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CAST AND FIGMENT, 2011
CAST AND FIGMENT, 2011

CAST AND FIGMENT, 2011

(group exhibition)
exhibition website

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'Nothing more, we are nothing more of the today of which we are a part. No, we need something more. A call from the future hurtling towards the past and back, picked up on antennae and shot through the city. The air gets thick, so I can feel it, then it gets thicker, so I can’t breathe it. Oohs and Aahs'

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An apparatus, whose technical peculiarity simply consists in enabling sounds made at a particular spot to be simultaneously reproduced in as many and as far removed places as one wishes by disrespectfully breaking through boundaries of class and country, signifies a spiritual event of primary importance. (1)

It is considered unquestionable that technique and science undermine superstition. But the class character of society sets substantial limits here too. Take America. There, Church sermons are broadcast by radio, which means that the radio is serving as a means of spreading prejudices. Such things don’t happen here, I think – the Society of Friends of Radio watch over this, I hope? (Laughter and applause) Under the socialist system science and technique as a whole will undoubtedly be directed against religious prejudices, against superstition, which reflects the weakness of man before man or before nature. What, indeed, does a “voice from heaven” amount to when there is being broadcast all over the country a voice from the Polytechnical Museum? (Laughter) (2)

Radio’s specificity, as a broadcast medium, is that it presents speech without a speaking body. This is also radio’s power: without a body to circumscribe it, the voice becomes omnipresent, the acousmatic voice of ‘the invisible master’. Therein lies its potential to effect belief and behaviour – be it the collective and utopian (e.g. Trotsky’s address to the Society of Friends of Radio) or catastrophic (e.g. Rwanda’s RTLM) – or to mediate social trauma (e.g. the broadcast trial of Adolf Eichmann). Meanwhile, at the level of experience, radio’s ‘visual lack’ seems to force an imaginary re-embodiment, a kind of vision, on the listener. In this way radio brings the borders between social and mental space into question, what Marshall McLuhan saw as its atavistic power ‘to turn the psyche and society into a single echo chamber’.

Cast and Figment examines these forces and visions, coercions and revelations through a series of live broadcasts by artists and writers: lectures, readings and re-enacted excerpts from the history of radiophany that performatively engage with its aesthetic, political and ontological implications.

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(1) Rudolf Arnheim, Radio: an Art of Sound, 1936

(2) Leon Trotsky, Radio, Science, Technique and Society, 1926
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