1 Apr 2016

marcasite radio: experiment #1.

a brief post-midnight birthday-morning experiment / work-in-progress report. the first vaguely successful attempt at materialising an object i've been thinking about for quite a while now, which has the working title of 'marcasite radio' and is, essentially, an experiment in 1920s residual media, based around the speculation that the white iron pyrite that was used to make marcasite jewellery in the 1920s and 30s might also be able to be used as the crystalline mineral in a crystal detector. 

I'm pleased to be able to report initial success - when set into a crystal radio receiver of the same era, my maternal great grandmother's marcasite brooch becomes a radio mineral, a diode that faintly speaks the voices of the aether. her name was Ann Wright (i'm named after her) and she was born in the 19th century, and was 101 when she died. (as of around an hour ago, i'm 59 years younger than that milestone).

After quite a few years of searching for them after the museum where they were housed was destroyed in the 2011 earthquake, I've recently come into possession of copies of Ann's oral histories, taped in the 1980s, which detail fragments of the everyday life of the small town of Kaiapoi, located just outside Christchurch, in the early 20th century, among static hiss, noise, and the lapses of memory. Ultimately I am hoping to use these taped gaps, erasures and traces as the basis of a composition which can be channeled back to radio, transmitted via the active collaboration of the brooch and the ring she wore at the time, and which currently remain mute witnesses of those histories.


My mother gave me the two pieces of Ann's marcasite jewellery I am using in this experiment, as a graduation present. I wear the brooch in the same place I sometimes clip radio cegeste's transmitter aerial when performing. I hope neither of them are too offended by me re-purposing such exquisite heirlooms (taonga) to channel aetheric-material ghosts, while also thinking back toward the work of this country's female radio pioneers in the first decades of the 20th century

That history, itself like a faint, crackling signal in the midst of static rain, could also do with more elaboration - likewise, a lot more work is also needed here, but it's a promising start, and an excellent way to celebrate the first few hours of being fairly old now, myself...