“I always see everything as an opportunity,” says Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Leckey. “I’m always looking for a way to produce, and this is another example.” Leckey refers to the monthly radio show he produces for London station NTS, in which he has performed everything from digicore pioneers David Shawty and Yungster Jack to the progressive rock epic of Deep Purple. Child in time to his own recording on the grounds of a silent disco.
There is something that I try to capture in this music that I then cultivate in what I do
Mark Leckey, artist
Leckey has been performing since 2016, and it represents another area of activity for an artist known for the diversity of his work, which includes film, video, collage, music, audio and more. Leckey says that originally he just wanted to play his favorite music and then move on to “more ambitious ideas, like stories or lectures.” But eventually, when he went through his own record collection, he began to engage in more contemporary and current music. “At the time, I had the impression that the music was completely exhausted, that there was no more futurism in it,” he says. “When I had to dig deeper, I realized that there were loads of people doing very experimental, forward-looking music. It really got me back on track.
For Leckey, the radio show seemed like another form of collage he found inspiring. “The most interesting thing about it is how much it changed my mind,” he says. Every two months, he invites a guest – another artist or a group of students – and tried out more elaborate concepts: a one-hour show made up of different versions of the song. Easy to be hard musical Hair. “There is something that I hear in the music that I want in my job,” he says. “There’s something that I listen to, something that I try to capture in this music that I then cultivate in what I do.”
Ed Baxter, Co-Founder, Managing Director and Programming Director of Resonance FM, points out that unlike, say, film and video, there has been virtually no tradition of radio experimentation in the Kingdom. -United. “When we started Resonance in 1998, it was zero point,” he says. “Hardly anyone knew what he was doing, but everyone had something they thought they could do. It was kind of a punk attitude: everyone has a radio show in themselves.
In the years that followed, Resonance found a large following for its extremely varied activity, from walking tours of Caroline Kraabel with saxophone and stroller to sound art montages by Bob and Roberta Smith to 48-hour live broadcasts with the Resonance Radio Orchestra that Baxter developed with Chris Weaver. “Access is the key,” says Baxter. “At the input level, it’s a very simple operation: pull a fader and make some noise. Everything else is nuance.
Live radio also appears to have appealed to a younger generation of artists. Norwich-based writer and curator Jonathan P. Watts has spent confinement streaming on the Twitch gaming platform and inviting friends and collaborators to create their own shows. Like Leckey’s shows, Watts’ lineup revolved around music, but Twitch’s ability to host live chat and incorporate visuals gave it an extra dimension. “People love radio because it’s intimate,” Watts says. “But this space on Twitch is a different proposition. He’s opening it up.” Watts mentions other show organizers, such as artist Liv Preston, who performed under the moniker Spacetooth and incorporated a live-play element into her show, and musician / DJ Geiger, an NHS nurse who created a radio show for the fictional East Brantwich Hospital.
In addition to the content of the show, Watts says building a community was vital. “I’ve worked in spaces run by artists who have autonomy outside of institutions, and I’m really interested in how you bring people together. People mingled in this space who would never mingle in a gallery, including my grandmother. It was about producing something during a difficult and isolated time, about creating a community. And then, above all, we had a physical festival. Watts cites the effect of the Boiler Room live streaming music platform. “Live streaming is great, but the most important thing is when people meet in physical space and interact. “
Baxter, meanwhile, prefers to focus on being as innovative as possible with “sound art”; he doesn’t have much time, he says, for the “repackaging” he sees in most of the digital age arts. He speaks approvingly of other radical radio pieces, such as a show with mountaineer Jim Perrin, who spoke about the sounds of another climber climbing up a cliff with an open cell phone, or the work of Christof Migone, who has used the radio as a receiver rather than a transmitter. “People have to call for something to happen,” he said. “There’s a lot of dead air, but it’s provocative in the art.”
One gets the impression, as far as Baxter is concerned, that the radio is only just beginning to scratch the surface. “It’s a post-expressionist arena,” he says. “If you think about [Robert] Rauschenberg, his big Monogram piece has all types of visual media in there. You can do the same with the radio: music, phone call, drama, return noise. You can bring them all into some kind of balance. It is this potentiality where it becomes exciting.