As a separate field, radio art is not quite as well known as other art forms. How did it come about and what exactly distinguishes it?

Nathalie Singer: First of all, there’s a clear distinction between the daily business at a radio station and radio art. The former is primarily about information or music. Radio art, which is the subject of our exhibition, centers on artistic perspectives on the medium. For example, it deals with the question of how artists use it to develop their own language based on radio technology. Because the radio has its own language. It’s true that radio artists initially relied heavily on other arts, on theater, literature, opera, on techniques from the fine arts and experimental film. But in their art, they have worked on an acoustic implementation that is comparable to no other field.

Can you give me a few examples?

Nathalie Singer: The classic example, of course, is the radio play, which was at the very beginning of the medium’s use. Meanwhile, radio art also draws from a much broader artistic spectrum. There are influences from performance, media art and immersive media. Among other things, sound installations emerged from it, such as Max Neuhaus’s Drive In Music. In the electroacoustic studios of the broadcasters, works were developed in which sound was negotiated in new ways. And today, our use of mobile phones and GPS systems is influencing radio art: performative walks, where the audience is guided through the city by radio, are becoming increasingly popular.

Jacob Eriksen: Often, this field is about playing with so-called broadcasting constellations. Because originally the special thing about radio was that transmitter and receiver were in different places and that a large number of people heard a program at exactly the same time.

Mr. Eriksen, you’ve worked with students on sound installations that reinterpret these broadcasting constellations. What were the results?

Jacob Eriksen: One of the works was based on Neuhaus’s Drive In. The result was radio-controlled toy cars with speakers installed that will drive through the Radiophonic Spaces at HKW. As with Neuhaus, the students are interested in driving through a “landscape” and receiving the sounds from the environment via radio. It’s about the phenomenon we are all familiar with from cars when we drive over long distances. When broadcasts change, are superimposed or disappear over certain regions or national borders – and in tunnels or mountains. At HKW, the same thing will happen in a very small space.

Nathalie Singer: This is exciting, because radio art is actually always interested in the interference, the noise, the in-between in the broadcasting process – in the phenomenon of a transmission becoming or being made audible. The acoustic space of our exhibition is constructed so that you can experience just that: the sounds of interference reach your ear as soon as you approach new channels, which are distributed in the space. Because you’re moving between frequencies. This way, the audience can move through HKW like human radio dials.

You work a lot with digital technology in this exhibition. To what extent has it changed the radio in the past years and decades?

Jakob Eriksen: Radio has been a digital experience for a while now, via apps, podcasts and the like. And that, of course, shifts listening experiences, especially the range of choices. Today, listeners are no longer dependent on a single transmission tower. They merely need Internet access, and this opens up new possibilities for radio technologies. Today it’s easy for every teenager to create their own radio station. Suddenly there are wonderful community projects like Cashmere Radio, which broadcasts from different places in Berlin. There’s this new amateurism on the radio that produces a lot of innovation.

Are scientists and artists also given new opportunities by the temporal independence in the digital world?

Nathalie Singer: Yes, this absolute change in temporality is really revolutionary. You don’t have to listen in real time and you can decide for yourself where to listen to what content. All at once, websites get interesting through digital archives and collections. And suddenly there’s a new durability, the typical transmission characteristic of the radio dissolves. Broadcasters fold and yet their contents continue to exist on the Internet. There are cemeteries full of “un-dead” programs. This represents enormous amounts of material from which artists and researchers can draw. On the other hand, the charm of the moderated, focused program disappears in the digital. Additionally listener communities, which related to individual stations and felt that they belonged to them, vanish. That may be why people now often turn to public spaces, like at the Leipziger Hörspielsommer (Radio Play Summer), where they can have a common experience.

How did you curate a project like Radiophonic Spaces with all the choices, temporal and artistic movements?

Nathalie Singer: Of course, it wasn’t easy. We didn’t want to create anything with canon character, but we also didn’t want to leave out anything important. Fortunately, the curators came from very different backgrounds and knew about very different aspects of radio art. So, ultimately, we generated a list of participants, which contained works by John Cage alongside those of students of the Bauhaus Universität.

Jacob Eriksen: It was important to me to introduce this new generation of sound artists. To work out the connection between their approaches and an understanding of the classical traditions of radio art. Because the artists of the podcast generation aren’t being generously funded and we have to make sure that their art doesn’t die out one day.

How does this new generation expand on radio art?

Nathalie Singer: Under significantly different circumstances. Growing up, we often listened to French radio at home because my mother is from France. For me, this opened up a second world, another identity to which I had access mainly through the radio. In times of digital broadcasting, there are very different opportunities for dialog today. Especially for radio artists when they use these possibilities to bring buried treasures from the archives to light. Treasures that would otherwise be deleted or simply disintegrate.

Jacob Eriksen: I see it in a very similar way. I come from a small village in Denmark where there were hardly any radio stations. In good weather and with luck, I used to listen to German and Swedish radio. Those were fascinating forays into strange worlds. For Radiophonic Spaces, some of my students are now working with a Samuel Beckett play. And, they’re very naturally doing it in several languages. Their radio play will be broadcast live from the stage at HKW in those languages. They can all be listened to simultaneously or singly on headphones. For me, this symbolizes the new possibilities of radio art in a very beautiful way. A kind of analog way to devote oneself to the new digital technologies.

Translation: Faith Ann Gibson