at 14.00 if you need refreshments. We might go wandering later, so stay tuned for updates!

Cosmo[s]politan Radiophonic Picnic is initiated by Sumugan Sivanesan, a Berlin-based artist and writer who will be in Helsinki over the coming year to develop ‘Fugitive Radio’ in collaboration with Pixelache and with support from the Kone Foundation.

Radio as a Self-reflexive Medium

Given the recent trend of radio in Contemporary Art I have been thinking about radio as performance and installation. Indeed, I’ve been thinking about how people come together to make radio, rather than listen to it. Juxtaposed to the ‘golden era’ trope of families huddled around the wireless to listen to the latest news of the world or radio play, my emphasis on radio as a social practice concerns how community forms around sound, equipment and the notion of broadcasting (to whom?). For me, this suggests an aspect of ‘gear fetishism’ — I do happen to think that sound equipment can be quite fascinating and obtuse and I enjoy the process of playing such technology as one would a toy or instrument. It reminds of some discussion about the postcolonial deployment of scientific or technical apparatus, the classic example being the turntable in early hip hop, and leads me to think about cultures of pleasure (indeed pleasure activism) and the libidinal qualities of technology and sound. This is arguably most apparent in a kind of commodity fetishism attached to consumer audio gear designed for leisure. I am not immune.

With this in mind, I’ll be hosting a Cosmo[s]politan Radiophonic Picnic in conjunction with Pixelache, Helsinki. I think of it as a ‘teddybears’ picnic’ but for radio lovers and broadcast ‘freques’. I’m hoping to connect with some of the radiophonic community here to share and learn about a diversity of practices, set-ups and approaches; from crystal radios, biosignals, pirate radio, parasite radio, outside(r) broadcasters and more…

Here’s a little (ghetto) blast from the past to whet your ears!

Barraca do Sound System

Today is the first day of a year-long artist-research project Barraca do Sound System and I want to mark the day with a clearing gesture. Given the current climate of anti-Blackness I want to begin by acknowledging my debt to Black culture, Black ingenuity and Black resistance. As a project that proposes to investigate and develop anti-racist media activism (initially in Europe), it makes particular reference to Afro-Brazilian practices and innovations.

daddypuss-rex
daddypus.rex

The above Instagram post is from Daddypus Rex AKA Lee Richards, a multidisciplinary artist/poet/stand-up comedian and yoga teacher here in Berlin, which they published after the Black Lives Matters rallies following the lynching of George Floyd. Listen to Lee and Camille Barton speak about decolonial practices of healing, connection and pleasure during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Anti-racism can seem too general a term as differently racialised, and thus privileged people, confront anti-Blackness in their own families, communities and indeed in their own thoughts and perceptions. As the curator and scholar Kathy-Ann Tan recently demanded on Facebook:

non-Black People of Color need to step up and stand together with Black people to decry anti-Black violence!!! That means you, Asians in the diaspora — you who know only too well, and have internalized, the reductive and infantalizing cultural stereotype of the model minority.

This is a time for radical love, empowerment and care, for the force of anger and the erotic as power. It’s a time for re-connection to those who came and fought before us, because they believed in justice and deeply understood what solidarity meant at all costs. Because they knew that no one is free until Black people are free, no one is safe until Black trans people are safe.

Tan posted an image sourced from Howard L. Bingham’s Black Panthers (1968) to emphasise a history of solidarity and revive a slogan that remains appropriate today: ‘Yellow Peril Supports Black Power’.

100816297_10157714546702968_5021948557331005440_o
Howard L Bingham, 1968

With Barraca do Sound System I would like to extend an ongoing process of Black, indigenous and people-of-colour (BIPoC) solidarity that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of with the Berlin-based climate justice collective Black Earth. Even in the context of white supremacy, BIPoC solidarity cannot be presumed. I understand it to be a careful process that unfolds in ways that are particular to the communities, places and spaces in which it occurs. Barraca do Sound System proposes to develop such spaces, platforms and infrastructures where such solidarity can develop, online and ‘in real life’.

BharatBand

Barraca do Sound System is a practice-based research project, investigating the overlap of migrant media activism and urban music culture. It combines practice-based ‘DJ-as-method’ media experimentation with urban research and academic scholarship. The project is funded by the Kone Foundation Finland and is being developed in collaboration with Pixelache, a transdisciplinary platform for emerging art, design, research and activism based in Helsinki.

Person-to-person communication

matkaradioI feel that we need to find a way to liberate ourselves from centralized media and entertainment, and realize that we are not in fact consumers but actors. We need to get a bit uncomfortable and dim the ego, to dive deeper and find that it’s better to try and understand that we are all connected, organically. When we communicate, we don’t actually need to reach the whole world, we just need someone to listen and respond in some way. So it’s not mass media, it’s person to person communication. And to form a living community, we need to have a good platform and an inviting space. Radio is so very powerful because it can be very intimate, and it is free from the burden of images that instantly take hold of our thought, and thus gives room for your imagination.

Kalle Kuisma, co-founder of Vadelma ry and Korppi Radio interviewed for Pixelache.