Waves - material and medium of arts and communications

The exhibition "Waves" is part of a long term research project into analogue and electromagnetic waves. "Waves" uses the process of making an exhibition as a form of practice based research. This research journal entry starts with a new abstract regarding Waves related research, and then introduces the two exhibitions in Riga 2006 and Dortmund 2008. This should be shortly followed by a new summary of the research project. There is also a new waves image gallery and these efforts are all combined by the fact that they use the second Waves exhibition for taking stock of what came from this research so far.

Waves exhibition opening Dortmund 9th of May 2008, Phoenixhalle


The exhibition "Waves" is part of a long term research project which puts analogue and electromagnetic waves into the centre of its investigation. "Waves" uses the process of making an exhibition as a form of practice based research. The overall research aim is to develop a bottom-up, materialistic theory of media art. It is proposed that waves are a very important material of study for the development of a theory of media art, as they are a 'principle material' which every artist who works in the field of media art needs to consider and know about. Waves constitute a material layer without which media art is impossible and whose study therefore is also important for any theoretic effort.

Franz Xaver, RT03, DIY radio telescope tuned into 433 MHz

Both sight and sound are based on waves, so that waves have shaped us humans evolutionary, our senses have developed in a process of adaption to that. Analogue and electromagnetic waves are the basic elements or materials for many artistic practices and social applications, ranging from sound (modulations of air waves which can be receieved by the ear drum), to light (electromagnetic waves in the TerraHertz range) and electromagnetic waves (which exist naturally and manmade).

Electromagnetism is one of the four basic fources in physics. Since roughly 100 years em waves have been used for signal transfers, radio, tv and remote actions such as alarm systems, radar, sensing, and many other things. em waves modulated band processed by analogue devices or computers form now one of the major components of our communications culture (from the mobiler phone to that thing parking attendants use to type in fines). Considering that, in this sequence, human culture has become increasingly electric, electromagnetic, and, based on that, digital, the 'waves' are getting very little attention 'in their own right' which is what this project is addressing.

Waves Riga 2006

Opening night of the Waves Riga exhibition, August 2006

The first Waves exhibition was realised together with the Riga based media art institution RIXC in August 2006. This exhibition coincided with RIXC's 10 year anniversary of their festival Art+Communications.RIXC are a small 'institution' which has quickly established a name for itself on the international media art and net culture scene since the mid 1990ies and has ever since managed to stay on the cutting edge of developments and become known as a place where new ideas are introduced and media and netart can thrive in a well organised yet relaxed environment. Through their engagement with radio art and net radio but also through their 'discovery' of the Irbene radio telescope and its usage as a tool for art making RIXC were ideally predisposed to engage with the Waves concept.RIXC have also issued the Acoustic Space Reader which is published in conjunction with their festival. As active networkers, RIXC

The show under the full title "Waves - electromagnetic waves as material and medium of art" was launched on 24th of August 2004 at Arsenals exhibition centre for contemporary arts in Riga and stayed open till 17th of September 2006. The days after the opening were followed by a two day Symposium and an evening program of film/video screenings and performances. The film/video program was curated by Erwin van't Hart, film curator of De Balie, Amsterdam. Conference and evening program were filled up to capacity with about 200 people and more, the exhibition was seen by app 5000 visitors, more than 1000 alone in the "White Night of Museums", a night when all museums in Riga stay open all night.

Waves Dortmund 2008

Susanne Ackers, managing director, and Inke Arns, artistic director, are jointly managing Hartware Medien Kunst Verein in Dortmund (HMKV, can be translated as Hardware Media Arts Non-commercial Association), Germany, an organisation which for more than 10 years has been creating media art projects in the Ruhr Valley.

Waves@Dortmund 2008 was realised in a collaboration and partnership between HMKV, RIXC and Ars Electronica as part of Szene-Österreich, an event in spring 2008 where Austrian artists were presented in the Ruhr Valley area.

Waves was jointly curated by RIXC artistic directers Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits, Inke Arns and me. Inke Arns is an internationally well known curator and art historian, who came to my attention first when she organised Ostranenjie, a festival with Eastern European video art, in 1993. Arns is co-founder of the Deep Europe project, a contributor to media art net, a web site dedicated to building a substantial resource about media art history and theory, and co-host of the important Spectre mailinglist. She has worked about waves related themes such as the Slovenian artist's Marko Peljhans project Makrolab, the Russian poet and futurist Klebnikov, and, more generally speaking, media and radio art.

Aero Torrents, audio installation by Voldemar Johansons

Waves@HMKV carried the new slogan, "Waves - the art of electromagnetic society". HMKV uses Phoenix-Halle, an industrial monument, built in 1898 as a part of a very large steel production complex. Since the 1980ies the Ruhr valley has been rapidly de-industrialising as a result of which government policy has been to dismantle some structures and convert others into spaces for culture and creative industries. While the government probably sees this as part of "Standortpolitik" (making Dortmund and the neighbouring cities attractive for investment by having an interesting cultural life), it allows HMKV to stage fairly large exhibitions in a wonderful location.

Evamaria Trischak explaining her work 4816

The new slogan emphasises the continuing development of the waves project, which changes with each stage. Dortmund reflects more strongly an engagement with space through the building of the exhibition in Phoenixhalle, using it to give each piece enough space to breath but yet create a meaningful ensemble, a sort of a 3D narration. Within that, artistic concerns, scientific, ecological and political aspects are getting their fair share of attention.

Udo Wid, standing, at the opening of his work "Deceleration Point", a very weak 8 Hertz signal from a solar powered transmitter

Waves in Dortmund ventured also into public space with the works "Deceleration Point" by Udo Wid, and "Field Amplification" by Hive Networks, at the bottom of Dortmund's landmark building the U-tower.

Hive Networks, Field Amplification, opening night, 10th of May 2008