Radio Boredcast was a 744-hour continuous online radio project, curated by artist Vicki Bennett (People Like Us), co-commissioned by AV Festival and Pixel Palace, hosted by basic.fm. It is now archived on WFMU. Click here to listen.
Q&A with Vicki Bennett (People Like Us)
In January 2012, members of the Pixel Palace team and the Tyneside Cinema (where we live) asked Vicki about her work and Radio Boredcast and Vicki replied, giving us a great insight into her working processes. She also sent some amazing photographs illustrating the curatorial process, using A2 sheets of paper and post it notes (…. 50,000 post it notes on the last count!)
DS: Radio Boredcast is a huge undertaking, could you tell us a bit about your working process?
VB: I’ve treated this in the same way I would making a piece of artwork, or rather AS an artwork. It’s the same creative process – visualising what parts are needed conceptually, seeking where these parts exist already, where they have to be invented, and then making a composition that will be full and flowing with lots of wild tangents and unexpected factors. The difference is this is a collaboration with a lot of invited participants. Then there is the collaboration with already-published works, things that I have collected/found recently and over the years; this I’ve programmed to compliment the participant’s submissions and vice versa. Then last of all I have recorded some shows myself (I am a radio DJ on WFMU.org) both to present my take on As Slow As Possible, and also to address areas in the programming where I was unable to find other people to do things.
In terms of the practical side of putting something of duration together, I am used to working with LOTS of information and editing my way through literally days of material and condensing the mass into something much smaller, like making a recipe. For instance, I recently finished “The Magical Misery Tour” (initially called Horror Collage) – this involved watching about 150 horror movies, finding subject matter (conceptual, audio and visual) that repeated a lot, or themes in the plot that complimented or juxtaposed with each other in unique ways. I then typed out all the descriptions of scenes, printed them, cut out all the descriptions, put them all over the floor then stuck them together into “sketches”. I’ve worked this way for 20 years and applied this technique in much the same way with Radio Boredcast.
DS: Can you tell us a bit more about how you have interpreted the AV Festivals theme of slowness?
VB: To me, the theme of Slowness is not about duration, it is not about speed. Or rather duration and speed are just a small part of the larger picture. It is about the way that we perceive time and space, and how apparently rock solid perceptions of reality can easily be challenged. It is about the way we respond to information. I’m programming material that may not be immediately identified as “Slow”, it would be one-dimensional, not to mention boring to just include first hurdle stuff – in other words, the first thing you think of is something that has been slowed down or stretched in some way through a deliberate process. Although both are interesting and valid (and are included in specialist areas), I am interested in stretching the theme rather than the audio to include perceptions of language and communications (conceptual, spoken, musical, scientific, mathematical…) and the way we order information in order to gauge meaning understand each other, non-musical and musical alike. I’ve also programmed in special guest radio shows by freeform DJs and a number of artists, creatives, academics and bloggers who have also inputted with playlists and suchlike in response to the wider theme.
4-5 March (Image credit: Peter Knight)
AM: In the process of programming Radio Boredcast, have you the opportunity to realise any specific curatorial ideas that you have not elsewhere considering the unique duration of the project? If so, can you reveal them at this stage or at least hint at where your greatest pleasures or risks may lie?
VB: I’m not sure if I’m curating this any more than I curate making a film, an album, a live set or radio show. I’m using my knowledge and ideas to make order of a very large subject and deliver it in as professional a fashion as I’m able, and being hands-on with this as little as possible, although like I said I have included my own shows to address some themes, and will also turn up a lot introducing things. If I’d had a few more months to put this together I’d have found more voices. This is a wonderful project to be doing, and I’m really proud of what has come about as a result of communicating with 100 or so people, asking for their generous input, as well as searching archives and library systems for several months for relevant content. I have also been really encouraged by the enthusiasm that I’ve had back from people – many have gotten really excited by working with the concept of As Slow As Possible and I know it’s moved a lot of people into new ways of working. In turn, working on a larger scale project is moving me nearer to working on bigger art projects like making a feature film. Also these lists that I am making while compiling this project (and previous films, live sets and some radio shows) are starting to take on a life of their own as artworks. Or rather it has been pointed out to me that I should exhibit the paper lists.
8-9 March (Image credit: Peter Knight)
DS: The recombination of elements in your work has had a long-term effect on my perception of the films you have used. For example, thanks to your “clean your room” piece I can no longer watch Mary Poppins without the unsettling sensation that she is in league with a malevolent poltergeist. Is perception shifting a goal in your work and is this a feature of the Radio Boredcast project?
VB: Yes, my goal as an artist is to be engaging, transformative and elevating – if it shifts and transforms the listener then it fits. And it’s important for this thing to be entertaining of course – it’s radio! We have scores of excellent radio DJs presenting specially created shows, and some really talented artists and creatives have delved deep to make us new work. There will of course be nods to John Cage and some of the people closely associated to the theme as well as a diverse range of subjects. Let me say now though – there is nothing boring about Slow, not so long as the person creating it is interesting and engaging. Although boredom as an artform is central to the theme, John Cage (who had a lot to say about boring things) is hugely entertaining as a speaker, and totally inspiring.
13-14 March (Image credit: Peter Knight)
RH: What (if anything) regulates the content i.e. how do you switch between monologues, compositions etc? Does each feature have a set time or is it completely random and do they just bleed into each other?
VB: I suggested people did well rounded lengths, but, since the theme is Slowness and about duration it wasn’t really for me to say it should be well rounded, ha ha. As a result I have shows/recordings by people between half an hour and 12 hours. Although the durational pieces are few and far between, (for instance Longplayer by Jem Finer) and generally the subject matter and presenter changes every hour or two. I have also rotated shows around different time zones because one thing that really gets me about some radio is it’s very insular, concentrating on it’s own time zone, which alienates everyone else. I can’t guarantee you won’t tune into someone snoring when you’re trying to have your breakfast but I’m certainly trying to be inclusive to listeners in all time zones. The schedule will consist of regular DJ-presented shows, specially made recordings (by artists), playlists compiled by guests, playlists compiled by Radio Boredcast, and some schedule announcements for the station and AV Festival. The programming is intended of course to compliment AV Festival 12, and also in regard of some of what Rebecca Shatwell has programmed into AV Festival. There’s no way it can’t compliment it though, it’s such an amazing subject and I like to think I’ve really immersed myself into the theme over the past months. I hope people will be surprised, inspired and entertained. Most of all I hope people will listen.
15-16 March (Image credit: Peter Knight)