13 Jul 2012

'the transit of venus, study for shortwave #1' included in Air / Ear: Radio & Nature, Argentina

"Air / Ear" was a transmitted installation of the work of 37 radio and sound artists into a cultural hall of a small town, San Justo, Santa Fe, in rural Argentina. The project was curated by Ruben Marino Tolosa.

the work I contributed, 'the transit of venus (study for shortwave 1)', was recorded in a blustery field on a miserable day on kapiti island, and it was played into the space on the 13th July 2012.

here are my programme notes for the piece:

29 - Radio Cegeste (Nueva Zelanda)
Title: The transit of venus, study for shortwave 1 - 7:52

During a six week artist residency on Kapiti Island, a nature reserve 3 miles off the New Zealand coast, I explored radio transmission and reception as a way of reading the materiality of environmental signal, via mediums such as VLF receivers and mini FM. On one day, the 9th may 2012, i took a multi-band radio receiver once used as a maritime communication device into three very different environments on the island, and recorded this device tuning in to signals on the shortwave band on the shores of a lagoon, in a grassy field, and at the site of a demolished lighthouse on the shoreline. it was bracing outside, cold and windy, with periodic drizzly rain, and the seas were booming and fierce. the shortwave band was largely emptied out of content, but occasionally transmissions, like distant missives from some small, forgotten, decades-old event still circulating in the airwaves like an aetheric ghost, became audible through the static and sine. with the 2012 transit of venus almost upon us, i couldn't help but reflect on the possibility of tuning into the electromagnetic emissions of planetary events, and also the ways in which astronomical way-finding and scientific practice were crucial parts of the histories of these islands, with the sighting of Aotearoa/New Zealand by Captain James Cook's crew aboard the Endeavour being a side effect of their mission to observe the 1769 transit of venus. prior to this I had been gathering information on the shipwrecks recorded on Kapiti between first-contact and the time it became a nature reserve in 1897, and also investigating the wayfinding histories of the Polynesian navigators who used the stars, the flight paths of birds, and various map constructions as transmission devices to find it much earlier still. the transit of venus, study for shortwave 1 is the first of the three pieces made from these three recordings.