Radio Tower Xchange (RTX)

Adam Hyde writes: Radio Tower Xchange (RTX) is a networked performance event, a DVD, and collaborative installation. At the same time, the RTX is also a closing activity of the “WAVES project, and it will be coordinated by the RIXC and co-organisers, and sound artists from all over the Europe and the globe.

RTX is intended as an global networked event using experimental networked performances from Xchange (global network) artists located at Radio Towers around the world. The aim is to have each Xchange representative streaming from a Radio Tower in their city.

As well as being architecturally significant, Radio Towers have played a remarkable role in history and a valuable role in the evolution of radio science since the beginning of last century.

However with the recent developments in wireless internet technologies these towers that were sites exclusively used for government and commerical broadcasts, are now largely symbols of frequency commodification. The stately towers and masts now are encircled by a multitude of self-organising public wifi networks. Thousands of wireless routers form chaotic meshs of public radio space around these huge broadcast icons similar to how rambling city markets surround the towering commerical buildings in many cities of the world. In these places public broadcasting takes on a new meaning, it is the public that broadcasts, nota broadcast provided FOR the public. Regulated broadcasts are monolithic, like the towers built to support them which require huge amounts of resources to sustain and generations to change. Unregulated space, the new public broadcast space, is infectous, it finds new ways to communicate new things, and broadcasting is becoming a behaviour which is daily and inevitable. Transmitting, is becoming part of the fabric of urban existence, it is perhaps now a more common practice to many than receiving…

In these unregulated spaces Xchange has been provoking cultural, artistic and theoretical practice and discourse since the advent of streaming media in the mid 90’s. Xchange reflected the new approach to collaborative, autonomous ad-hoc broadcasting. Network broadcasts were common place for the first years of Xchange, with each node in the network contributing to a online cacophony where no single node could be distinguished in the mix from another. Ownership was impossible to maintain and hence forgotten. Participation became the goal. The sharing of transmissions was more exciting than the simultaneous reception of the same transmission. The doors to the broadcast towers were not forced open by these pioneers but ignored, and the landmark symbols of one-to-many broadcasting was replaced by rambling a network of many-to-many net.casters.

RTX is both a homage and a criticque of the broadcasting philosophies and histories these towers represent, and an investigation into the evolving practice of unregulated online broadcasting.

The Eiffel Tower, in Paris France, home of the Xchange group TNC, has been used for radio transmission for over 100 years. For the first 50 years of last century long wave antennas ran from the top of the tower to the Champ de Mars. In 1909 the tower was to be demolished but was saved because of its role as a radio antenna. The Eiffel tower is also the first place that cosmic rays were detected in 1910 by Father Theodor Wulf. In 1920 radio pioneer Lee De Forest started broadcasting music using the tower as an antenna from Paris to America to demonstrate his belief that radio was the new media for entertainment in the 20th century. During WW2 the French cut the elevator cables to the tower so that Hitler would have to walk the nearly 2000 steps to the summit.

Berlin, home of well known Xchange practitioners Bootlab, and, is also the home of many remarkable transmission towers including the European Unions highest structure – the Fernsehturm in Alexsanderplatz. The tower was built in the 60s by the reigning Socialist powers. Berlin also houses the Funkturm Berlin tower, which (in 1935) was the site where the first ever regular television broadcasts began.

Rigas “radio un televizijas tornis” (Radio and Television Tower) is the second highest radio tower on Europe, and Riga is of course the home of the Xchange founders RIXC. Perhaps more famously The RT32 parabolic antenna is located close to Riga and is where the Acoustic Space Lab experiments of 2000 occurred.

Budapest, where early Xchange contributers Pararadio are still located, is also where you will find the Radio tower of Lakihegy, which was the worlds tallest structure when it was built in 1933. At 314 metres it is probably the worlds largest inactive monument to radio.

Fakeshop (New York) contributed to the Xchange network from the beginning and was one of the few that also experimented with New York has many famous radio towers including of course the Empire State building, and Wardenclyffe on Long Island where Tesla wanted to build his “Radio City”.

Centerpoint Tower is Sydney’s tallest structure, and it is here we envision the House of Laudanum would contribute. The tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere is the Sky Tower, which is used to house many major radio and television transmitters for New Zealand (where radioqualia originate).

These towers are examples of some of the places Xchange participants will site themselves to participate in the RTX performance. Although the participants will use spaces like the Sky Tower, Wardenclyffe, and the radio tower of Lakihegy as a physical platforms for their performances, the carrier medium for their broadcasts will be the many pervasive public wireless networks than radiate through and around these towers.