Listener's Voice

By Raimundas Malasauskas, 28 November 2002

It is unlikely that Martians would invade Earth, especially now that radio no longer accommodates an Orson Welleslike grand concept that could make millions of Americans wrap their heads in wet towels to protect themselves from alien gas (War of the Worlds, 30 October 1938). Yet still, a Mars attack is probably more likely than the invasion of public space into the corporate media world. Therefore, not surprisingly, Listener’s Voice – a radio station that envisions a highly liquid public sphere – takes place in the default public enclaves of public radio and the Kunsthalle.

You could find Listener’s Voice simply by moving up and down the FM scale. It’s a radio station for listeners’ calls, operated by an Automatic Moderator. When no calls comes in, the Automatic Moderator switches over to wave search. In this case you’ll hear whatever the Moderator finds within your area. Listener’s Voice broadcasts on alternating frequencies that have been bought by other stations but are not currently in use.

The whole enterprise has been designed by Eran Schaerf (born in Tel Aviv, lives in Berlin, ‘a thinker in the role of an artist’ says Lucy E. Smith), whose intermedium journeys range from written word, fashion, videos (together with Eva Meyer) through to radio plays and emails. Complex relationships between micro and macro come into the focus of fictional cognitive models conceived by the artist.

Two programs assist the Automatic Moderator on Listeners’ Voice, the Register and the Index, and both can be activated by any contributor. The Register contains data such as names of persons, places, wars, newspapers, and scenarios. Occasionally, the Register interrupts the transmission by stating something random, or it adds alternatives to the data you mentioned, or informs you about further usages of Listener’s Voice. The Index is programmed to recognise repetitions or combinations of words. If it recognises such repetitions as an attempt on your part to program a discussion, it retransmits the words repeated and recommences this announcement. Immediately afterwards, Listener’s Voice changes frequency.

If we take Eric Kluitenberg’s ideas about sovereign, automated and intimate media, mix them and plunge them into electromagnetic radio frequencies, we get closer to the idea of Listener’s Voice as a TAZ, made possible by the Member Club of Visa Cardholders and the Guest Workers’ Society for Visa Applicants. The programme was chosen as March’s ‘radio play of the month’ by the German Academy for the Performing Arts, Frankfurt a.M., and is currently being presented at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein and the Bonner Kunstverein.

Lest we forget, Listener’s Voice in its current state as a radio play functions as a proposal for reality in the same way as Constant’s New Babylon. Eran Schaerf himself wrote the majority of the call-ins to the station. With the first sentences impersonating different listeners you are brought on to a stage where Heideggeresque explorations of language meet Eco-ish cinematic sequences of events. One could find oneself travelling through multilayered loops of fiction that consist of real, less real and more real facts. These facts do not seem to culminate or to regress, they just seem to follow each other in multiple exposure. An upgrade is promised soon: Listener’s Voice 2.0. will analyse the scenic qualities in listeners’ calls and assist the listeners in staging their following calls as a part of an on-going play.

Eran Schaerf [] // Neuer Berliner Kunstverein [] Bonner Kunstverein []

Raimundas Malasauskas  <rai AT> lives and works in Vilnius and New York