Josephine Bosma: Can you tell us something about your
My background is radio journalism. I used to report
on contemporary visual arts and took a strong interest on the
subjects of art and technology and art in the public space.
Because I'm working for an organisation like the Austrian national
radio, I should say that we still have almost a monopoly in
Austria. We don't have a multitude of radios like in other countries.
Now its changing a little bit, but it is still a very monolithic
Anyway, I was working for the cultural actuality program,
- the "Kulturredaktion" - and then I changed from
being somebody who reported on contemporary visual art to
somebody who had a program in the features and radio drama
department. I just shifted inside the organisation. That was
in 1987. Because of my work before, talking to so many many
artists in the field of art and technology, art in the public
space and art and telecommunications, I was somehow in the
position to define my new program as a space for radio art
and, what is more important, as a kind of entrance point for
artists of all kinds, visual artists, composers or writers,
whatever, who wanted to position their work in the context
of public radio.
The space of public radio can of course be defined and delineated
in many different ways and that is what these artists did.
There are people who define it as a sculptural space, others
defined it as a public space comparable to the public urban
space, where art is confronted with everyday life. Others
want to make interventions in that space, others again want
to remix the material that is being broadcast, yet others
are very interested in the communication side of it all. Some
make complex layerings of sounds and enjoy using the production
facilities of a National radio, others only deal with live radio
Around what was originally a weekly radio program titled "Kunstradio," which over the last ten years helped artists to produce and develop ways to
the context of public radio as it reaches into society, somehow also a body
discourse evolved. It evolved out of the practice of the artists
and was tested in the framework of several radio-art symposia
where the artist-theoreticians met with media-theorists.
I still think some of the artists are among the best ttheoreticians
because they don't come from books but from the practice of
positioning their work in very complex cultural-technological
Over the years there has been a string of projects connecting
live radio, the space of radio transmission to other public
spaces like museums or the urban space from shopping malls
to big open squares or a whole network of different locations
in one or different cities. From the very beginning there
has been a group of artist connected to the Kunstradio that
were very interested in telecommunications and actually belonged
to the pioneers of telecommunications art in Europe. They
informed the theoretical background of the Kunstradio very
It is a specific Austrian development that there has been
a relatively long and strong tradition of telematic work in
the field of art. During the late 70s and the 80s this telecommunication
art developed outside the radio using all kind of new technologies
connected to the telephone. But some of the artists involved
in telecommunications would sometimes also produce radio-art.
Only in the beginning of the 90s a younger generation, I think
it was the third or fourth, started to develop projects in
which they connected the space of electronic networks with
the space of the public radio into one single space of artistic
action and intervention. Issues that had been at the heart
of the telematic projects of the 80s and that some of the
radio artists had tried to deal with by going into the archives
of the radio, by developing pieces without beginning or end,
by involving listeners and technicians etc. now suddenly had
a much more powerful and much clearer impact on the radio:
the question of authorship; the question of everything becoming
material that can be fragmented, sampled, recycled, put into
different contexts; the question of the traditional notion
of work of art being completely redefined; the question of
copyright -- all these issues were suddenly swept clearly
to the surface by the kind of projects that connect the space
of traditional radio to the space of electronic networks.
JB: Can you tell me what you call telematic art?
|HG: Telematic .... I've always had a problem
with an exact definition. It is one of those words that are
really just notions to keep a dialogue going, to be able to
talk about something evolving in connection with new communication
technologies. Everybody interprets it differently but it was
used quite early to refer to projects in which artists used
telecommunications media. It is about art that works at a distance.
Art that deals with simultaneity, telepresence, distributed
authorship as Roy Ascot called it, who in the early 80s initiated
a very exexemplaryelematic project called "La Plissure
du Texte". It was a global fairytale that was told by sixteen
different stations in the world over two weeks - using a forerunner
of the Internet in e-emailnd conference mode. And nobody knew
how many people participated, nobody was the author but everybody
who participated was one author of many. The work itself could
basically only be experienced by the participants and each of
them experienced his or her own version. It was not possible
to mediate this kind of fairytale to a traditional passive audience...
JB: Was this all in your radiradio showi>
early telematic projects were not radio. But strangely enough,
what in hindsight looks interesting was the first telematic
project in which European artists participated. It took place
in 1979 and was called "Interplay". There was a worldwide
set up with this IP Sharp timesharing system that functioned
quite similar to the Internet. There were people in Vienna participating,
because there was a local office of this IP Sharp firm that
was quite interested in having artists working with it. These
artists were Richard Kriesche and Robert Adrian. The artists
were in the office and the man who ran the IP Sharp office was
in my live radio studio, trying to make the listener understand
what was happening. It was a radio program really *about* art
activities. The man was sitting there with his terminal trying
to type in his messages and to participate in the project in
which artists in over 10 cities around the world were connected.
Meters and meters of paper were running out of the printer.
We just couldn't read everything that was coming in to the listeners.
We could not say, now this is from San FraFranciscod this is
from Sydney.- there were just too many messages.It was extremely
difficult to give the listeners any impression of what was going
on. The radio studio had become one more live node in a telematic
network. But what went out on the radio was just read texts.....mostly
in English and in between helpless attempts to explain something
quite incomprehensible to most people including me. This was
the first connection that I know of between live radio and a
Ten years later, because not only the technology had developed
so much further, but also the thinking, the conceptualising
and the practice of an art that kept three generations of
visual artists, composers, musicians, technicians busy, it
was possible to formulate what was then called simultaneous
telematic radio projects There were, as you know, the projects
in which Gerfried Stocker was involved (Others involved were
Seppo Gruendler, Horst Hoertner, and then Mia Zabelka, Andres
Bosshard, Isabella Bordoni, Roberto Paci Daló, Andrea
Sodomka, Martin Breindl, Norbert Math, Martin Schitter and
on several occasions Dutch artists connected to V2 and many
others. Gerfried Stocker was one of the people who came to
Kunstradio in the beginning of the 90s and said:
| We have this sculpture standing at the
Expo in Sevilla and its run via telephone, modems, midi
and computers. Why don't we make a concert where I am
sitting in the radio studio in Vienna and I have all
kinds of samplers and sequencers. The people in Sevilla
will then trigger the sounds in the studio in Vienna.
We can broadcast them live, but we can also send back
what they have triggered, so they can mix it there with
other sounds and resend it to us and the radio just
becomes one outlet in a recycling process really - recycling
and re-assembling of material.
an early example of an artist-run homepage, not updated since
From then on Kunstradio helped organise a series of similar
projects: simultaneous telematic radio (and at one point even
TV) projects. Finally two very big worldwide projects were
developed and realised: Horizontal Radio in 1995 and Rivers
and Bridges last year. And this year we are planning another
one with the title "Station to Station" in December.
The EBU (European Broadcasting Union) Ars Acustica group also
got involved. This is a group made up of all the radio-art
producers and editors in public radios in Europe, North America
and Australia. The Ars Acustica group is getting bigger and
bigger and each country has a completely different tradition
and definition of radio art. It was possible to involve the
Ars Acustica group in the Horizontal Radio, Rivers &Bridges
and now Station to Station projects--actually the Ars Acustica
Group took them on as its annual projects.
"Station to Station" was, in the end, not realised as an EBU project. Instead
some of its sub-projects were integrated into the four part international
Kunstradio project "Recycling the Future," which experimented with the
realisation and documentation of non-stop, live streaming over longer periods
and for the first time used "on air-on line-on site" as a subtitle to
characterize the new hybrid production context of collaborative networked projects.
The basic principle of the projects was really developed
from the early telematic projects. Horizontal Radio even explexplicitly referred to the project "The World in 24 hours"
that Robert Adrian had initiated in 1982: Every 'station'
could participate according to the means they had, according
to the art notions they had, according to whatever they wanted
to do. But the contributions had to be fed into the network
of radio and telephone lines within a negotiated slot of 24
hours. Everybody had to give and take. There was no central
event that was transmitted to all participants. The event
consisted of everything that happened during the 24 hours
in the very complex network between on site, on line and on
air activities at over 20 locations on three continents. Five
internet servers were participating in 1995 and the users
could influence the output by triggering all kind of material
on on-site CD's, which then was flowing back into the network
of the radios and was then broadcast in diffdifferentts of
the world in completely different contexts. All the programs
were live and all the programs took fragments of the incredible
wealth of activity going on all over the world and rearranged
the material with their own material and sent it back to the
other nodes. There were many performances and installations
taking place in front of a live audience.
The next year Rivers&Bridges did something very similar
but with a much more important role for the internet (18 hours
of Real Audio Live) and with more connections between public
and independent radios. Again it became a huge network between
many locations on three continents.
Since Horizontal Radio the name "Horizontal Radio"
has become a general name for this genre of international
simultaneous projects connecting the radiradio spacea different
way filling it with a different content handling it in a different
manner: horizontally, opening up the medium of radio to other
physical and virtual spaces - collcollagingse spaces in live
JB: Is Ars Acustica connected to Ars Electronica?
Ars Acustica is a name that I think does not really fit what
has happened in the Ars Acustica group during the last two years.
To me Ars Acustica refers to the traditional sound-radio. A
medium that functioned by itself in a very specific way. A very
interesting and rich acoustic art developed since the avant garde
of the beginning of the century, an acoustic art which eventually
found its place also in radio - reflecting it with the means
of transmitted sound, often produced in the elaborate studios
of National Public Radios. One organisation that was, and still
is, very active in this field is the West Deutsche Rundfunk
in Cologne, with Klaus Schoening, who also developed the whole
notion of Neues Hoerspiel. He worked a lot with FLuxus artists
and developed, over many years, a huge body of what he calls
"Ars Acustica". He was one of the founders of that
group in the EBU and its first coordinator, and so the group
took on this name.
Not very long after that, about the end of 80s, radio started
to change noticeably because of digitalisation, under the
impact of the so-called convergence of mass media, the computer
and telecommunication. And so today I am convinced that radio
is not only about sound anymore. I am not happy with the term
Internet radio myself, but definitely if there is such a thing,
if you webcast something, if you do live activities in the
internet, then its definitely also visual radio - radio to
look at. Its by no means only about sound.
The way radio - commercial radio, the big national organisations,
but even independent or pirate radio - is developing, it is
no longer simply the smaller of the Radio/TV mass media twins,
but has become part of what we call a "Medienverbund"
(media combination/union), a new type of network of different
media. And the leading medium in this Verbund is the computer
as Wolfgang Hagen has pointed out. Sound is then only one
form of many possible representations of data. For instance,
digital radio can lead you through traffic (by visual maps
or text or sound), open your garage door, start to cook your
dinner, display the text of the bio and a photo of a composer
whose music you are listening to etc. Now we are in a situation
where we just start to try to grasp what this megamedium that
looms on the horizon might mean for our culture.
Today we are dealing with many different hybrids between
old and new forms and the old familiar radio, as an isolated
listening medium that brings you news, drama, music, talk
and is a reliable companion, whose clocklike habits accompany
you as a flow of sound. is a nostalgic relic. There are many
artists working in and for the context of this nostalgic medium
but there are many others working in a hybrid networked space
of constant change.
Now the big, culturally very relevant thing is that there
is a very powerful commercial conglomerate in this 'Medienverbund'
and even most of the public radio and televisions are looking
at the new media not as a cultural field but as a field for
business. They are hoping to make money! Also with cultural
programs - I can see that the environment in which my radio program
is located has changed completely. Even the cultural channel
that is really funded, by law, by listeners fees is doing
'marketing'. All these commercial concepts have entered the
daily functioning of non-commercial radio - including firms
and banks coming in by the backdoor to sponsor things.
I think the lines are suddenly running on different borders,
between the commercial sector and the cultural non-commercial
sector. I think it is strategically very important to form
new alliances there. A program like Kunstradio and the work
of the artists working for Kunstradio is something alien to
the structure of that commercial or semi-commercial culture,
even on a cultural channel. In a way, we have much more affinity
to free radio, independent radio or to media activism reflecting
the internet etc. It is different alliances that come together
now and it is very necessary that they do come together. There
is a new type of marginalisation going on ...I mean, the commercial
pressures are at any rate so strong that there is a need to
save some place for a process of reflection, whether you call
it art or whatever. What is happening to our culture needs
to be reflected, thought about. Some of the artists that I
have the pleasure to work with are very important figures
in this kind of reflection process. Again: because they are
very strong theoreticians and because they also have very
strong attitudes towards what is happening to our culture.
And both, their theories and their attitudes are informed
by their practice in the new mmedia space
JB: What exactly would you like to see happening? You
painted a bit of a picture of something that might be called a danger
to free art radio. Is there something that absolutely needs to be
part of this new free media network?
|HG: I don't see any solutions at all.
Solutions are not at all visible in any discussions going on.
For example; the one on net.art shows that nobody knows a solution,
nobody has an answer. Everybody is asking questions. But what
I think is very important, if one is interested at all in culture
and what culture is, that strategies be developed for different
groups forming again and again for the purpose of realising
different projects or whatever you may call the different frames
from which people work, certain aspects of the question 'how
is our culture changing now?'. The groups are very important
because it is a territory where no individual art is really
possible. You can do a little tiny thing, like send a virus
into the web and things like that (as an individual). But basically
individual artists can not work there. I can only see that groups
and constantly changing groupings of so-called artists and nonartists
are forming all the time.
One very strong aspect of Kunstradio, even as far as the
normal weekly radio program is concerned, is that the artists
have, since many years, recognised that a certain type of
technician has become co-author of their pieces. They could
not do it without this type of very engaged technician, who
are in turn challenged by the artists to find different solutions
and so on - plus the the aspect that people from different
disciplines are suddenly working together. Some people come
from music, others come from dance; there are the people from
the visual arts, people from literature, and they constantly
reshuffle in groups to do things. They take on different tasks,
and they are developing new production strategies for this
new kind of conglomerate of media. It is a constant learning,
developing and researching process that needs groupings of
some sort. They don't need to be groups for life, but for
certain projects. They also have to look over the borders
of one organisation or one country or whatever. Its a constant
looking out and putting energy together. Acting to the moment,
which is difficult enough to grasp.
As long as this kind of networking also among people is
taking place, I think, even when we don't know where it is
going, there is a lot of hope.
JB: You come from the visual arts, but you are now mostly
into audio art. How did that change occur and did you like it? Now
with net.radio we are moving more towards the visual realm again,
do you regret that?
|HG: I started out to report and write
about visual arts, but I did it in a medium that was not visual
at all. There was not even an internet where I could have made
little reproductions of what I am talking about. It was really
just a medium where you could talk and make interviews. Also
at the time when I got into that there was performance art,
there was conceptual art and all kinds of dematerialised art.
The theories of the artists doing this work were very important.
So my move was very natural. I met a lot of people who were
working as artists in the radio, with live radio for instance.
That was a very very natural thing. It was not necessary to
have images, physical images for this type of visual art activity.
It had dematerialised, away from the physical image or object.
Now there are images on the web, but they are only one aspect,
they are one way that data can be interpreted. I think most
people working in the field see it also like that. They see
a whole range of possibilities to do something with data. The
basis of it all is dealing with information and data.
The whole notion of art has changed to a degree where the
name itself is in question. Many artists question whether
they want to call themselves artists at all. But there is
still something going on, which I think is very important
to our culture. Whether you name it art or not. I find it
fascinating. I myself am not an artist, definitely never was
and never will be. I changed from reporting on things to being
involved in the organisation and the developing of projects.
Thats of course a very very interesting field......
This interview was recorded at "The Beauty and the East" conference
in May 1997 in Ljubljana. It was first published in Telepolis
Heidi Grundmann is an art journalist and curator in the field of radio-art.
For over a decade she was the producer of KUNSTRADIO, a 55 minute program
broadcast weekly on 01, the cultural channel of the Austrian National
Since the beginning of 1995 KUNSTRADIO has its own artist-run homepage, which is the site of many art projects and live