r a d i o q u a l i a
was conceived and still livesin Adelaide, on the va.com.au
webserver. But its creators currently live in and between Amsterdam
and London, and the concept and its projects are networked across
Europe, rooted in Australia and New Zealand, and increasingly touching
down in the points in between.
r a d i o q u a l i a - the
net.radio entity, the Frequency Clock project, curatorial work
like pHonic, organisational feats like Net. Congestion, and participation
in festivals, conferences and meetings - is the work of Honor
Harger and Adam Hyde. r a d i o q u a l i a
is informed by the process of connecting and communicating their
own and others artistic practices, technology, people, and
ideas. At heart, its all about broadcasting, which is where
In the beginning, Honor worked at Artspace in Auckland, and on
Spec and Radio1 in Dunedin. Adam managed bfm in Auckland, and Contact89FM
in Hamilton, where he also started Static Television. Honor moved
to Adelaide to work at ANAT (Australian Network for Art and Technology),
and Adam worked there with Virtual Artists. Needing an outlet for
frustrated compulsive broadcasting habits and their excavations
in local underground music, they began experimenting with net.radio
Adam - In 1998 Jessie Reynolds showed me how to encode Real
Audio files. And from that me and Honor thought wed form
this organisation called r a d i o q u a l i a The radio in
r a d i o q u a l i a
has a very broad meaning. We have come to think of people as being
radios, so the radio is metaphorical, as well as referring
to the physics of radio, and radio as a domestic object.
Qualia, is a philosophical term that means the qualitative states
of experience. So if you see a white table, the experience of whiteness
is white qualia. So r a d i o q u a l i a
is the experience of radio in all of its different amorphous forms.
We called it that because we wanted to investigate radio in these
forms and how they related to the public access of the internet
and the development of streaming technologies. At that time, Real
Networks had only been around for 2 years or so, so streaming was
Honor - We also set up r a d i o q u a l i a
almost as a reaction against the lack of interesting radio in Adelaide.
It was almost like a joke that we called it radio - we had
no real sense that this was radio, it was basically
just some form of radio programmes. Although r a d i o q u a l i a
was created with a sense of irony, we soon discovered that there
were people working in this thing called net radio all around the
world, and that there was a quite well established network of practitioners
operating in this genre of net radio. So we accidentally stumbled
into a genre and realised that we were part of a very embryonic
and quite tiny but still existent international movement quite
Adam - We were out in this isolated little node in South
Australia, and we would involve ourselves with collaborative broadcasts,
that was the fever at that time, because it was a new experience.
Youd hook up with people from all over the world, and you
send streams and receive streams and mess them all up. And because
of the timeframes, often theyd be organised in Europe, which
meant that Honor and I would be up at 5 in the morning and doing
these broadcasts, and feeling really involved in this community.
Honor - My first experience of actually going to Europe was
in 1998 going to Ars Electronica, which became the first meeting
of Xchange. It was really the meeting that set up the net radio
community as a community, as a group of people who collaborated
across geographical boundaries, worked on projects despite where
they lived, pooled the mutual strengths of individuals, and placed
people in working environments because of their skills rather than
their physical location. Some really important working collaborations
came out of that. It really didnt matter that we were working
from Australia and our collaborators like Ljudmila or Backspace
were in the UK and Slovenia. It was still very practical to be
able to work collaboratively because of the internet, but that
initial physical meeting was very important.
Zita - And yet the following year you did actually move to
Europe. One of the utopian claims for the internet is that it allows
communities to form regardless of geography. The net radio community
illustrates that by its very nature, yet its often physical
gatherings that become the significant moments in that community.
Did you find that you needed that proximity after all?
Honor - We still didnt feel that we were really able
to extend ourselves there, it was a limited context in Adelaide,
and we really did want to branch out a little bit. Through our
recon missions we discovered that there were a lot of people living
in Europe who were working on similar projects, experiencing similar
problems and working in similar ways to us. So we shifted to Europe
to be closer to the people who had become our consistent collaborators,
to become closer to the context our work was most understood in.
Zita - Your work grows out of the connections and collaborations
enabled by the internet - as organisers, web casters, theorists,
artists and curators - youre also concerned with the
fundamental issues of connecting artistic practice with new technology,
which is what pHonic and its related shows are about. What are
you trying to communicate about this relationship in these curatorial
Adam - I guess we could say that r a d i o q u a l i a
went through an evolution of experimenting with Real Audio, and
then the idea of a website, mixing up all this idea of transmission,
and using a lot of metaphors and philosophical terms and terminology,
jargon from physics, to create our own way of talking about broadcasting.
So through that we evolved further and started pushing ourselves
outside of just being a web entity and to experimenting with other
mechanisms. And in order to do this we had to become much more
technically proficient, so Honor and I started teaching ourselves
html, scripting, sound applications and so on. Through that process
we started meeting a lot of people who were also artists who for
the first time were becoming much more technically active. Because
artists in this kind of area were reliant on technicians to build
stuff for them, and that becomes frustrating after a while, out
of necessity they forced themselves to learn the technology. This
in general led up to The Physics Room show, this new process emerging
post-internet, which is the artist as technician, the artist becoming
a programmer. So thats one of the themes thats explored
by pHonic. These are actual applications that have been developed
from zero and coded by artists. As a result you can see a much
more interesting conceptual relationship to interfaces and defining
what an instrument is and defining what a sound processing interface
Honor - All of these pieces are about user interaction, they
couldnt be complete without the user, they would be just
files on a computer. So were really just trying to make the
statement that computer-based work creates the potential for a
more engaged response from users than perhaps other more static
artwork. And we find it interesting that all of these pieces rely
on the visitor and the audience in order to be in existence, so
theres a very symbiotic relationship between the works and
the user and thats the common thread.
Zita - You continue to preserve a connection between Europe,
Australia and New Zealand - through the web server in Adelaide,
the involvement of New Zealand and Australian artists and musicians
in your projects, performing at The Gathering, and now with pHonic.
How does New Zealand inform your work?
Adam - I think coming from New Zealand has informed our aesthetic
and our approach to technology. Like Peter Kirks very beautiful
statement, dont mistake the tools for the purpose. And
its really true - the 4 track, for example, which has
been such a dominant icon in New Zealand music, really represented
an attitude to creating art that wasnt about waiting for
the state of the art equipment to arrive.
Honor - That was really important for us when we discovered
Real Audio, which was immediately a throwback to the low-tech ethos
of Xpressway and early Flying Nun music, and we really played on
that. We thought not only is this an interesting audio aesthetic,
but it also makes working in this environment, the internet, accessible.
And that was the other really important ethos of 4 track recording - not
just the aesthetic but the accessibility, and those are two of
the most important underpinning ideas behind r a d i o q u a l i a.
Adam - And also the exploitation of limitations, so that
you actually savour the distortion, you dont just throw it
away and say its a mistake, you actually look at it more
closely and try and find out the inherent aesthetic beauty in it.
Honor - Weve been really focussed on trying to make
the most of the characteristics of the mediums that we work with,
like buffering and net congestion with streaming media. Were
interested in how to make these things part of the actual output
rather than covering up for them. And thats something that
not many people do with streaming, because theyre used to
working in a way thats about creating a high quality hi-fi
output, but weve been brought up with this exactly opposite
frame of mind.
Adam - Also coming from New Zealand we had no intentionality
of an audience. Because coming from New Zealand, you have no audience
and the mythos surrounding creating music in NZ is that actually
the best music is created by people who dont give a fuck
whos going to listen to it. So from that the fact of having
an audience is necessarily secondary to making good art.
Honor - So the whole idea of there needing to be people listening
to the broadcasts has never been an issue for us. For a lot of
people that really raises the question of why broadcast then. For
us, the question is why not?
r a d i o q u a l i a: <www.radioqualia.net>
The frequency clock: <http://www.frequencyclock.net>
The Xchange network: <http://xchange.re-lab.net/>
Ars Electronica: <http://www.aec.at>
SPECTRE list for media culture in Deep Europe: <http://post.openoffice.de/mailman/listinfo/spectre>
Nettime and its neighbourhood of lists: <http://www.nettime.org/>
Faces mailing list for women in new media: <http://www.faces-l.net/>