‘Receiver’ brings together four artists who consider sound in relation to innovative technologies, and our understanding of place. It explores Essex’s historic and current relationship with broadcasting pioneering audio technologies, the movement of people and cultures, and the unique soundscapes of its coastline and estuaries. This group exhibition recognises the increasingly vibrant developments within contemporary art practice that uses experimental sound and broadcast, as well as highlighting the renewed importance of these mediums to connect communities in the digital age.
This project builds upon FPG Sounds, an ongoing online programme begun in Autumn 2021 to support the development of original audio works by practitioners based in South Essex. Together these acknowledge Southend’s long and rich history of innovators working across sound and broadcast, from the development of EKCO radio to its alternative music scene. In conjunction with this exhibition, Southend’s Central Museum will celebrate the centenary of EKCO Radio with a collection display opening 24th November 2022 of their original radio and television cabinets, some of which were commissioned from famous architects such as Serge Chermayeff and Wells Coates.
For ‘Receiver’, new commissions by the artists respond to key themes:
Appau Jnr Boayke-Yiadom will create a new installation titled During: Electric Current 2022 where people are welcome to contribute a music track, spoken work, conversation or any form of sound recording they have not heard in a while or are eager to share. All formats are welcome, including Vinyl, CDs, Cassette Tape and MP3s, to bring into the gallery to download. Together these recordings will form a soundscape that updates throughout the exhibition to reflect the breadth of likes and interests of people in Southend-on-Sea. The material shared will generate an ever-growing playlist where each track shared will be added and incorporated into a compilation mix, creating a listening space where visitors can listen back to music or a recording they love, have not heard in a while, or would like to share with others. This playlist will also generate the motion of the moving image work on the monitor. The imagery presented within this new installation is all photographed in Southend by the artist.
This project reflects on how sound reaches us in unexpected ways, alongside its ability to create and change culture. Southend-on-Sea’s rich and widely established sonic history is an example of a place where marginalised voices have created communities and spaces where they can hear themselves and effect the shape of the mainstream music culture in Britain. Boayke-Yiadom works across multimedia installation and performance to create installations with multi-layered references, highlighting cultural collision.
For a new work titled Arcadia, Frazer Merrick will create an audiovisual installation of fairground lights that transmit the sound of field recordings from seaside resorts along the Essex coastline, including Walton, Clacton, and Southend. The audience can interact with this work using a handheld listening device to convert the light back to sound, exploring Merrick’s recordings of cacophonous arcade machines, brash illuminations, and the joyous laughter of people visiting them. Southend has a long history of illumination, and Merrick explored this with recordings made at the recent LuminoCity festival in February 2022, recordings of which were explored in his FPG Sounds commission, Hidden Sounds of Play, an electromagnetic soundscape of Southend’s arcades, rides and illuminations. Merrick is a sound artist who uses field recording, circuit bending and instrument building to create carnivalesque experiences which explore the act of play.
Joe Namy explores the historically connected kinship between radio culture and agriculture in a new installation at Focal Point Gallery and as a public artwork on Southend-on-Sea’s Pier. The project, titled Dub Plants + Estuary Acoustic Radio dips into radio waves first transmitted across the Estuary in 1920, where the first live entertainment broadcast was streamed from Marconi’s Chelmsford workshop. This technology was later pirated in 1944, when one of the earliest works of electronic music was created
using radio technology to dub a transmutated zaar healing ceremony by the visionary composer and creative ethnomusicologist Halim El Dabh in a radio studio in Cairo. Radio waves planting new sounds and dreams for growth and healing.
For ‘Receiver’, Namy expands this idea into an immersive installation containing bamboo plants and sounds for growth and regeneration. Plant biodata is translated into bass lines and amplified along with sonic frequencies scientifically calculated to promote plant growth, mixed with a playlist developed from workshops with Southend’s Project 49 group for adults with learning disabilities and Dagenham’s Ab Phab’ youth club, creating intros for dream shows. These sounds are broadcast in the gallery and online on Focal Point Gallery’s website, accessible also from a QR code on a panel overlooking the coastline from Southend Pier, as a reminder of the Estuary’s association with pioneering broadcast technology. Namy is an artist, educator, and composer, often working collaboratively and across sound, performance, photography, text, video, and installation on projects that focus on social constructs of music and organized sound.
For ‘Receiver’, Nastassja Simensky will present two new works. Presented as a single channel video work with 5:1 sound, Ythanceaster: Atoms on the Wall is the first in a four-part moving-image work, drawing on the history of transmission and broadcast in Essex. Radio is utilised both as a tool to make moving image, and as means to reflect upon the changing politics of land use. In Leaky Transmissions, slow-scan television (SSTV) images and text are transmitted using amateur radio. Through this process, images and texts experience distortion, marked by interference from radio waves, the architecture and sounds in the gallery. The resulting SSTV images will be hosted on a website and the devices controlling the live transmission will be located at FPG.
Working both collaboratively and as an individual, Simensky makes writing, place-specific performances, events, sound work and films as a form of ongoing fieldwork. For the last two years, Simensky’s research has focused on Bradwell and the Blackwater Estuary on the Essex coast. Here, she has used ham radio to generate experimental audio recordings; contact microphones to record vibrations; coil receivers to record electromagnetic signals; and hydrophones to record sounds in the intertidal mud of the estuary.
An accompanying programme of artist moving image by Appau Jnr Boayke-Yiadom, Kelly Buckley, Frazer Merrick and Nastassja Simensky is presented on Big Screen Southend, located adjacent to the gallery in Elmer Square. These films play daily between 11am and 5pm.
With thanks and support from Southend-on-Sea City Council, Arts Council England and The Ampersand Foundation.
Receiver | Press Release