John Wild: I am an artist who works with feral performance and interventions, often outside the formal art context, often working with activist communities.
Radio, alongside walking, has been a consistent part of my practice.
In this talk, I will provide an overview of five of my radio interventions, stretching back over eighteen years.
Total Disturbance Radio
My first experiments with radio started in 2003.
Most of my time was occupied by campaigning against the build-up to the invasion of Iraq.
I was part of a collective called Artists Against the War and we worked with the wider social movement to organise posters, banners, interventions and exhibitions.
I was interested in the drip-drip feed of propaganda that was ideologically supporting the build-up to war, particularly on radio.
Media outlets played a fundamental role in the drive to war by programming back to back coverage of pro-war talking points.
When the war did start, there were reports on CNN that, 'The U.S. Air Force has hit Iraqi TV with an experimental electromagneticpulse device called the "E-Bomb" in an attempt to knock it off the air and shut down Saddam Hussein’s propaganda machine'.
As part of a performance event organised by Artists Against the War, I carried out a performance in which I wore a radio disruption device that reduced radios to white noise up to 50 metres around me. I wore the radio disrupter on walks through London.
I visualise this performance in sculptural terms as a sphere of electromagnetic noise walking the city, temporarily disrupting car radios.
Over the following year, I refined this prototype developing a disturbance radio belt that contained five tuneable transmitters that could target specific stations.
The belt also had the potential to broadcast alternative media, detoured fragments of audio, that would temporarily replace radio broadcasts received by radios in close vicinity of the belt.
I continued to work with radio over the next few years. Rather than the disruption of the early prototypes, I became interested in developing a mini pirate radio broadcast device that could be used for stealth gatherings.
I had been a fan of the DIY Free Party Scene and the Criminal Justice Act was being used to crack down on sound systems, free parties and the whole traveller lifestyle. Expensive sound equipment had been seized by the police and I was looking for a more lightweight and fluid way to evade the repression.
I developed my radio project into the Rupture Wireless Sound System. A lightweight mp3 played connected to a miniature radio transmitter.
In 2005 I joined with the Space Hijackers to use the mini Soundsystem to organise an urban pirate party.
Rupture Wireless Sound System
The Space Hijackers were a group of activists, fighting against the increasing privatisation of urban public space using playful street interventions.
At the end of Park Lane, there is a traffic island, covered with grass and trees, that is completely cut off by roads. We decided to take over this island and turn it into a temporary autonomous zone. Our very own concrete pirate island.
The Rupture Wireless Sound System was used to broadcast a pirate radio signal from the island. Participants were asked to bring radios tuned to the pirate station. The collection of ghetto blasters, handheld radios and 12v mobile systems formed the sound system.
When the cops came, we could just dissolve and reconvene at a new location.
Kings X - Number Station
By 2007 I was preoccupied with gentrification and the increasing loss of public space in the city. I was working with the We Are Bad / Savage Messiah Collective organising psychogeographic drifts charting the destruction of Working-Class London.
I was also becoming aware of the possibilities of our technologies, such as mobile phones, leaking information, especially location data. It was around two years before the launch of the iPhone - the first commercial phone to feature GPS.
Kings Cross was one of London's important liminal zones and was being demolished in a continuous programme of gentrification and privatisation of space. On Saturday, November 9th 2007, we organised a drift around the Kings Cross area, starting at Housmans Bookshop.
As part of the drift, I tracked my mobile phone by obtaining its location data via the triangulation of mobile phone masts. This data was relayed to a computer program that used early speech synthesis to speak the data and broadcast it via a local pirate radio station.
Speakers mounted outside Housmans and Radios inside the bookshop relayed the data broadcast back into the streets of Kings Cross.
HEXISTS / ELECTROMAGNETIC VOODOO / DATA STREAM /
Moving on to 4th July 2012, I took part in the Moving Forest.
The Moving forest was a series of performance events organized by Shu-Lee Chang and hosted by Furtherfield Gallery. The performances responded to current events, such as the 2012 Olympics, the financial crisis, the London riots, and the Occupy movement. Macbeth's Castle was re-interpreted as the Olympic Zone.
On the 4th July from 9am to 11pm as part of Act 0 of the Moving Forest 2012 The *Hexists followed the path of the lost Hackney Brook, now a sewer, from the Arsenal Emirates Stadium to the Olympic stadium. On their trajectory towards the ‘Castle’ the Hexists consulted the Oracle, an Algorithmic score - [The ” ¬A“] and a lost river, conjuring prophecies and omens unleashed by the 2012 Olympics, by the financial crisis, by the London riots, by Occupy, by Clashes in Quebec, was broadcast from Resonance FM.
For my involvement, I joined The *Hexists (Rachel Baker & Kayle Brandon) walk following the lost Hackney Brook, a culverted river and now a sewer, from the Arsenal Emirates Stadium to the Olympic stadium.
My contribution was to carry out electromagnetic divination. I built a staff containing hacked electronics that measured the intensity of electromagnetic radiation (EMF), giving a reading between 0 and 100.
Throughout the walk, I measured the electromagnetic intensity at key points along the path of the underground river. I tweeted the results to an algorithmic composition, created by Thibault Autheman (Tebo), based at Resonance FM.
Tebo live mixed the sonic output of the algorithm with field recordings of hallucinatory vocalisations of Robin Bale from a previous drift and weather information. Throughout the walk, the output was broadcast live from Resonance FM – A community Arts-based station.
*The algorithm - [The ” ¬A“] was written by Thibault Autheman for the production of emergent acoustic phenomena.
* ‘Wolf Vanish' - Hallucinatory vocalisations - Robin Bale
* The Hexists - conceptualised and facilitated by Rachel Baker & Kayle Brandon
That brings me to the present. I have recently been collaborating with an East London psychogeographic group called CODED GEOMETRY.
CODED GEOMETRY uses Software Defined Radio to create sonic cartographies of the more-than-human landscape of machine to machine communications devices and networks. They believe that to develop an alternative technological imaginary, we should start by understanding contemporary technologies aesthetic and affective qualities.
CODED GEOMETRY have been carrying out field recordings of the sonic machine to machine architectures of key sites around East London.