APRIL 2019


Variable Frequencies

Variable Frequencies is a project investigating process and interaction. Building on the technology of radio to consider reflexive actions, Variable Frequencies explores sonic, social and political implications of transmission. Through a unification of physical and ephemeral states, fixed elements are encouraged to evolve into relational systems. Considering the ways in which installation art can derive interactivity from participation, the project addresses the interdependent nature of ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ in several ways. 

Sound demands attention and rewards devotion. Similarly, sonic actions generate a wide range of emotions. If considered in relation to time and space, foundational couplings emerge. For example, loud sounds appear powerful in large, or reverberant spaces. Soft sounds achieve greater intimacy in small, or delicate spaces. Listening or simply ‘hearing’ sounds for longer durations creates altered modes of perception, and deeper engagement with physicality. From an installation art perspective, if sound, vision, time, and space can impact listeners, in what way can the presence of a listener redefine an environment?

Variable Frequencies exploits the potential of sympathetic resonance and dissonance through creative notions of agonism. Using an extended length of copper wire, a sculptural form is constructed within a space. A custom-built radio transmitter is attached to the wire sculpture, allowing it to function as a radio antenna. The structure can broadcast sound across a fifteen metre radius. This transmission is received by a series of portable radios tuned into the broadcast. Sound is thus distributed spatially within the confines of the installation. Nearby bodies—knowing and unknowing participants—theoretically have the potential to alter the effectiveness of the transmission and reception, introducing bursts of noise, and intermittent connections to commercial radio stations.

On the one hand, this interference occurs since the radio transmitter—an influential DIY design by Japanese media artist Tetsuo Kogawa—is relatively unstable. On the other hand, almost all analog radio receivers are highly sensitive to environment. Aside from bodies, variables like nearby objects, time of day, location within a space, or geography of site, can all cause fluctuations in reception or transmission. In part, these reactive tendencies can be explained through capacitance. This term describes the means by which small amounts of electricity are transferred between sources. Commonly occurring with direct electrical connections (physical contact with circuits), it can also exist wirelessly. For radio, either circumstance results in the inability of devices to accurately tune into, or distribute broadcast sources.

However, these occurrences also align with a post-Deleuzian interpretation of affect as a form of interaction more complex and involved than effect. While attempting to elicit control over radio waves, the multiplicity of actions and reactions constitutes a rhizomatic structure. That is to say, within the system, everything is interconnected. Affect mobilizes as a form of omnidirectional influence. Visible interventions and invisible mechanisms work together to consider material and conceptual perspectives. Noise appears and disappears, defining change through constant emergence. Sites and bodies becomes performative and responsive elements. Interstitial zones connect aware and unaware agents of change. Interference between signals is inevitable. In particular, these enhancements of affective relations between bodies and radio waves reveals a duality of intention and interaction. Through this, observers become participants, and passive viewing or listening is guided towards immersion in time, space, and transmission.