Radioart - media arts of today

Every medium in the broadest sense of the word has spent centuries within the contemporary European art world building its tools of expression, its codes, its creative approaches to communication, and its genre-specific, aesthetic and socio-cultural orientation - all of which are defined by the specific nature of each individual medium. Gregorian chants filled medieval cathedrals and monasteries with their prayer. Chamber ensembles and symphony orchestras turned the audible sound spectrum into music, thus creating the socio-cultural ritual of concerts. Photography stopped time, did away with Benjamin's proverbial aura of the "here and now," and sowed the seeds of doubt regarding the existence of an original work of art. And radio eliminated the ancient concept of the ether as a physical space, replacing it - for quite some time, it would seem - with the concept of the information ether.

Although even the earliest visions of radio as a medium were closely aligned with the idea of two-way communication, these visions would not be fulfilled until the advent of the internet, which continues to infiltrate both radio and television and to offer new modes of communication and new interactive "tools," i.e. new ways of participating in the creation, organization, distribution and perception of the global information flow. 

Every medium is a challenge to invent new - less complex and more complex, progressive or not - ways of using them. In the 1920s, radio was established primarily as a reporting medium. Very soon, however, the broad potential of radio resonated with a multitude of artistic approaches and important personages of the time (Weil, Brecht, the Italian futurists, Sala, Hindemith, Cage, etc.), intrinsically contributing to the formation, birth, and distribution of many key artistic works in the field of the emerging musical and audio avant-garde, electroacoustic music, and experimental forms of theater. 

It did not take much time for artists to realize that radio offered entirely unique conditions for working with sound, stripped as it was of the image or movements of the musician or the gestures of the actor, i.e. of any conscious semantic ties to the sounds and their source. In the emerging artistic approaches to radio art, radio was increasingly shaped as an intersubjective medium inviting the listener to participate in a kind of new audio game which helped to create an entirely new acoustic space (or parallel spaces), with all its audio meanings, newly emerging acoustic and semantic contexts, various modes of listening and "listening into," and offering the possibility of participating in a peculiar kind of "interaction in the ether," with the listener's aural mind spontaneously giving rise to different individual stories. 

After several decades of existence, art made systematically for radio has developed an entire range of more or less fixed, standardized, traditional forms - radio plays, radio documentaries, artistic reportage, etc. Using different means in different countries, what today is frequently labeled "radio art" aims to explore the space beyond all that which is standardized, fixed in place, clear and obvious. Radio art tries to discover new tools of expression, new forms of engaging in so-called "interactive acoustic communication," all the while testing their worthiness and their applicability in standardized media production. As with every area of human activity, radio art thus emerges from the proverbial ghetto of the laboratory and represents as an indispensable breeding ground, offering new inspiration to future generations of artists. 

Using the public radio space offered by Czech Radio and in collaboration with other radio stations throughout the world, Radioateliér - and in particular Radioateliér's PremEdice - aims to be such a breeding ground, thus contributing to the creation of a kind of evaluation field where, with time, we will be able to assess the impact which domestic and foreign artists have had and will continue to have on Czech culture. 

michal rataj 

Autor:  Michal Rataj_E

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