A series of two 3-day investigations within complex city-wide spectral ecologies constructed through subtle interactions between electrical and magnetic fields (EMF) emitted by all electrical equipment, physical materials, communication technologies (wireless networks, mobile phone networks, RFID, television, radio, radar), power lines, biological phenomena, and geological properties in Newcastle upon Tyne & Dundee, UK.

> The Courier's Tragedy

Wave-length <

Led by Martin Howse

24, 25 & 26 September 2009 \\ Polytechnic [Newcastle upon Tyne]

~ Documentation

Oedipa wondered whether, at the end of this (if it were supposed to end), she too might not be left with only compiled memories of clues, announcements, intimations, but never the central truth itself, which must somehow each time be too bright for her memory to hold; which must always blaze out, destroying its own message irreversibly, leaving an overexposed blank when the ordinary world came back.
[The Crying of Lot 49. Thomas Pynchon. 1966]

The Courier's Tragedy is concerned with a submission of the medium enacted by both ancient and contemporary communication systems. The messenger is rendered redundant (literally killed) on delivery; the message is that which really matters. The carrier can be discarded in favour of a meaningful signal, and this is precisely what all radio apparatus enacts, equally eliminating noise and uncertainty. Expanding a clear concern with electromagnetic [EM] phenomena as a question of substance, and extending the spectrum of artistic concerns to embrace modern data space, this workshop attempts to bridge this impossible divide between the physical (waves) and the protocol (code); asking how, within complex spectral ecologies, it is possible to examine and embrace both the carrier and the signal, to observe the subtle interactions and inherent abstractions? In this context, such an examination becomes a manner of revealing; revealing another city, revealing new modes of communication and transmission (hidden networks).

29, 30 Sept & 1st October 2009 // Mills Observatory [Dundee]

Documentation ~

The development of human eyes for the reception of radio waves … is quite inconceivable… the real difficulty lies in the much longer wavelengths of the radio spectrum, which make the accommodation of a directive aerial array, or antenna, a difficult problem. In fact, in any reasonable sized animal the aerial system would probably determine the appearance of the animal to the exclusion of all other features.
[Radio Astronomy. F. Graham Smith. 1960]

Wave-length proposed an open exploration of the physical
characteristics of various wave phenomena: sound, light and radio, with the latter two encompassed under the heading of electromagnetism [EM]. Wavelength in all instances has a direct relationship to oscillation and thus frequency, to resonance and to any form of change in time and in space. In the case of radio waves, wavelength is translated into a highly physical architecture of antennas, dishes and arrays approximating patterns of reflection and refraction.

Whispering galleries and sound mirrors provide inspiration in the
audio realm. These fields can also be mapped to the microscopic, with diminishing wavelengths, microwaves, leading into a light which literally colours perception. Wave-length acts as a guiding principle of scale and measure with detection or exploration determined by the quasi-scientific expansion of sensory apparatus.

The wave-length workshop explored both sound and EM phenomena from a spatial perspective: the construction of a landscape of antennas, oscillators and detection or measurement devices using simple materials. The workshop also closed with a final performance from participants.

projected activities

... included making sense of a landscape from a forensics perspective, mapping of event intensity using GPS, reconstruction of unintentional emissions, TEMPEST, cryptography, EM psychogeographics, data sedimentation, data visualisation and forging of underground transmission networks.

... included physical wave transitions, waveguide antennas, cymatics, coils and self-made speakers, spark gap transmission, iron ore saturation and magnetic fields in pottery, wave generation circuits, magnetometers, electrometers, amateur radio telescopy, geophysical archaeology.

materials & tools

laptops, GPS, wireless cards, access points, communications technologies, radio's, large tins and juice cartons.

fruit, vegetables, wire, tins, broken or functioning radios, cardboard, foil, magnets, minerals) for wave-length explorations.



Martin Howse is an artist, programmer, theorist and film- maker. Martin gained a Fine Art BA degree at Goldsmiths College, London. Martin has performed and collaborated worldwide using custom, open software and hardware modules for data/code processing and generation. In 2005, Martin was part of a team awarded first prize in the VIDA 8.0 art and artificial life competition. In 2006 he initiated xxxxx as a research centre in Berlin, Germany, producing the acclaimed xxxxx [reader] and maintaining a series of workshops. Martin also writes regularly for GNU/Linux/free software publications and has participated in related conferences and workshops. The Independent xxxxx research organisation examines the software real, life and live coding, autodestructive strategy and crash-falsified revelation.
> http://1010.co.uk

In collaboration between:
Lindsay Brown - http://lindsaybrown.wordpress.com/
Polytechnic, Newcastle upon Tyne - http://ptechnic.org
Hannah Maclure Centre, Abertay University. Dundee - http://hannahmaclurecentre.abertay.ac.uk

Supported by:
Mills Observatory, Dundee - http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/mills/
Dundee City Council
Arts Council England- Lottery Funded