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– Walker & Bromwich discuss Celestial Radio

Posted on March 19, 2012 in Artist and curator Interviews. View Comments

Kelly Stone (MCA Public Relations Manager) interviews Zoe Walker & Neil Bromwich.

Could you start by telling us a bit about yourselves. Are you sailors? Are you radio DJs? Artists? And how long have you been working together?

We are UK-based artists who started working together in 1999 on a video/ performance work in the central desert of Australia. Interestingly, this is the first time we have returned to Australia since then, to create again.

We are very interested in music and popular culture as well as the natural environment. Through our artistic practice, we are interested in art’s potential to act as a catalyst for social transformation. We use our work as a practical and aesthetic tool to change the way we think about the world we inhabit.

We had always used music within video works and it was a natural progression to use it within a sculptural object such as the boat. We DJ a bit but the sound works we make for Celestial Radio are unique and made in collaboration with local musicians.

We began learning to sail when we started the Celestial Radio project in 2004 and have been improving our sailing skills ever since.

If Celestial Radio is the name of the performance, what is the boat’s name?

Celestra

Is Celestial Radio an artwork? A performance? Both?

It is an artwork, a radio station, a performance and a participatory work. You can think about it as an installation, outside in the environment. It is an artwork that has slipped over in to real life. It has a life of its own and has appeared on off-shore radio sites, unbeknown to us. We have often appeared in one coastal town in England for example and sea-faring folk will know the boat from a port in Scotland; it’s quite amazing. The project was inspired by the maverick spirit of off-shore pirate radio from the 1960s and 70s. It aims to re-ignite this spirit of pushing the boundaries of society in order to transform the way people think about the world they inhabit.

We want to create a space where people can re-imagine the world they inhabit while embodying the spirit of the 60s and 70s pirate radio which, in its heyday, strove to change co-ordinates of society. We aim to allow people the time and space that they may not ordinarily have in their busy lives to contemplate the world around them, while absorbing the ideas that the work encompasses.

Why a boat covered in mirror tiles?

The mirrors reflect the surroundings. On sunny days, the boat dazzles and can be seen from miles around. On gloomy days, it reflects the landscape and vanishes into it. The mirrors also act as a kind of portal between two worlds. The mirrors, mixed with sound, open up all kinds of realities.

One of the project’s influences was Jean Cocteau’s film Orphee. At the beginning of the film, set during the war, someone tunes a radio dial in a car and hears the dead. The sequence is reminiscent of the fact that, during the war, surrealist poetry was used to transmit code to the British secret service or German OSS. There is this other amazing scene when Orphee pushes his hand through a mirror into another world. It is a very simple visual effect created with water.

How did you get the boat to Sydney?

We re-made it here. The Celestra is now a sister ship to the Celeste. We are starting to have a flotilla, and it kind of looks like a constellation of stars.

And where is the boat currently?

At Carriageworks, the Performance Space headquarters. Our crew has been busy tiling it.

Why Sydney?

Sydney has such an amazing Harbour. It is just unique for the variety and bio-diversity of the marine life. Did you know that there are over 550 species of fish in Sydney Harbour, compared to 350 in the whole of Northern Europe.

Where is the boat moored? Can people visit you on board?

People can only look at the boat as it’s a sculptural object but we do come right up to the Commissioners steps twice a day. The schedule goes as follows:

10.00am – 11am Moored in Campbell’s Cove
11.30am – Midday Sailing to the Commissioner’s Steps adjacent to the MCA
Midday – 1.30pm Sailing around the harbour – look out for her!
1.30pm – 3.30pm Dropping anchor at Farm Cove near the Botanical Gardens
3.30pm – 4.30pm Sailing around the harbour
4.30pm – 5.00pm Sailing to the Commissioner’s Steps
Special Times near MCA: Every Thursday
Moored at the Commissioner’s Steps from 4.30pm – 8.00pm
Localised radio broadcast bandwidth: 95.9FM

How can MCA visitors pick up your radio frequency?

Visitors can collect portable FM radios, headphones and walking maps from the Celestial Radio booth outside the MCA and enter the undersea
world of the Harbour in the unique one-hour broadcast _Phosphorescence
Song_ . This sound work is a collaboration with a brilliant Sydney-based musician, James Brown. We first heard his work in November and really wanted to work with him, It’s quite ambient-psychedelic and felt right for the electronic underwater world we wanted to create. Only after contacting him did we discover he is also a diver.

And when do you broadcast? All day and night?

We run 24 hours a day but the boat is only visible from 10 am to 5 pm during the MCA opening times, Keep your eye out for the light flashing from the Celestra at 12 noon as she leaves the Commissioner steps outside the MCA and sails around between the Opera and Harbour Bridge.

What can listeners expect to hear?

A unique one-hour long sonic work which mixes conversations with marine scientists and experts, with a specially constructed sound track which takes you on a journey beneath the surface of the water. There are conversations about decorator crabs, red tides, sea worms, pineapple fish, sharks, aboriginal women folk fishing techniques, to reflect the health and biodiversity of the Harbour.

How long are you staying in Sydney?

Till 4 April 2012.

Where are you based here?

Artspace.

Kelly Stone, Public Relations Manager

Celestial Radio is part of Local Positioning Systems curated by Performance Space. It runs from 29 March to 15 April 2012.

Visit Walker & Bromwich’s website.

Visit the Performance Space website.

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