Time signals and radio taxis are some of the discreet expressions of radio that have disappeared from our everyday soundscape, with us barely registering when or why they have ceased to be broadcast. The internet and, more recently, digital audio broadcasting (DAB), are changing radio as we knew it. As a result, we are unconsciously forsaking its poetry: the artefacts, interferences, geographies, the instability, the fleetingness and other nuances.
Norwegian artist Maia Urstad works at the intersection of audio and visual art, with a particular fascination for the conncetions between technology and communication. Her work explores devices that are on the way to becoming obsolete – such as Morse code and two-way radio taxis – as well as others that are thriving, like optic fibre. Radio, of course, has a leading role at this crossroads.
And it does so in the form of sound installations, concerts, theatre, and elaborate performances. In the course of her explorations, Maia Urstad has worked with the Deutsche Welle radio archive, choreographed motor bikers and dancers, reinstated a forgotten meridian, lived alongside a Focke Wulf fighter aircraft, and recorded the taxis of Buenos Aires. And she has even used portable radio sets simultaneously as building blocks and loudspeakers, in her sound sculptures.
In this podcast we talk to Maia Urstad about nostalgia, time pips, AM, FM and DAB, about the importance of ska, about arches and obelisks, sounds in the fjord, and time capsules, about program 81, freq_out, and foghorns, and about local radio stations and lost tapes.
05:27 No definition for sound art
07:31 Working with space
08:34 Bergen, theater and ska
12:46 Weaving with a 4-track recorder
15:03 The tuner
17:17 Broadcast and signal as time capsules
19:37 Time pips and other endangered species
20:56 'Radio Taxi Buenos Aires'
26:49 The poetry of interference
30:44 Deutsche Welle and the history of broadcasting
33:21 'Yellow 16'
36:05 'The Return of the Prime Meridian'
44:40 Radio and installations
47:46 'Stations' at Bergenhus Fortress
50:56 Obelisks and boomboxes: performing 'Cleopatra’s Needles'
55:14 'Sound barrier': radios as construction material
59:31 Choreography and radio concerts
01:02:01 Fibre Optics
01:27 Maia Urstad, “Meanwhile in Shanghai…” (installation), 2011
07:21 Sissel Lillebostad and Maia Urstad, “Vivat! 2”, 1994
12:37 Maia Urstad, “Neblina”, 1985
15:53 Maia Urstad, “Ether”, 1998
20:56 Maia Urstad, “Rush Hour Drive – recordings from Buenos Aires’ Taxi Radios” (installation), 2016
30:20 Maia Urstad, Excerpt from the outer layer of the “Stations” installation at Bergenhus Festning, 1999
33:09 Maia Urstad, “Yellow 16 / Gul 16” (permanent installation), 2010
37:55 Maia Urstad, “The Return of the Prime Meridian”, 2016
47:19 Maia Urstad, “Ether”, 1998
48:56 Maia Urstad, Excerpt from the outer layer of the “Stations” installation at Bergenhus Festning, 1999
49:47 Maia Urstad, “Sound Barrier” (installation), 2004-
52:50 Maia Urstad, “Cleopatra’s needles” (performance), 2000
56:50 Maia Urstad, “Sound Barrier” (installation), 2004-
01:00:47 Hilde Hauan Johnsen and Maia Urstad, “Fibre optic sound installations”, 2008
01:07:50 FREQ_OUT 8, Moderna Museet Stockholm (excerpt), 2012
01:14:04 FREQ_OUT 8, Moderna Museet Stockholm (excerpt), 2012