Reflecting on MAKU’s residency at Lighthouse
03 July 2019
Local student Eleanor Ferns recently joined us for work experience at Lighthouse. Her week here coincided with artists in residence MAKU (aka Maia Urstad & Anton Kats) and their ‘Send and receive’ event. In this post Eleanor talks to MAKU about their collaborative practice.
Eleanor Ferns: What is it like working together?
Anton Kats: It’s amazing actually. It’s good fun, and for me I keep on learning new things as well, it’s sort of a win-win situation.
Maia Urstad: It is very good, because obviously we have different backgrounds, different ages and different ways of doing things; but I also think we have a lot of similarities.
A: It often happens that Maia will start a sentence and I will finish it and vice versa. We are very high energy but also very easy going – not easy going in the sense that we don’t get stuff done.
M: I think we are both quite attached to work, it is difficult to stop sometimes. But it was very exciting to do the ‘Send and receive’ event, because we thought it would be amazing to put together Platform B and the Mid-Sussex Amateur Radio Society because it’s very exciting to see all the incredibly different approaches to radio.
A: The event would have been unthinkable without (Lighthouse Curator in Residence) Eva Rowson.
M: It’s actually a collaboration between the three of us.
A: She’s creating the conditions for our collaboration.
M: It is fantastic to work with her. She was the one putting us together in the first place at Bergen Kunstall in 2018 – we didn’t know each other so it was kind of like a blind date. I think she was nervous too because she didn’t know if we would get on.
E: What drew you to work with radio as a medium? What drew you to work with audio art rather than visual art?
M: My work is really in the middle of visual art and sound and I really like that combination. For me the radio is really both visual and audio. The space where it is played back could be the radio space out there (in the Lighthouse reception area), or it could be the radio in the kitchen but I think the listening is really important.
A: For me it really stems back to my upbringing. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather who was a WWII radio operator and even though I didn’t start working with radio until quite late, it was always a part of my life. For him it was never a sort of broadcast entertainment but a strategy, a sort of political relationship.
M: Radio is very interesting – the sound is incredible, it has so many different aspects. So for instance, the different sounds you hear on the computer or Skype or the sound you get when you text someone; then maybe in some years you might hear that sound and it’ll remind you of something. It’s all these layers of memory that I find very interesting. Your generation and my generation are the same but also different, some signals I have heard but you haven’t and some you have heard and I havent.
E: Do you work with any other media?
A: I work quite a lot with film, I also work with dance quite a lot,. I actually work pedagogically quite a lot in a sense, learning and unlearning, getting to know and being fine with not knowing. And music, I often work with music.
M: My education was actually in textiles. And then I started to do sound textures instead of textile textures but I used that thinking a lot and the way that I used textiles. I also do a lot of sound installations and they are often very site specific. So I go to a space and try to understand the history of the space or something that’s resonating between the space and me. I like to provide a space that people enjoy so they can have time to reflect or enjoy. I do performances too sometimes, I also play the bass.
A: That’s crazy because I’m a bass player as well. We are both bass players.
M: I think we both are quite diverse.
E: What does the future of radio as a medium look like?
A: I hope my prediction is wrong, because it’s not too optimistic, but I still see the radio being a medium of emergency. All the technology we rely on can stop working very very quickly, I’m talking about internet and satellite etc. Once an emergency situation happens, radio becomes a central point of communication. As much as I wish to think that we are all on the way to sorting out the planet I just don’t see it happening. In terms of ecology, I don’t see things improving. I am also not from Europe, I come from Ukraine which even very recently had several political turmoils. I think that for better or for worse radio will again take a very central place in how we deal with things. In this same line of thought, our practice also has to do with an ability to deal with unpredictable situations.
M: I agree with you and I think that the emergency part of the radio is quite important. But I think that artists will play around with the medium for as long as it is possible. For instance in Norway (where I’m from), the national radio has changed to DAB so there is a lot of empty space on FM which I think artists could use. I really like what Platform B is doing. They use the radio really well (even podcasts, which are still radio in my opinion). I think it’s also a really good place to perform content in addition to music. I think the radio has been a medium that has proved that it can change all the time. Every time there is new technology the radio adapts.
A: There’s also something really rudimentary about radio. If something bad happened, the internet is very hard to reconstruct, but radio as a technology is so close to nature and in terms of electronics is relatively accessible (maybe not in terms of a country wide broadcast). Radio is still the most widespread medium in the world. More people are listening to the radio than using the internet. It reinvents itself, it’s accessible, it’s not too complex, it takes any kind of shape, it doesn’t go away.
Re-Imagine Europe is co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. Re-Imagine Europe is initiated by Sonic Acts (NL) and coordinated by Paradiso (NL) in collaboration with Elevate Festival (AT), Lighthouse (UK), Ina GRM (FR), Student Centre Zagreb / Izlog Festival (HR), Landmark / Bergen Kunsthall (NO), A4 (SK), SPEKTRUM (DE), Ràdio Web MACBA (ES), Urban Paradoxes (NL) and Kontejner (HR).
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