Radio-location in Aotearoa/New Zealand


Session Title:

  • Mediating the Urban

Presentation Title:

  • Radio-location in Aotearoa/New Zealand




  • Artists who use radio technologies work simultaneously in physical space and in the space of the radio waves they receive and transmit. The density and type of radio waves in a particular physical location is determined by a range of factors, including its relative remoteness or urbanness, whether it is outdoors or buffered by concrete walls, the number of transmissions that traverse it, and the sources of those transmissions. The kinds of radio signals available for use by an artist are therefore highly specific to a physical location, and create an extremely variable sense of radio-location. The location specificity of radio waves is not simply a matter of content, however. The presence, frequencies, and accessibility of the radio waves that carry broadcast and communications content is shaped in turn by specifics of regulation, commercial and government radio activity, and technical availability. Artists who use radio technologies are therefore located simultaneously in physical space and in a fluid radio space that is influenced by particular relations of power, systems of regulation, and patterns of use, and by the diverse range of cultural influences that manifest in content. This paper will discuss a number of media artists who engage with radio waves in Aotearoa/New Zealand to create work that is highly location aware, both in content and in the extended networks of radio space. The artists discussed include experimental musicians Adam Willetts, Bruce Russell, and Peter Stapleton, who use radio waves as sound sources, and the ‘Friendly Road Radio’ broadcasts by Daniel Malone, Kah Bee Chow and the Long March Project, which claimed a highly location specific presence in the radio space of downtown Auckland. The paper will discuss ways in which these artists use radio technologies to mediate the specificities of a dual location in physical and radio spaces.