Radio-Activities

An Investigation on the Materialities of Communication by Alfredo Thiermann
Address
Wolfgang Pauli-Strasse 15, 08093 Zürich Map
Hours
Mon–Fri 8 am–10 pm, Sat 8 am–5 pm

Presenting sounds, archival drawings, and cartographic representations, the exhibition Radio-Activities aims to raise awareness of the contemporary role of the built environment by examining the time when the intricate worlds of politics, aesthetics, and information technologies began to populate the ether. The exhibition is the outcome of research conducted by the Chilean architect Alfredo Thiermann on the infrastructure built for radio in Berlin, starting in the Weimar Republic and running up to the Cold War period.

Exactly 60 years after the construction of the Berlin Wall, Radio-Activities re-examines the material conditions under which two fundamentally opposing political and aesthetic worldviews coexisted within a single city. Inhabiting this apparently divided territory, both these forms of conceiving space conquered, protected, and competed over constantly fluctuating borders through the means of electromagnetic waves and sonic signals. Crossing over the seemingly impenetrable Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall, radio was paradoxically a highly material form of construction, albeit built using very different architectural means. Combining sonic and visual material, the exhibition presents Berlin’s disputed architecture of radio in three different scales: the city, the building, and oscillations.

A series of maps and cartographic representations show the city of Berlin as it was understood from the perspective of the transmission, reception, and blocking of information. Ranging from structures designed by canonical figures such as Hans Poelzig and Heinrich Muthesius to anonymous buildings, military facilities, and research laboratories, the scale of the buildings is presented through extensive graphic documentation originating from different archives. Inside the gallery, visitors walk through an array of radio receivers hanging from the ceiling. These devices intercept and amplify the sounds emitted by three FM radio transmitters installed within the gallery space. The scale of oscillations is thus presented by the very electromagnetic waves radiating inside and beyond the limits of the gallery. This arrangement offers the public the possibility to listen to the intricate and noisy relationship existing between sounds, buildings, and the city, as well as to early experiments in electronic music developed within and for radio institutions.

Radio-Activities proposes a material understanding of seemingly invisible information infrastructures, revealing overlooked continuities existing between politics, electronic technical media, and architecture. Based on extensive archival research, the exhibition problematises the stability granted to buildings and walls by reconsidering them in an age when the historic solidity of architecture was radically challenged by the entangled development of technology, politics, and mass media. In so doing, it brings the same question to bear on the present by interrogating the relevance and agency of buildings with regards to our increasingly hyperconnected, ubiquitous, and apparently invisible modes of existence.