Radiophonic Spaces

For almost 100 years now, radio has been an important part of our media landscape. It spreads news and information, music, sound art or literature and has inspired a broad variety of experimental approaches. Unfortunately, many programs fall into oblivion once aired, as there so far had been no comprehensive archive accessible to the public. The exhibition “Radiophonic Spaces” grants access to this heritage in an intuitive, immersive way.
The scientific basis was created as part of a research project at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar under the artistic direction of Nathalie Singer, Chair of Experimental Radio. A team of radio researchers, musicologists, editors, critics, and artists from the most varied of contexts and disciplines selected over 200 works of radio art and arranged them in 13 narratives. In this way, new thematic connections could be drawn between pieces of different artists and genres as well as places and times of origin. The result is a kaleidoscopic overview of the development of radio art.
To make this cultural wealth tangible and turn it into a spatial experience, the team partnered with the artist, architect and musician Cevdet Erek. Together, they developed the scenographic concept for an interactive walk-in archive. MESO was commissioned with the interaction concept and digital design as well as technical planning and implementation.

The key idea of “Radiophonic Spaces” is enabling the exploration of radio history through sound, with visual information only being an add-on. To guarantee an undisturbed and intuitive visitor experience, there is no linear exhibition parcours. Instead, the walk-in archive invites visitors to trust their ears and find their own path through the space.
This is achieved by turning them into “human tuning needles” within a carefully designed scenography. Suspended from a rope system criss-crossing beneath the ceiling are custom-built transmitter stations. 13 different radio art snippets are assigned to each transmitter station, one from each narrative. On entering the exhibition, visitors are equipped with a handheld and headphones. A wifi-based tracking system developed by MESO constantly determines everyone’s individual position within the exhibition space. As visitors approach the transmitter stations, atmospheric noise turns into the snippets of radio art. The interface on the handheld can be used to switch through the narratives and trigger the corresponding snippets. If a person lingers in one spot to listen to an entire snippet, it gets archived in his or her digital library making the piece of radio art accessible in full length later on.
Media stations function as an interactive on-site research tool. They connect to the handheld and make the library of “collected” audio snippets visually accessible. An interface drawing inspiration from a star chart not only offers background information and extensive media content to all radio art pieces, it also illustrates connections between different works, artists, radio stations or places. Here, visitors can expand their intuitive auditive experience by methodically searching this unique archive. In this way, “Radiophonic Spaces” addresses experts as well as promoting this form of art among the general public.

“Radiophonic Spaces” was exhibited at Museum Tinguely, Basel and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. It is currently on show at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar until 19 September 2019.
An accompanying website which allows further research from any location is being developed by Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and MESO.

Picture Credit:
© Timur Alexander El Rafie / HKW

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