Mar 31, 2014

some reflections on the dead space of storage media, and its relation to a bird which evaded solidity in classification for 150 years

Moving into an object-based output for radio cegeste's dissipative ephemeralities was initially only driven by finding productive frisson in collaboration with improvisational musicians who release most things they do on their own record labels (here's looking at you, Lee Noyes). I couldn't really say no, and i'm glad I didn't. Since then, and despite ongoing trepidations around solidifying fleeting aetheric mobiles into repeat-listening structures in storage media, I'm telling myself i'm using such formats strategically.

I'm rather fond of the almost unplayable format of the mini CD, which is obsolete in a more recent - and invisible - way than most of the sonic objects i've tended to be interested in, the early 20th century forms whose temporal distances speak 'materiality' to a digital age in more obviously 'antique' manner. This dainty wafer of digital inscription is however an entirely appropriate format for radio cegeste's first solo release to have been caught on; the New Zealand Storm Petrel EP, released on Kate Carr's label Flaming Pines late last year, is a fleeting, crackly thing, just less than 20 minutes long. I was specifically interested in Kate's Birds of a Feather series for this label, based on birds in music, for its potential to extend my radio work around the immediacy of radio-and-bird communicability (see Kokako Variations, and other recent transmission works) into the 'dead space' of storage media. (I've been using storage media in combination with transmission for a little while, but often though their appearance as chunks of stored time in live performance.) 

The New Zealand Storm Petrel was a perfect focus for this investigation, being notable for its flight from taxonomy, a re-appearance which is only Lazarus-like for the classificatory mechanisms of human language (presumably, the bird knew where it was, all along). A bird like a book returned to the library of babel after more than a human lifetime, to assuage the spectres of colonial guilt. To replace its ghost shelved in some dusty corner, with all the other stuffed specimens.

Mar 15, 2014

refining light

Extending radio cegeste's recent live cinema collaboration with Campbell Walker at Auckland's RM Gallery,  anxious repetitive smiling (nothing's going to happen), toward a formal Dunedin iteration couldn't have found a better context than Refining Light, an event nestled within the 2014 Dunedin Fringe Festival. 

This gathering of (un)like minds was co-curated by Campbell and improvisational guitarist and local experimental audio scene organiser Peter Porteous (Lines of Flight, Alt Music), and ostensibly took the secondary medium in experimental music-and-film festival Lines of Flight, (begun by Peter Stapleton and Kim Pieters in the year 2000, long a biannual part of the Dunedin Fringe and an established part of the NZ audio cultural landscape  - my & Gilbert May's radio documentary on the 2009 festival for the Radia network can be heard here), and made it primary. It also built upon an event, a night of live audio-visual convergences, which Campbell and I co-curated in 2011 with the Melbourne experimental music space KIPL, which combined moving image with improvised scores by experimental musicians.

Feb 13, 2014

anxious repetitive smiling (nothing’s going to happen)

On the 13th February, at the culmination of his early 2014 artist residency at RM Gallery in Auckland, I embarked upon an audio/visual performance collaboration with filmmaker and moving image artist Campbell Walker, called anxious repetitive smiling (nothing's going to happen), in which in-camera audio from his month long gathering of visual fragments in Auckland spaces was expanded within the screening as a transmission piece, a live improvisational score. Text from William Gaddis’ novel The Recognitions, spoken by Walker, was additionally harnessed within an autofictional depiction which literally reflected back in windows as a noir cityscape. The screening space in the gallery added additional light bleed and environmental screen space via its nightlit windows and analogous sonic structural openness.  

images by Matthew Ward

Feb 4, 2014

various australian wanderings, early 2014

performing at Undue Noise, curated by Jacques Soddell at the Old Fire Station in Bendigo, 1st February, 2014. photo by Viv Corringham.


radio cegeste in Australia, January-February 2014:

@ The Now NOW Festival, Sydney
- two works in the Now NOW group show (with Kusum Normoyle, Kynan Tan, Sarah Hughes, Patrick Farmer, Emily Morandini, Jon Hunter) at SNO Gallery, 8/1/2014 - 12/1/2014 
- solo site-specific outdoor radio narrowcast in Sydney Park, 11//1/2014

@ Make it Up Club 16th birthday celebrations, Melbourne
- duo with Joel Stern, 14/1/2014

@ Soundout Festival, Canberra 
- group improvisation with Ross Manning / Viv Corringham / Evan Dorrian, 23/1/2014.
- outdoor site specific performance curated by Jim Denley at Lake Walter Burley Griffin with Jim Denley / Kim Myhr/ Rosalind Hall / Ross Manning / Evan Dorrian, 24/1/2014
- solo outdoor narrowcast in venue courtyard (with intro / segue from venue from Clayton Thomas & Cor Fuhler), 25/1/2014
- group improvisation with Maya Revillion / Viv Corringham / Reuben Lewis / Rhys Butler, 25/1/2014 
@ Sound Klub X, Hobart
- solo performance/transmission, 31/1/2014

@ Undue Noise, Bendigo
- solo performance/transmission, 1/2/2014

Jan 1, 2014

Bioacoustics issue of 'Antennae: the Journal of Nature in Visual Culture'

issue 27 of Antennae: the Journal of Nature in Visual Culture is dedicated to the topic of Bioacoustics: "Shifting away from the historical epistemological prominence that sight and the visual have played in the forming of our understanding of the world, this issue proposes a human-animal aural turn."

Cecilia Novero has written a fairly lengthy piece about my work with birdsong and radio incorporating a few interviews we did just after the Kapiti Island residency in 2012, and the issue places this work in very appropriate, fascinating, and distinguished company.

From the editorial: "Starting from the notion of recording natural sounds as central to the practices of institutionalised preservation for the purpose of education and entertainment explored by Craig Eley, the issue focuses on the quintessential animal voice: that of birds. Our starting point is therefore grounded in the affirmation of classical mimetic values. From here on, the issue attempts to depart from such trope through the reconfigurations of a number of contemporary artists and scholars. The multifaceted human-bird relationals revisited through the medium of sound are thus explored through the artistic practice of Catherine Clover; connections between listening and thinking, perceiving and imagining, sound and movement, language and the city are considered in this piece with specific reference to the everyday and the ordinary. Cecilia Novero’s discussion of New Zealand- based artist Sally Ann McIntyre's site-specific art transmission raises questions about colonialism, nationalism, and the environment. Novero argues that operating in the realm of sounds both with an ear to birds, and with critical attention to the technological and institutional history of the medium of radio, McIntyre broadcasts Mark Dion’s call to resist nostalgia in our relationships with animals. An exploration of the potentialities proposed by the intertwining of sound and visuality is drawn by a series of graphic works by Sari Carel in which a soundtrack incorporating the original recordings of extinct and nearly extinct birds creates a layered sonic environment enveloping the viewer. As sound turns into drawing and unfurls notions of transformation, translation and extinction, the piece emerges as a document chronicling that which is slowly disappearing. A clear activist approach to preventing the extinction of birds is brought into focus by Ceri Levy, well known film-maker, writer, and curator. In an extensive interview with Matthew Brower, Levy discusses the challenges involved in preventing the extinction of protected bird species and demonstrates how visual and sonic arts can aid the process."

the issue can be downloaded and read in full here:

Dec 20, 2013

transmission for a lazarus taxon: radio cegeste's 'the new zealand storm petrel' out on flaming pines' 'birds of a feather' series

radio cegeste's homage to the New Zealand Storm Petrel was released as FLP025 alongside (and inversely twinned with) a composition for the Rainbow Lorikeet by Sydney based musician Seaworthy on December 20 2013 by small independent Australian label Flaming Pines as part of their limited run Birds of a Feather series of EPs, themed around the sounds of birds, and their role in music. As label head Kate Carr puts it "The role of birds as muse, as musical guide and inspiration has been well documented in classical music, from Mozart's pet starling to Beethoven's birdsong filled Pastoral Symphony and Sibelius's swan hymn to Messaien's birdsong compositions (...) always birds inspire us with their mastery of flight, their epic migrations, their tragic vulnerability and their against the odds tales of survival."

The New Zealand Storm Petrel (Oceanites maorianus), seemed an apt conceptual figure for such a project, with its recent dramatic re-discovery in 2003, after being declared extinct in the 1850s. The small black and white seabird is now included under that most miraculously evocative of categories in natural history, alongside the small number of other species which have been declared extinct only to appear again, often much later. In paleontological classification, such a creature is known as a 'Lazarus Taxon', and the various examples, including the Lord Howe Stick Insect, the Coelacanth, and New Zealand's other famed avian example, the Takahe, seem to slide a place holder, however marginally, into a collective imagination facing the global landslide to oblivion within the sixth wave of human-influenced extinction. In the case of the New Zealand Storm Petrel, the gap between disappearance and rediscovery was over 150 years. In New Zealand settler culture terms, that is roughly analogous to the official age of our nation, although humans have of course been on these islands, interacting in complex cultural ways with bird species, since the 1100s.

Nov 15, 2013

critical writing by Dugal McKinnon on 'Huia Transcriptions' and 'Collected Silences for Lord Rothschild' in Leonardo Music Journal

issue 23 of Leonardo Music Journal, with the theme of 'Sound Art' features Dugal McKinnon's article Dead Silence: Ecological Silencing and Environmentally Engaged Sound Art. Dugal builds a critical model for a discussion of silence in engaged environmental audio works which utilises discussion of two of my recent pieces focusing on birdsong, vernacular memory, the archive and extinction, as well as some work by the British audio artist Katie Paterson.

Sep 12, 2013

'Nature Reserves', group exhibition at GV Art, London

Two works themed around erasure, the audible trace, extinction, colonial-era collecting, and silence, Huia Transcriptions and Collected Silences for Lord Rothschild were aptly included in a group exhibition, titled Nature Reserves, which ran at London art/science gallery space GV Art from the 26th july - 13th september.

Aug 10, 2013

a transmission for Jean Painlevé

radio cegeste's live improvisation to the 1929 silent film La Daphnie by the French poet of science cinema, Jean Painlevé.

at Taste Merchants cafe, Dunedin, 10 August 2013.

images by Kim Pieters.
film projection by Campbell Walker.

Aug 2, 2013

'if witness was an architect' : radio cegeste & lee noyes

performing in the light, white spaces of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery mezzanine auditorium with Lee Noyes in january 2011 solidified a productive collaboration that continued until Lee left Dunedin for Scandinavia in 2012. this is a recording of that initial performance, and its digital release on the 'no number' series Lee has been producing for his Idealstate Recordings label perfectly reflects its sparse, suspended minimalism.

Jul 26, 2013

collected silences for lord rothschild

Collected Silences for Lord Rothschild comprises five recordings of extinct bird silences collected from The Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, via the paranormal research technique of E.V.P (electronic voice phenomenon).

this work expands on Collected Silences for Lord Rothschild, a radio cegeste transmission staged on Kapiti Island in May 2012, in which two of the above recorded silences (Huia, Laughing Owl) were transmitted via Mini FM into the environmental reserve, which was itself created, in a pioneering gesture of governmental recognition of human responsibility for loss of biodiversity, around the time of the extinction of the species in question, but nevertheless did not receive the live specimens destined for it.

one of two works included as part of the exhibition Nature Reserves, at the London gallery GV Art from the 26 July - 14 September, 2013.

huia transcriptions

alongside audio documentation of the site-specific live sound work Huia Transcriptions originally conducted on two mornings on Kapiti Island in early June 2012, an object-based realisation of the work, comprising musical notation of one early twentieth century human interpretation of a Huia warning call, as well as a written description of the same call rendered in the manner of the lyrical content on a player-piano roll, were set on archival index cards. a small mass produced music box renders the punched strip of the left hand side of the cards playable, in their limited fashion, emphasising the gap between human recording and reproducing mechanisms and the accessibility of the live bird song, now that the species is extinct.

included as part of the exhibition Nature Reserves, at the London gallery GV Art from the 26 July - 14 September 2013.

Apr 5, 2013

'dead silence: ecological silencing and environmentally engaged sound art' : paper by Dugal McKinnon, at New Zealand School of Music, Wellington

Dr. Dugal McKinnon of the New Zealand School of Music gave this talk at the Adam Concert Room in Wellington today, about silence in ecologically minded sound work, in which he discussed two works I made during my Kapiti Island residency, Collected Silences for Lord Rothschild, and Huia Transcriptions. More of Dugal's writing can be read on his blog here.

Mar 12, 2013

The Crime LINKS in the Smoke

in response to Scott Flanagan's request for an artist book for his edition The Rose Collection, Campbell Walker created a bookwork called The Crime LINKS in the Smoke. It was made from pages of burnt books, sourced from the strewn debris of detective fiction covering the upper floor of the Dunedin second hand bookstore Raven Books, where I once worked, and Campbell did for a while as well. 

Mar 6, 2013

'selected radio memorials'

a suite of transmission works collected from the last few years' somewhat consistent low-level preoccupation with narrowcast radio and local seismic activity are to be included in Simulcast, a group exhibition of radio works running at the Audio Foundation's Auckland space from the 7th - 30th of March, also including work by Auckland artists Ivan Masic and Jay Hollows, and a 'radio wormhole' linking Auckland to central Christchurch, a sonic transfer of the everydayness of each locale opened up for the month's duration by Zita Joyce.