Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 15 - the X issue
Log 15 - the X issue
Phonic was curated by Radioqualia. It featured rigasZieds, audiorom, Arcangel, <earshot>, zzkt
and was on show at the Physics Room from 18 July - 11 August 2001.

Zita Joyce

r a d i o q u a l i a was conceived and still ‘lives’in 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, it’s all about broadcasting, which is where it starts’

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 we’d 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 embryonic.

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 unintentionally.

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. You’d 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 they’d 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 didn’t 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 it’s often physical gatherings that become the significant moments in that community. Did you find that you needed that proximity after all?

Honor - We still didn’t 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 - you’re 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 projects?

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 that’s one of the themes that’s 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 is.

Honor - All of these pieces are about user interaction, they couldn’t be complete without the user, they would be just files on a computer. So we’re 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 there’s a very symbiotic relationship between the works and the user and that’s 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 Kirk’s very beautiful statement, ‘don’t mistake the tools for the purpose.’ And it’s 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 wasn’t 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 don’t just throw it away and say it’s a mistake, you actually look at it more closely and try and find out the inherent aesthetic beauty in it.

Honor - We’ve 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. We’re interested in how to make these things part of the actual output rather than covering up for them. And that’s something that not many people do with streaming, because they’re used to working in a way that’s about creating a high quality hi-fi output, but we’ve 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 don’t give a fuck who’s 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>

pHonic: <http://www.radioqualia.net/phonic/>

eQ: <http://www.radioqualia.net/eq/>

The frequency clock: <http://www.frequencyclock.net>

The Xchange network: <http://xchange.re-lab.net/>

Kunstradio: <http://www.kunstradio.at>

Ars Electronica: <http://www.aec.at>

Ljudmila: <http://www.ljudmila.org/>

Backspace: <http://www.backspace.org/>

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/>















Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room