unnamed6I was using six watts when you Received me, by Maddie Leach and Jem Noble, for radio one 91 FM

radia season 33, show #493 (radio one 91FM. dunedin, new zealand), playing from september 8 to september 14, 2014.

I was using six watts when you Received me

by Maddie Leach and Jem Noble

a project commissioned by the SCAPE 7 Public Art Biennial Christchurch (27 September – 9 November 2013)

this edit for radia reframes a small portion of audio material from the original project.

From a small Nissan Civilian bus in the wide open fields of Christchurch’s Hagley Park, at scheduled but irregular times, ham radio operators from the Christchurch Amateur Radio Club attempted to contact the International Space Station as it orbited above the city. I was using six watts when you Received me had the radio call sign ZL3ISS, its own QSL card, and transmitted on 107.1 FM for local ground-based audiences. Leach and Noble worked with material held by the National Sound Archive Ngā Taonga Kōrero to assemble 34 audio tracks sourced from historical recordings made in buildings and public spaces now lost or transformed in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes. Each track is framed with their own distinctive interval signal composed from recordings of the Christchurch Cathedral bells.

I was using six watts when you Received me operated as a searching attempt to recall a sense of place and to connect to an ‘elsewhere’ beyond the current geographic and social conditions of the post-quake city. The ISS contact sessions and local broadcasts were overlaid to produce intriguing new sonic artefacts that were subsequently acquistioned to the Sound Archives collection. The project traversed aspects of the everyday and the extraordinary to include recordings of dog walkers, street kids, local police, port workers and community events to the opening ceremony of the 1974 Commonwealth Games, the Queen’s visit in 1953 and a live recording of the February 22 earthquake in 2011.

“Listening to two different generations of radio voices, punctuated by the bells and the blips of the transmission, I start to draw a diagram that connects the widely disparate geographical elements of the work: the National Sound Archive on Cashel Street,[i] the temporary encampment in Hagley Park, and the uncharted vacuum of outer space. At the centre of the diagram, and of the sculpture project, sits the van and transmitter: a purposeful, itinerant monument, inhabited by amateur radio operators. Surrounding it in a circle is the public park, bisected by lines of visitors to the van, and overlaid with the archival radio broadcast — a series of dotted lines — and arcing upwards is the line of radio waves which reach the ISS and the astronauts and continue beyond, off the page and perhaps forever. Enveloping the whole is the Twitter feed associated with the project’[ii]; I draw a kind of cloud, thick with zigzags. It makes a clean equation on paper, completely dematerialised and spanning a vast stretch of space, and sits cleanly with Leach and Noble’s stated desire not to add more stuff to a cluttered and broken post-quake city.

Largely immaterial, the work is held together by a sculptural logic which relies on displacement: the tenuous possibility of making a real connection to somewhere else — somewhere as distant as the past, or outer space —and the currency of sound as a vehicle for collective recall, and anticipation. It is both preposterously expectant and resolutely conceptual. Maybe, maybe there will be an affirmative reply to one of the call signs issued. A small community of believers arrive intermittently at the van in time for scheduled passes, but it’s not a response they come for. Rather it’s to listen to the still-present voices of a Christchurch that was, and to be part of a transaction with the farthest reach of inhabited space. They come to listen to the radio. They come to remember what it’s like to get lost.”

- Abby Cunnane – catalogue essay for SCAPE 7 Public Art Biennial Christchurch, 2013.