Continuing the species of spaces series of programs which spatially sonifies gallery spaces via small-scale transmission, Radio Cegeste set up a mini FM radio programme after midnight in the empty room of artist-run space Rice And Beans, run throughout 2011 by a small collective in the inner city of Dunedin, New Zealand, on the final day of the space’s lease.
As a site-specific, spectator-less, solo performance, dear friends who have died are all talking to me tonight / all at once re-constructs and re-imagines personal and public memory through the medium of transmission, as an appropriate framework for uncertain, shifting structural and social realities. Small clusters of radio receivers, constantly shifted around the space, pick up the signal from a stationary mini FM transmitter. These receivers also engage with each other, chattering and heterodyning, becoming analogous to groups of people talking, and the social space of a gallery opening. Such chatter interjects the night airwaves of Dunedin, full of noise, clashing frequencies, and etheric vocal infiltrations, into what is usually perceived as the bounded space, silence and temporal amnesia of the ‘white cube’.
The piece narrowcasts back a sound library of 5 minute recordings collected during a single afternoon (March 18, 2009) spent wandering around the gallery sector of another New Zealand city, Christchurch. These were originally transmitted as a five minute mini FM event score called gallery attention conglomerate for a project at Christchurch artist-run space marsupial gallery. The recordings, originally intended as a series of ‘blank’ gallery silences, everyday, ephemeral phonographies, now have unintended archival, documentary and emotional grit, due to the fact that the 8 spaces they captured now literally do not exist, one consequence of the earthquakes which have devastated Christchurch since late 2010, and have rendered the gallery district of High Street, alongside the entire inner city, inaccessible, in a limbo of amnesiac stasis, uncertainly awaiting new spatial configurations.
The traces of the Christchurch spaces’ architectural and social specificities, including footsteps, familiar voices, and the silences of the particular artworks they contained at the time of recording, become imperfectly audible in Dunedin’s airwaves for an hour, revealing the irrepeatable specificties of the original recordings, their silences’ absence of homogeneity and blankness. The spatial memories of the eight lost Christchurch art spaces in question together comprise a sound archive, which infiltrates in a synergistic manner into another space with its own specific memory, as Rice and Beans, as well as being a gallery, has been a living space and studio for artists and musicians for decades. encouraging a meta-reflection on the ways in which non-profit art project spaces and groups function as a mercurial part of the urban built environment, often tucked away up three flights of stairs inside older architecture, or flourishing in temporary configurations, the field recordings’ cyclic loops, broken off-frequency oscillations, doppler effects, and garbled spatial conglomerations created a mapping of the city of Christchurch inside the Dunedin space, and further conflated the everyday sounds of Rice And Beans’ last night of existence in its current form, to create a “graveyard shift” live radio program of poignant materialities, an un-monumental memorial. Calling attention to such historic, if invisible palimpsests, seems important to counter the drive toward urban gentrification after disaster events, the re-writing of a map which privileges commercial infrastructure, at the expense of the older places where not-for-profit spaces flourish.