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Below, some very subjective afterthoughts about the workshop, which could lead to long-term developments or other projects.
Once, I've been interested in how the (historically defined) architecture of the movie theatre plays a huge role in creating a regime of experience that is considered intrinsic to the cinematographic medium. A similar inquiry was aroused by the formal simplicity of the satellite dish, whose pure geometry is greatly responsible for the proper organization of video signal. I was curious to see how the intervention in the physical shape of the dish affected the audiovisual reception. I thought that this could lead to techniques for the meaningful modulation of the signal using the antenna itself.
This curiosity led me to participate of the drawing session with the Büro für Unabwägbarkeiten. It proved to be a wonderful opportunity to imagine how the dish (and its feedhorn) could be employed either as a tool or as an occupiable construction. Most of the situations I came up with allowed the public to manipulate the dish according to certain physical parameters and constantly monitor the visual results of such interactions. In that sense, they were playful, pedagogic pieces, which promoted a general awareness of infrastructural aspects of media.
However, once the satellite dish is disconnected from its normal architectural situation, there is nothing preventing it of becoming an instrument for performance. Thus, I feel that some of the pieces also suggested a sort of poetics of channel surfing. With this term, I’m implying all forms of manipulation of a reception device in search of particular signals. Primary examples of channel surfing would be scanning radio frequencies after a station; zapping through TV channels with a remote control; and even adjusting an antenna on the roof to increase the quality of the image. Of course, the list could be expanded to include more spatial forms of signal rummage, from centuries old dowsing to modern techniques such as CCTV sniffing (and, why not, the auditing of electromagnetic fields of the SnowKrash duo and the research-performances of the Büro).
On the one hand, a poetics of channel surfing would turn all available free-to-air signals in an infinite source for image making. Collaterally, it would create opportunities to reveal the spaces in-between structured channels, foregrounding the natural patterns – often called noise – that video devices try to suppress with their muting circuits.
This reflection came to me when I was talking to Lena and Tatjana over breakfast, and I hope it can be turned into a proper essay or a small exhibition. I think we were discussing different forms of amateur radio. Lena explained that, once radio enthusiasts catch a transmission from a distant station (say, from another continent), they often send a postcard back to it, acknowledging date, time and place of reception.
Being a postcard enthusiast myself, I was amazed by this very extravagant way of saying roger. Later on the day, it led me to think about how different systems of communication (in that case, radio transmission and snail mail) supplement each other in a media circuit. This interaction of different systems was also crucial for Galloway and Rabinowitz’s Hole-in-Space. As Lisa reports on her paper, even thought it was live satellite transmission that created the sheer possibility of a transnational video window, the public occupation of this structure was caused by very traditional word of mouth.
These “multimedia” crossovers seem to partake of the same ontological dynamics essential to any process of mediation. As an object, the existence of a satellite is self-evident in its physical structure. However, even if the satellite can be seen through a telescope, it does not mean it is working. The presence of the satellite as a mediatic object – a transmitter of video signals – is entirely relational. In as much as it can be inferred by calculus, satellite transmission can only be truly confirmed by another mediatic object, such as a television monitor. Thus, a mediatic entity is defined less by its own structure than by the responses it provokes in other ones.
This takes us back to the foreign radio stations, whose presence can be felt in other territories in spite of their physical limits (a fact that can be used to circumvent political boundaries and regulations). In that sense, the postcards sent by listeners are a sort of second-order response, an echo that makes the station aware of its own existence (its “footprint”) abroad.
As a measure of existence, these responses highlight the kinship between media and radar technologies. They also seem to have a kind of institutional value, legitimizing the station as a communication hub (like when broadcast ratings are used as an indicative of the importance of a given channel). One can think of different strategies used to stimulate them; examples that come to mind are 1) promotions used by magazines to disguise audience research; and 2) the reward offered in return of the boxes “from heaven” mentioned by Anselm.
Considering these responses as part of the phatic dimensions of language, concerned with testing the channels and making them available for communication, it could be interesting to investigate their pure aesthetic qualities – from the lingo of radio voice procedures to Francis Alÿs’ piece Seven Lives of Garbage.