Interview with Juan Duarte, Jon Irigoyen and Mikko Lipiäinen the creators of Parasite Radio, an international effort of producing streaming radio content including soundscapes and sonic experiments. The experiment presents collaborative alterations in the radio mediums to enable telematic appropriations of the Signals between the North and the South. The project has been running during 2017 and it will be published at the MUU Gallery, Lönnrotinkatu 33, Helsinki during the Pixelache Festival 2017.
What was the impetus or spark that led you to conceive such a project as Parasite Radio? Why is it parasitical and why not symbiotic or participative? Can you tell us about the concept? How does it work?
Parasite Radio is taking an artistic appropriation of the obsolete radio medium. Our approach to the media is Parasitic because we are abusing an existing communication platform: As Niebisch, describes as Media Parasites, our project aims to irritate, and disrupt existing media technologies, through artistic methods. Our interest is to experimentally approach the radio as a medium with potential to be used beyond its former purpose of communication channel. Nowadays FM or AM is being replaced by internet streaming and archiving. Thus, we experiment with radio for telematic interactions between the environment, radio signals and soundscape recordings. Moreover, organizing Parasite Radio requires a symbiotic or mutualist approach, in which we aim to create a resonance from the contents of two parallel festivals happening in the Nordic and southern contexts: Pixelache and Transitio MX.
Is this purely an experimental project with participatory soundscapes between northern and southern geographic regions or does it have any ulterior motives about the social, community and inter-regional dialogue? In other words, do you have a political and social, even an environmental agenda in this project?
Somehow both agendas are included in Parasite Radio, on one hand the telematic experimentation of bringing together the nordic and southern soundscapes into a feedback loop transmissions to generate new sonic materials. But also the organizations that are involved, including the festivals Pixelache and Transitio are currently in a process of decentralization in which the experimentation of media and appropriation, is in itself a way to form an identity and to develop methods of artistic production. Clearly the nature of both Internet and FM radio has a feature of community development, in which agents are articulated to create dynamics for social transformations: it is still undefined in which way this transformations evolve over the course of the project.
The Radio is dead, long live the Radio. Why do you think in this age of Youtube, Spotify and Netflix, Parasite Radio makes a difference? What is new, what is fresh, what is it that is dying and what is it that you are trying to save? What is the problem?
Online streaming is becoming a more cryptic and black box technology, the radio offers an approach to low powered and self made technology, which does not require the larger material infrastructure of an Internet service. The ease of creating a FM radio transmission is under valued and might offer a potential to resist the centralization of digital archiving, and the collateral resource impact produced from server storage and operation. Moreover the scope of Parasite Radio is to continue as a community forming activity where is possible to learn and develop innovative technologies around radio transmission and reception.
How does Parasite Radio fit into the format of the festival? How does it enhance the festival? Would there be other venues and formats more appropriate for Parasite Radio?
For the Pixelache festival 2017, Parasite Radio is featured as a stream via Korppiradio that is coupled with the radio stream of Transitio MX Festival in Mexico City. It is relevant to bring together this two mixed and geographical distant communities into collaboration to support our efforts on medium explorations, generative soundscape production and environmental sensing actions. Also, we have a radio installation placed in MUU Gallery, to listen the stream via an Aeolian Artefact: in order to generate soundscapes that are combined with archives from both hemispheres. For sure this setup is one of the multiple possibilities that the project brings into materialization. In future iterations, outside of the festival, the project plans to run workshops and other open air radio installations.
It is incredibly interesting to hear that you will stream sound archives combined with including perhaps live acts through Parasite Radio? In general, how will the curatorial process work? Who does the selections, based on what themes and aims? How do you divide the tasks?
Since it is the first time we run this project we are dividing the work of organizational and curatorial tasks (Jon & Mikko), and technological and design (Juan). Our experience in undertaking projects in Pixelache and Sonic Experimentation gives us the necessary orientation needed to pick up materials that can be interesting for the project content.
Does your project address the theme of digital memory in some way? How do you think Parasite Radio affects the collection, conservation and transmission of sound memory and heritage?
The archiving aspect of Parasite Radio still relies on digital methods of preservation and curation, and the opportunity to launch the project in Pixelache Festival is important to obtain a register of a unique telematic experiment between two artistic organizations spread across the northern and southern hemisphere. The ephemeral quality of transmission and reception is critical to the project on how the resonance (sonically and conceptually) of both festivals will transcend their physical space, during the moment of overlapping schedules.
What do you expect to happen in the aftermath of Parasite Radio? Do you have plans to keep this continuing in some form and format? What do you expect could develop further and improve? Is there a scope for a permanent Parasite Radio?
We intend to produce more collaborations between and among our Pixelache networks with other organizations in the southern part of the globe, who are interested to experiment with radio technologies and telematic interactions. We also expect further development and research on methods to engage artistic practice and technological appropriations by decentralized organizations.
Samir Bhowmik is an architect, media artist and post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Musicology and Media Studies (Humboldt University-Berlin) and Media Lab Helsinki (Aalto University) supported by the Finnish Cultural Foundation.
Picture "Transmitter" by Parasite Radio.