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invisible fields Geographies of radio waves barcelona,2011

Vicenç Altaió Making the Invisible Visible 6 Honor Harger Transmission, Transversal, and Molecular Revolution 7 José Luis de Vicente and Honor Harger 8 There, but Invisible: Exploring the Contours of “Invisible Fields” Josep Perelló Field Lines and Force Fields 14

Surrounded by Radio Waves 22

Douglas Kahn Electrical Atmospheres 24 Semiconductor 20 Hz 30 Semiconductor Magnetic Movie 32 Anthony DeVincenzi Invisible Forces 34 In the Faraday Cage 36 Joyce Hinterding Loops and Fields: Induction Drawing Series 4 38 Thomas Ashcraft Harnessing Wild Electricities from Outer Space 40

The Hertzian City

42 Adam Greenfield Of Sidewalks and Signals: Learning to Listen on the Urban Frequency 44 Clara Boj and Diego Díaz Observatorio 50 Timo Arnall Nearness, Wireless in the World, Light Painting WiFi 54

The Politics of Waves 58

The Dark Side of the Spectrum 72

Let’s Make Waves 90

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer Frequency and Volume 60 Matthew Biederman Office of Spectral Ecology 64 Irma Vilà A Timeline of Spectrum Utopias 66

Martin Howse Black Planet 74 Job Ramos Twilight Immunity Museum 82 Trevor Paglen Drone Vision 84 Raitis Smits, Rasa Smite, Martins Ratniks and Linda Vebere / RIXC Skrunda Signal 86 Irdial Discs The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Number Stations 88 Workshop on Free Wireless Networks 92 Centre for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA) 94 PARTNeR: a 34-metre Radio Telescope for Students Luthiers Drapaires Making the Inaudible Audible and Giving it New Uses 96 Plataforma Cero – LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial Orbiting Satellites 98 Patricia Homs and Irene Lapuente Visualizing the Electromagnetic Spectrum: 100 Workshops in the Science Area of Arts Santa Mònica

There, but Invisible Exploring the Contours of “Invisible Fields” José Luis de Vicente Honor Harger


“Electromagnetic space—also called Hertzian space—is physical and nonvirtual. It consists of a ghostly poetic ecology that exists just beyond our familiar perceptual limits.” Lucy Bullivant (2005)1 Imagine yourself sitting inside a plane. You are still on the 1 : Bullivant, L. (2005), “Sky Ear, Usman tarmac of the runway, waiting impatiently for takeoff, looking Haque”, Architectural forward to going home. Chances are you have been here Design, Volume 75, Issue 1, Special Issue before. As you listen to the pilot apologize for the delay, you “4dspace: Interactive look nervously at the stream of emails that keep arriving on Architecture”, JanuaryFebruary 2005, p. 8-1. your smartphone. You may even post a tweet that lets the world know you are not particularly happy about this situation. You are aware of the roar of the stalled engines and the voice of the pilot, but what you are actually waiting for is a signal—an electromagnetic transmission coming from the control tower of the airport, which will reach the radio in the plane’s cockpit, reporting the good news to the pilot: “permission to fly”. Now your crew can take you home and, for that, they will rely on another series of signals: those coming from the network of satellites in the Global Positioning System, letting them know where you are and where you are headed. These signals let you know, too, since the plane has become a pulsating icon on a world map, shown on a screen in your cabin. The crew also rely on the expertise of a network of air-traffic controllers, reporting on the radio incidents and last-minute changes in atmospheric conditions at your destination. You remain, though, cut off from the outside world, since you were requested to turn off your mobile device as soon as your plane started moving. For passengers, most commercial flights are the last bastions of radio silence. You are reminded of this as soon as you land, as the noise of the engines is replaced by a symphony of cell phone ringtones and SMS alert notifications coming from every corner of the cabin. Welcome back to reception space. Your journey has been one of hundreds, maybe thousands of kilometres. But while you have been passing over this terrain of valleys, hills and seas, you have also been passing through a vast ocean of radio waves. The Hertzian landscape of signals and the more familiar geographical landscape are now so intertwined that our concept of reality is really a conflation of the two.


José Luis de Vicente – Honor Harger

Field Lines and Force Fields Josep Perell贸


The principal obsession of the physicists of the last 500 years has been action-at-a-distance forces. The Law of Universal Gravitation (1687) was the first to be studied mathematically in depth. Sir Isaac Newton’s happy discovery marked a style and a procedure in physics in the following centuries. The English scientist perfectly described the interaction between masses, though equating the orbits of the solar system with an apple falling on his head. The celestial, supposedly untouchable and permanent, was thereby imbued with the banal everyday existence of a man carrying heavy weights up a ladder. The resulting heliocentricism of imperfect stars severely modified our way of seeing the universe. Gravity is, effectively, the force without contact, strings or glue that is closest to us, among other reasons because it keeps us anchored to the Earth’s surface and allows us to walk. But it is not the only force at a distance that we know and are closely related to; try imagining life without electricity! If the force of gravity conditions our mobility, electrical force regulates our organism and establishes points of relation with the world around us, from neurons to photosynthesis, via the Internet and electronics. After electrical and gravitational forces, a third and lesser known but no less relevant case is magnetic force. The Ancient Greeks discovered magnetite, a natural magnet that attracted metals. It was an anomaly or mere curiosity in the eyes of the people of the time, but magnetism was freed from the anecdotal centuries later by the compass. Maritime navigation owes its progress to this fine needle that rotates in response to the field of the great natural magnet that is the Earth. Magnetism, first a curiosity and later technology, was ultimately the last piece needed to make up the puzzle of the forces of the universe and to discover the nature of its constituent matter. The first and biggest step, an in-depth understanding of the peculiarities of magnetism provided by powerful mathematical analysis, did not come until well into the 19th century, when the first artificial magnets were made thanks to the confluence of magnetism and the study of electricity. An experiment devised by André-Marie Ampère in 1820 observed an attracting force between two cables, situated ten centimetres apart, through which ran continuous electric current. The phenomenon was explained by the fact that the intensity of current in a cable generates a magnetic field around it, and this field, in turn, affects the charges moving through the other cable. Magnetism was, then, inseparable from electricity. This observation, together with others, such as the use of a magnetized needle to measure the intensity of elec-


Josep Perelló

Surrounded by Radio Waves


Because we cannot see radio waves with our eyes or hear them with our ears, we are often unaware of their presence. Yet, as John Cage once said, we are bathed in radio waves. Radio waves occur in nature, produced by electrical storms, the solar wind and many astronomical phenomena, including our own Sun. Our perspective of the wider universe has been transformed by the invention of radio astronomy. Artists and designers have been pivotal to our understanding of radio waves as naturally occurring phenomena and, since the very beginning of spectrum science, they have created new aesthetic, conceptual and perceptual interpretations of both the terrestrial and the celestial electromagnetic landscapes. Following on from pioneers such as John Cage, Alvin Lucier and Pauline Oliveros, contemporary artists like Thomas Ashcraft, Semiconductor and Joyce Hinterding produce powerful works that allow us to understand the radio spectrum as an extension of the natural world.

Semiconductor’s new commission, produced for “Invisible Fields”, is a single-screen moving image work that explores the material nature of the radio spectrum. Working with data collected from the CARISMA radio array and interpreted as audio, tangible and sculptural forms emerge that are generated by the sound. This work plays on our need to create an understanding of the physical world around us and how we frame it. As different frequencies interact both visually and aurally, complex patterns emerge, creating interference phenomena that probe the limits of our perception. Radio waves span vast distances across space and time by bringing the radio spectrum within the human realm. Semiconductor question our place in the physical universe and how we experience it.

Semiconductor 20 Hz Video, 2011


Semiconductor is artist duo Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt. Through moving image works, they explore the material nature of our world and how we experience it, questioning our place in the physical universe. Their unique approach has won them many awards and prestigious fellowships and has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, the Royal Academy, Hirshhorn Museum, the BBC, the ICA and the Exploratorium. Thank you to Andy Kale and the rest of the CARISMA team for data. CARISMA is operated by the University of Alberta, funded by the Canadian Space Agency.


Loops and Fields: Induction Drawings Series 4 is a collection of drawings that sympathetically resonate to the electromagnetic fields within the gallery. These graphite drawings function as graphic antennas and explore the qualities and inherent nature of a combination of hand-drawn and mathematically generated forms. When connected to a sound system they make audible their interior activity and reveal the energy that exists in the immediate environment. Relying on the basic principles of the directional loop antenna, the drawings in Loops and Fields, like any receiving antenna, convert an electromagnetic wave into a voltage; the loop


Courtesy of the artist and Breenspace, Sydney

antenna is particularly sensitive to magnetic fields and outputs a voltage proportional to that field. Monitoring this activity allows us to experience the local fields, and it generates a sitespecific and dynamic aural landscape. Fractal mathematics and research into fractal antennas has focused on reducing the overall size and space an antenna needs to occupy. Joyce Hinterding is interested in the frequency range at the lower regions of the spectrum, where the wavelength is large; her interpretation of recent antenna design research has led her to explore the possibilities for drawing antennas that can receive large wavelengths, on something the size of a standard piece of fine art paper. The lack of any sealant on the graphite leaves the drawings slightly materially unstable, and they function to some degree like open-circuit devices. The result is that, when the drawings are touched, the volume of the sound increases. This change in volume reflects the changes in the electrical conductance of people’s skin, described as the galvanic skin response (GSR). Accordingly, different people have mildly different effects on the drawings when they touch or come into close proximity to them. Joyce Hinterding produces works that explore physical and virtual dynamics. Her practice is based on investigations into energetic forces, through custom-built field recording and monitoring technologies. First published in the catalogue Freehand: recent Australian drawing, edited by Linda Michael, Heide Museum of Modern Art. Australia, November 2010.

Joyce Hinterding Loops and Fields: Induction Drawing Series 4 Drawings, audio equipment, 2010 39

Surrounded by Radio Waves

Thomas Ashcraft is an artist, independent scientist, experimenter and naturalist currently based in New Mexico, USA. For the past 20 years, he has been engaged in a radio astronomy practice concentrating on Jupiter and Io, the Sun, meteoric fireballs and space dust. Lately he has become an observer of transient luminous events (TLEs). The data he has collected in his observations has been of interest to the scientific community and has been studied by NASA and ESA’s SOHO (Solar Heliospheric Observatory) team and the Sentinel Fireball Network. Ashcraft’s work has created a new role for the artist, that of “electroreceptor”. As a byproduct of his scientific observations, he has discovered that certain electromagnetic waves from outer space can be exhilarating when experienced as pulsating sound within the central nervous system. This exhibition presents examples of this phenomenon. For “Invisible Fields”, Ashcraft is presenting a working laboratory in the Arts Santa Mònica gallery. The lab in the gallery will be linked to his lab in New Mexico, where Ashcraft tracks the radio waves emitted by celestial bodies. His nightly radio and video observations will be added to the installation over the course of the exhibition.


Thomas Ashcraft Harnessing Wild Electricities from Outer Space Installation, 2008-2011


Surrounded by Radio Waves



The Hertzian City

Designer and researcher Timo Arnall has explored extensively the possibilities of innovative radio technologies operating at close range such as NFC, RFID or WiFi to imagine and implement new relations between users, objects and systems. In order to visualize these scenarios, he has produced a series of films showing us how radio signals have become a common, ever-present element in contemporary space. In this series of urban vignettes, we see waves living in our pockets, covering urban spaces, and creating new kinds of borders and topological accidents on the streets. Nearness investigates Near Field Communication (NFC), an emerging technology that enables connections between mobile phones and physical things. One of the essential properties of Near Field Communication is nearness, but this is set against one of the paradoxes of touch-based interaction where, in fact, nothing needs to touch. The film shows how, even in our living room, an ordinary object such as a metro card can trigger a hidden world of electromagnetic relations and dependencies. An ongoing theme in these films is making radio signals visible in order to understand better the spatial properties of wireless technologies that are often overlooked. Wireless in the World uses dashed-line abstractions to visualise the presence of wireless technologies in the everyday environment. What if we could see every ďŹ eld produced by an Oyster card or NFC-enabled mobile phone, for instance? Light Painting WiFi explores the invisible terrain of WiFi networks in urban spaces by light painting signal strength in long-exposure photographs. A four-metre tall measuring rod with 80 points of light responds to the Received Signal Strength of a particular WiFi network. This technique becomes an interesting way of seeing the overall pattern, the relative peaks and the troughs situated in the surrounding space. Timo Arnall Nearness, Wireless in the World, Light Painting WiFi Video, 2009–2011


Nearness (1:02) by Timo Arnall and BERG, 2009


The Politics of Waves


Spectrum regulation has taken a natural resource, the radio wave, and transformed it into a valuable commercial asset. The administrative process of managing the spectrum and the socio-political decisions of how frequencies are assigned have made the territory of radio analogous to that of land: it can be surveyed, mapped, bought and sold. This character of the spectrum as the real state of the Information Society has been the source of endless tensions and conflicts. Since spectrum regulations were first introduced a century ago, there has been a movement amongst activists, intellectuals and philosophers to see the radio as an extension of public space. Parallel, participatory models of spectrum usage have given us community television, pirate radio and citizen WiFi networks, each built on the notion of radio waves as a common good.


A Timeline of Spectrum Utopies

Technological, scientific, social, artistic, legislative, historical ac


States and describes the principles in detail.

1873: James Clerk Maxwell publishes A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field, in which he fuses electricity and magnetism using just four differential equations. Maxwell’s equations predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves, due to the fluctuation of electric and magnetic fields, which travel at 300,000 km/s. Maxwell affirms that “we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that light consists in the transverse undulations of the same medium which is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena”.

1894: British physicist Sir Oliver Lodge demonstrates the reception of Morse code signalling using radio waves in Oxford, England.

1876: Thomas A. Watson inadvertently detects radio waves from the Sun, while working with Alexander Graham Bell on the invention of the telephone in Boston.

1880 1886: Invention of the wireless telegraph (the first form of radio communication). 1887: Heinrich Rudolf Hertz proves Maxwell’s experimental theory and makes the first radio transmission in history.

1890 1893: Nikola Tesla does the first public demonstration of radio communication in the United

1894: Indian physicist Jagadish Chandra Bose demonstrates publicly the use of radio waves in Calcutta. Bose ignites gunpowder and rings a bell at a distance using radio waves. 1894: Alexander Popov builds the first radio receiver in Russia. 1896: Guglielmo Marconi gets the first (British) radio patent. 1897: Marconi sets up the first radio station on the Isle of Wight, in England. 1897: J. C. Bose speculates on the existence of electromagnetic radiation from the Sun, in a Royal Institution lecture in London.

1900 1900: Reginald Fessenden makes a weak transmission of the voice for the first time. 1900: The Boer War is the first military conflict in which the enemy’s radio transmissions are intercepted as a military tactic. Thus SIGNIT, or Signal Intelligence, is born. 1901: Max Planck explains how electromagnetic radiation emitted by a black body is related to its temperature.

1901: Marconi makes the first trans-Atlantic radio transmission from Canada to England. He receives a series of three dots, the letter “S” in Morse code. 1904: The US Patent Office grants Marconi the patent for the invention of the radio. 1905: Albert Einstein postulates the body-like behaviour of light (a particle called a photon), and he explains the photoelectric effect by directly relating energy with the electromagnetic frequency of the photon. 1905: Einstein publishes the theory of spatial relativity and postulates that the speed of light, including in his postulation the radio spectrum, is a universal constant equal to 300,000 km/s, no matter what system of reference is used. 1906: At the First International Radio Telegraphic Conference in Berlin, the first International Radio Telegraphic agreement is signed. 1906: SOS is adopted as the call sign for help around the world. It is chosen because it is easy to transmit in Morse code: three dots, three dashes and three dots ( .  .  .  __  __  __  .  .  . ). Afterwards, meaning was assigned to the signal to help facilitate memorising it, in particular “Save Our Souls” and “Save Our Ship”.

1906: First audio radio transmission, by Reginald Fessenden in Massachusetts. 1907: Electrician & Mechanic Magazine describes the components and devices needed for low power wireless telegraph communications in an article called “How It’s Done” that kick-starts the amateur radio movement. 1909: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti publishes the Futurist Manifesto, in which the radio becomes a fundamental instrument for broadcasting and creation, and is considered an element of contemporaneity. Later, in 1918, the Futurists also draw up the Radio Manifesto.

1910 1910: Lee De Forest makes the first public radio transmission, an experimental live broadcast of an opera at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. 1912: As RMS Titanic goes down, she sends out distress signals. Not all of them are received because there is no designated band for emergency signals. 1912: The Radio Act is the first federal law passed in the United States that uses the “radio licensing” concept, requiring all radio operators to have a license and prohibiting unauthorised use of the frequencies reserved for

ccomplishments commercial and military uses. The regulation of the radio spectrum has begun. 1914: The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) becomes the first amateur radio organisation in the United States. 1917: Transmissions from licensed radio amateurs during the First (and later the Second) World War are prohibited because the governments involved use radio telegraphic communications to find out and direct all movements on the fronts.

1920 1920: The birth of audio broadcasting in the Marconi studios. 1920: The first regular entertainment broadcasts begin in Argentina.

Barcelona already has 80,000 radio receivers. 1925: The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) is founded. 1925: Dziga Vertov publishes an article about radio pravda (radio truth) in the Pravda newspaper. With this concept of radio, he tries to establish communication with the world’s proletariat by using recordings of sounds from workplaces. 1925: First public demonstration of television in London by the Scottish inventor John Logie Baird. The definition is 30 lines, and the image is 3.8 x 5 cm. 1927: At the International Radio Telegraphic Conference, specific frequencies are assigned to specific services (fixed, maritime and aeronautic mobile, radio broadcasting, amateur and experimental) to enable a more effective use of the radio spectrum.

1921: Velimir Khlebnikov, an avant-garde Russian poet, writes a manifesto called The Radio of the Future, in which he describes an instrument which allows the free exchange of information, that will bring conscientiousness and empowerment to the people.


1922: The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is founded in London and monopolises the English airwaves.

1932: The International Telegraphic Union changes its name to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

1924: First broadcast of Ràdio Barcelona from the Colon Hotel. This is the first radiophonic broadcast in Spain. A week later,

1932: Bertolt Brecht writes “Der Rundfunk als Kommunikationsapparat” [The radio as an apparatus of communication], arguing

1929: The first regular television broadcasts start in Germany and England.

that the radio must be able to receive and transmit at the same time, allowing the listener to “speak as well as hear”. 1933: Karl Jansky detects radiation from the Milky Way while working at Bell Labs on wireless telephone, beginning the science of radio astronomy 1933: Edwin Howard Armstrong develops FM (frequency modulated) radio, which reduces static noise in radio reception. FM radio is not developed further until the end of the 1960s, because of opposition from corporations investing in AM radio. 1933: Radio Luxembourg begins broadcasting in English, becoming one of the first commercial radio stations to broadcast in England. 1933: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Pino Masnata publish “La Radia” (the Futurist Radio Manifesto) in the Gazzetta del Popolo in Italy. 1933: Milan celebrates the Fifth National Radio Show, offering the Italian public the first experimental television presentations. 1935: Robert Watson Watt creates the first radar. 1936: The BBC begins television transmission in London. 1936: The Berlin Olympics are the first sporting event broadcast on television.

1940 1940 British radar (and possibly German as well) sporadically detect solar radiation, at a longitude of 5 m (60 MHz), a discovery kept secret until the end of the war. 1940: Grote Reber publishes the first map of galactic radiation at 160 MHz and the first article on radio astronomy in the Astrophysical Journal, confirming Karl Jansky’s 1933 work. 1941: Radio España Independiente, better known as La Pirenaica, begins broadcasting from Moscow. It is a radio station created by the Communist Party of Spain. It broadcasts for 40 years, avoiding censorship and interference. 1942: James S. Hey detects radio emissions from the Sun. 1943: First public patent available for “spread spectrum”. Patented by the Hollywood actor and telecommunications engineer Hedy Lamarr and the pianist George Antheil. 1943: Nikola Tesla is finally granted the patent for the radio. 1945: Hey detects the first star by using only the radio spectrum. 1946: Bell introduce the first mobile telephone system, located in St Louis, USA. 1949: Martin Ryle and Graham Smith make the

first map of intense radio sources in the northern hemisphere with an interferometer located in Cambridge, England. 1949: John G. Bolton, Gordon J. Stanley and O. Bruce Slee identify three radio sources associated with three known objects from optical astronomy. One of them is the Crab nebula (the remains of the explosion of a supernova).

1950 1951: John Cage debuts Imaginary Landscape No. 4, a piece for 12 radios and 24 musicians, in New York. 1951: The hydrogen line is discovered by student Harold Ewen and his professor, Edward Purcell, at Harvard University using a horn antenna. The hydrogen line is the electromagnetic radiation spectral line that is created by a change in the energy state of neutral hydrogen atoms. 1954: The first pocketsized transistor radio, the TR-1, is commercialised. 1956: John Cage composes the piece Radio Music, in which the musicians follow sheet music where there is a sequence of radio frequencies and parts of silence. 1957: Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, launches. 1958: Radio Mercur in Denmark begins broadcasting. This is the first

pirate radio station and is located on a boat in international waters. 1959: First transmission of Radio Liberty, a station financed by the CIA, which, from Pals (Girona province, Catalonia), sends anticommunist messages to the Soviet Union.

1960 1960: Pirate radio stations broadcasting pop music start broadcasting to England from boats or abandoned oil platforms. They are technically not illegal because they are situated in international waters. 1960: A group of radio amateurs create an organisation called OSCAR (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio), with headquarters in California. Their objective is to design and construct the first satellite for radio amateurs, the OSCAR1. 1963: The first radio communication via satellite is established with the TELSTAR satellite. 1963: Launching of the first telecommunications satellite in the world, Syncom-1, in geostationary orbit. 1964: Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson experimentally confirm the Big Bang theory by discovering cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) using a horn antenna at Bell Labs. They

win the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics.


1964: Radio Caroline begins broadcasting from a boat moored off the English coast in order to avoid the monopoly of the record companies and the BBC.

1970: Beginning of the free radio movement in Italy and France. A free radio is an independent radio station, not for profit, managed and programmed collectively.

1966: John Cage and Morton Feldman record Radio Happenings I-V at the WBAI radio station in New York. This series of conversations between the two composers documents their worries about the music, art, society and politics of the moment.

1973: Martin Cooper develops the first radiotelephone and is thus considered the father of the cellular phone. It is not until 1979 that the first commercial models appear in Tokyo.

1966: John Cage presents Variations VII at the Armory in New York as part of the 9 Evenings series. The performance uses “only those sounds which are in the air at the moment of performance”, and makes use of radios, televisions and radio astronomy sources. 1967: Jocelyn Bell discovers radio pulsars (with her thesis supervisor Antony Hewish) at Jodrell Bank in England. 1967: The programme Our World is the first live television transmission via satellite, with an audience of 400 million people. Maria Callas, the Beatles, and Pablo Picasso all take part. 1969: The first voice and television communication from the Moon is made by astronaut Neil Armstrong from Apollo 11.

1974: Cadaqués Canal Local, begun by Antoni Muntadas, is the first experience in Spain of community television. Barcelona Districte follows in 1976. 1976: Several important free radio stations begin to emerge in Italy, including Radio Alice in Bologna, Radio Onda Rossa in Rome, Controradio in Florence and Radio Sherwood in Padua. Radio Alice is founded by a political collective and emphasises the revolutionary and liberating possibilities of radio. 1977: Creation of the first free radio in Catalonia, Ràdio Maduixa in Granollers. A few years later Ona Lliure is created in Barcelona. 1977: Nam June Paik performs Documenta Performance live on television via satellite. During the performance, Paik showed several

artworks and performances.

to amplify the signal of a small radio station.


1987: The Catalan police force (Mossos d’Esquadra) close and requisition Ràdio Pica. The Catalan Government justifies this by saying that Ràdio Pica was causing interference at the nearby airport, a statement that was proven false in the subsequent trial. The controversy leads to a new wave of free radio stations, including Radio Bronka in Barcelona.

1980: Spread spectrum begins to be used for commercial purposes. 1980: The Very Large Array (VLA) in Socorro, New Mexico, is built by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). It is made up of 27 antennas, each 25 m in diameter, separated by distances of as much as 36 km. The VLA is still one of the most powerful observational tools for radio waves between 0.7 cm (43 GHz) and 90 cm (33 MHz). 1981: Ràdio Pica, an alternative culture radio station, begins broadcasting. In Catalan, PICA stands for Independent ArtisticAlternative Coordination Promotion. It is still broadcasting today. 1981: Ericsson produces the NMT450 system (Nordic Mobile Telephony 450 MHz). This is considered the first modern mobile telephone system designed to be used by one person at a time. 1982: The term mini-FM appears for the first time in a newspaper to describe Radio Polybucket, a very low power FM radio station established by Japanese radio pioneer Tetsuo Kogawa. Kogawa also uses the term “molecular radio” to describe the use of many mini-FM transmitters

1989: The first GPS satellite is invented and launched by the United States Department of Defense. Initially intended for military use, GPS is used for civilian purposes from 2000 onward.

1990 1990: The Broadcasting Act is passed in the UK. This restrictive legislation is designed to end pirate radio in England. 1991: Ràdio Contrabanda is set up in Barcelona; a free non-commercial radio, self-managed, assembled by and closely linked to social movements. 1992: The artistic group Van Gogh TV presents Piazza Virtuale, the first interactive television project, at Documenta IX in Kassel, Germany. 1992: NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite conducts important research into the cosmic microwave

background radiation (CMB), discovering it has anisotropic properties. This discovery, fundamental to modern cosmology, promotes a better understanding of the nature of energy and the evolution of the universe. 1997: The international WiFi standard is established for wireless communication in local networks. WiFi is an acronym for Wireless Fidelity.

2000 2000: begins in London, becoming one of the first citywide community WiFi networks. 2002: The Telestreet movement begins in Bologna with the transmission of OrfeoTV, a street television station. It describes itself as “a public broadcaster open to everyone in the neighbourhood who wants to take action in the face of the paralysis of the Italian information system”. 2003: The Assemblea per la Comunicació Social (ACS, Assembly for Social Communication) is set up in Barcelona. Its main objectives are to create audiovisual media for the community and question the current social communication model. The projects “Let’s Occupy the Waves” (Okupem Les Ones), and “La Tele” are set up on UHF channel 52. 2004: is set up in Catalonia. It is an open,

free, neutral telecommunications network based on an agreement of interconnectivity in which each person, on connecting, forms part of the network and has connectivity. 2009: The large millimetre telescope (LMT) is inaugurated in Mexico. This radio telescope is situated at an altitude of 4,500 metres, is 50 metres in diameter with a collecting area of 2,000 m2 and observes microwaves in wavelengths between 1 and 4 mm.

2010 2011: The ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array) telescope begins functioning. Located in the Atacama Desert in Chile at an altitude of 5,000 m, it has 64 antennas of 12 m to observe longitudes of millimetres and submillimetres. 2011: 21 satellites built and launched by radio amateurs are orbiting the earth. During the last 40 years, more than 70 have been launched.

The list, hopefully acting as a practical guide to the provocation or exacerbation of military ontology, is not exhaustive but it documents the obvious uses of a certain dark side of the spectrum, a hidden, occluded or shadowy side, unseen, unmapped—the “black world” of Trevor Paglen. Encryption (that obscuring) is a military necessity accompanying any transmission (bringing to light) and control. The story of war is always the story of cryptography (Marconi recognising the curse of transmission as the possibility of interception), and (spy) literature is always occulted telegraphy. Keeping hidden is a natural tendency within communication or the transmission of information; always the necessity to “elude general comprehension”. There is a (military) play with a certain opacity (of a too coded message), with symptoms (an unwilled exposure of signification) and with steganography. Steganography can be simply described as the concealment of the fact that there exactly exists a hidden message. Yet neither is there this alterity of a well-intentioned signal, noise, the surface appreciation of an encrypted code. Rather a clear or cover message, however innocent, which belies the presence of hidden information; originally hair grown to cover an image, map or message tattooed on the low-bandwidth carrier’s head. A hidden writing, after the apparent magician Johannes Trithemius, whose own Steganographia encrypted a treatise on the very subject of cryptography within an ostensibly magical text. Number stations thus act as an inverse, darker steganography, spelling out its own message: that something is quite obviously being hidden yet there is no access to that transcendental message, that indeed there is only the appearance of hiding. And that which is hidden in this case may simply be an empty placebo, operating as a promotion of hiding and thus paranoia in the world. The message is simply that spies do exist, that there is something hidden within the world (the possibility of hiding does exist).


Black Planet

“Don’t press the key too long, or the enemy will take a bearing on your transmission!” [Handbook for C. Lorenz AG medium-frequency transmitter] “Paranoia is nothing less than the onset, the leading edge of the discovery that everything is connected, everything in Creation, a secondary illumination.” [Thomas Pynchon: Gravity’s Rainbow] Paranoia presents a network of communications, this illumination which is technology as a revealing (as, after Heidegger, aletheia: the state of not being hidden, of being evident, a certain revealing which is not unrelated to the hidden). Conspiracy theory takes part in this game of revealing which is military or technological ontology, defined, with all the expansions engendered by linked phrases such as “homeland security”, as a project of enclosure, of containing in the world, a world set into being by the military engineer. An apparatus or pure machine whose genesis can be wrapped within a short parable that can go under the names of the Gold-Bug, Enigma, Colossus, Ultra or, even, MKULTRA, beginning during World War II and reaching its (unseen) climax during the Cold War. A story ghost-written by a vast network of automatic workers overseen by conglomerates such as Siemens AG, IG Farben, and C. Lorenz AG (responsible for both the riders on the wave [Ultrakurzwellen-Landefunkfeuer] AKA the battle of the beams, and cryptographic technologies), and, operating under the shadow of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), later CIA, NSA and NASA. A short story, a conspiracy compressed, tracing the technological vector from the Nazis (and foreign business interests within IG Farben) through Operation Paperclip to the NSA, CIA and MKULTRA (pioneering “techniques of activation of the human organism by remote electronic means”). An already fantastic story, as revealed and documented conspiracy which is shadowed by a narrative of suppressed occult technologies, this darker, electromagnetic conspiracy theory which wraps all such theories with MEDUSA (Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio) snake threads labelled with both proper names and acronyms such as Tesla, Roswell (a cover story), JFK and MJ12; a theory of an occult and occulted ether physics. Just as there are, for the Manichaeans, according to Pynchon and maintained in that sacred site of Peenemünde, the first wedding (performed


Martin Howse

for CCTV) of the twinned conspiracies of science and technology as always simply engineering, two rockets, a good rocket and a bad rocket, we can divine both a good spectrum (or rainbow) and a bad one; “... a good rocket to take us to the stars, an evil rocket for the World’s suicide, the two perpetually in struggle”. A good Wernher von Braun and an evil, black twin Wernher, sowing the technical seeds of occulted Nazi physics within the US space programme, by way of equally suspect Operation Paperclip. According to the military looking-glass logic of conspiracy theory, one narrative exists solely as cover story for the other. The text that comes to the (public) light of day simply lids and hides the occult development of an other, darker technology. According to this logic of sense, the two, apparently competing (cold war) space programmes of the USA and USSR represent solely the public face of a hidden, esoteric physics, maintained in its darkness by an “extensive Nazi network of intelligence agents and scientists”.

“The Automaton does not invariably win the game. Were the machine a pure machine this would not be the case—it would always win.” [Edgar Allan Poe: Maelzel’s Chess Player] The pure and total conspiratorial machine, otherwise known as code, control or software (a masculine birth at Bletchley Park), is a play between an ontology of hiding and a functionality of revealing which is in one sense the world (given in that deciding) as the emergency-philosoph­ ical project of a holding of the day and of the world as (un-)certain. This is gnostic Philip K. Dick’s Black Iron Prison (BIP): an evil construct, a projection outside real time commencing in 70 ad and, supposedly ending in 1974 to be replaced with a benign, golden age represented by a Palm Tree Garden; the projection (“the universe consists of a spurious projected reality”) and the means of projection to be shaded, obscured and dismissed as the delusions of wavies, of the crazy “aluminium foil hat crowd”. The fairy tale relating the means of projection can be traced from Nikola Tesla and Dr José Manuel Rodriguez Delgado, with his stimoceiver controlling a certain national missile (or bull), through MKULTRA experiments with psychotronics, Project Pandora (spoken words can be delivered to subjects directly via pulsed microwaves), to RHIC-EDOM (Radio Hypnotic Intracerebral Control-Electronic Dissolution of Memory) operating under the cover story of UFO technologies and abduction.


Black Planet

Arriving at Michael A. Persinger, John C. Lilly and Philip K. Dick, operating under a colossal hypothesis: the possibility of directly accessing every human brain by electromagnetic induction of fundamental algorithms. VALIS, in other words, being “attracted or potentiated by the Soviet microwave psychotronic transmissions”.

“14. The universe is information and we are stationary in it, not three-dimensional and not in space or time. The information fed to us we hypostatize into the phenomenal world.” [Philip K. Dick: VALIS] And it is precisely the overcoded lack of presence of low-frequency radio or electromagnetic particle/waves that engenders a conspiratorial quality, a being-always-hidden of that which, in another frequency domain, is the always coming to light of the self-evident (light itself); a childish military game of hide-and-seek, of keeping secret(s) (camouflage, cryptography, steganography, stealth, secrecy, double agency) that creates the world within an inversely Gnostic imagination. But which came first? The exploitation of a shadowed materiality (planetary or Schumann resonance, for example) for religions of hiding, or its very coming into being (of science and technology) through some kind of magic or conspiracy—a more complex WASTE network that goes beyond a simple means of transmission? Was there something hidden in the amber (elektron), a container to be rubbed with fur, a blueprint or future circuit diagram laid out in stone circles, equally symbolic or coded arrangements within the landscape, megalithic antenna arrays storing rather than transmitting or receiving energy within quartz capacitative structures; a “hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning” (within the landscape)? Did an alliance of William Crookes, Charles Dodgson, Oliver Lodge and Arthur Conan Doyle (mirroring Poe as his double agent within a certain Musgrave Ritual) collude within the white lodge of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) to usher in an occulted, spiritualistic etheric age concealed under the cover story of simple communication? The antenna as an accident of physics and mathematics or with some symbolic or magical design here; this hieroglyphic interface between physical oscillation, between readable electronics (a city map, a circuit dia-


Martin Howse

Geographer and artist Trevor Paglen is one of today’s most intriguing explorers of inaccessible and unknown territories. In his practice, existing at some intermediate point between research journalism and what has been called “experimental geography”, he identifies and documents dark spaces that do not exist officially, built by organizations like intelligence agencies and the military. In previous projects, Paglen has photographed secret CIA prisons in Afghanistan and collected icons and symbols from classified projects in the US Army. Dark spaces also exist in the radio spectrum. Paglen has investigated the Hertzian infrastructures and broadcasting bands reserved for military use, photographed listening stations that intercept signals in the middle of Virginia forests and worked with communities of amateur astronomers, identifying secret communication satellites in the sky that do not appear in official satellite charts. Courtesy of Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne, and Altman-Siegel Gallery, San Francisco

Trevor Paglen Drone Vision Video intercepted from a communication satellite, 2010

His new work, Drone Vision, shows footage of a commercial communication satellite over the western hemisphere, intercepted by an amateur “satellite hacker” from an open channel. A large number of unmanned American surveillance aircraft and drones around the world are remotely piloted through communications satellites by ground-based operators in the United States who sit in a military facility thousands of miles away from the conflict area. The control and video links between aircraft and pilot are often left unencrypted to reduce the latency inherent in the system. Unmanned aerial vehicles or “drones” are one of the most powerful icons of contemporary war. The radio transmissions that link the drone with the remote pilot are, in a way, a weapon and a part of the battlefield. In the words of Brian Holmes, Drone Vision points to “the existence of a secret world that is increasingly palpable, increasingly present”. The Dark Side of the Spectrum Workshop on Free Wireless Networks

92 is a network of open, free, neutral telecommunications, which is based on an agreement of interconnectivity in which each participant (node) extends the networks and receives Internet access. works as a collaborative research, development and innovation platform that promotes and fosters the creation of wireless networks and open infrastructures of communication. It is one of the largest user-created wireless infrastructures in the world. The project was born in the Osona area in 2004, and today the network is present throughout much of the Catalan territory, as well as in other parts of the Iberian Peninsula and in the Sahara Desert. The initiative is also involved in projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, among other regions. Currently, more than 14,309 operative nodes have been implemented. This figure represents 23,520 kilometres of links built by citizens in collaboration with public and private entities. The community specializes in cutting-edge technologies that allow the creation of digital networks with low costs and high benefits to citizens, such as wireless technology and, more recently, fibre optics. is a member of CATNIX (the data exchange point in Catalonia). Additionally, it is legally authorized to operate as an Internet service provider. Awards and recognition include the National Award for Telecommunications of the Generalitat de Catalunya Catalan Autonomous Government (2007), and membership of the European Network of Living Labs and the Open Spectrum Alliance. In 2008, the Foundation for an Open, Free, Neutral Network was set up.


Let’s Make Waves

The Luthiers Drapaires are a group of creative recyclers of technological waste. Their work is the result of a process of research, recycling and reuse of waste. After collecting devices and materials from dumps, they remove the electronic, mechanical or constructive parts that can be used to create musical instruments and embark on a work process that includes prototyping circuits, designing mechanical systems and acoustic research. The Luthiers Drapaires are also an orchestra with instruments made of scanners, radios, televisions, metalwork, handheld mixers and strange artefacts. The instruments built during the workshops then become part of the Orchestra, which collects all types of recycled objects with creative possibilities. The Luthiers Drapaires prove that there is no need to enter into the dynamics of the market and consumerism to have electronic musical instruments, and that the waste that we generate is sufficient raw material to build sophisticated devices. The growing open hardware/Arduino community on the Internet gives everyone access to the knowledge needed to transform apparent junk into useful machines, with more and more people getting involved in the philosophies of DIY, recycling and downscaling.


“Making the Inaudible Audible and Giving it New Uses” is an introduction to the different types of radio frequencies (FM, AM, SW and VLF) and to alternative creation in the construction of new instruments. It presents musical apparatuses built with radio transmitters and receivers taken from the junkyard and explains the principles at work, inviting the public to try them out and interact. At the same time, special attention is paid to very low frequency (VLF) antennas*, devices capable of picking up the sounds produced by sun storms, the aurora borealis or seismic movements, among other phenomena. * Developed in collaboration with the Laboratory of Sound Art, University of Barcelona, and coordinated by Josep Cerdà.

Luthiers Drapaires Making the Inaudible Audible and Giving it New Uses


Let’s Make Waves

Invisible Fields. Geographies of radio waves  

With the invention of telecommunications technologies in the late nineteenth century, the radio-electric spectrum became a tool for rethinki...