I’m delighted to be short listed for Jerwood Open Forest alongside artists Rebecca Beinart, Keith Harrison, David Rickard and David Turley to research and develop my proposal for Whispering Trees across England’s Public Forest Estate. Over the next six-months which will culminate in a group exhibition in November at Jerwood Space, London leading to one of us being selected for the full commission which will be announced towards the end of 2016.
I plan to develop an interactive trail of radio transmissions through the forest, playfully enabling trees to whisper to each other, and re-engaging with a sense of technological enchantment so intrinsic to the early radio experiments that make up part of my research interests. I envisage members of the public recording their own secrets and dreams into simple radio hardware disguised within a tree.
The new project develops from Tree Radio which I worked on at a residency at Yorkshire Sculpture Park last year . Read my article on Tree Radio for “Reflections on Process in Sound” Reflections_on_Process4_2015-MH
Whispering Radio Trees – Magz Hall
General George Owen Squire the U.S. Army’s Chief Signal Officer and incidentally the inventor of Muzak, back in 1919 described how “[all] trees, of all kinds and all heights, growing anywhere—are nature’s own wireless towers and antenna combined” (1919). He called this “talking through the trees.” He used trees as antennae through which to pick up radio signals for the army. I plan to do this but also use the trees to send out a radio signal. I love the idea of actually hearing the trees ‘talk’.
The tree radio installation is also inspired by an early surrealist radio programme of Robert Desnos in 1937 La Clef des Songes [The Key of Dreams] which invited listeners to submit their dreams for interpretation and dramatisation, encouraging highly poetic responses from this interaction. Desnos wrote that an invented radio dream delivers the same secrets as a real one.
This new work builds on my research project Tree Radio (2015) which I started during an Art for the Environment research residency at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park last summer. Tree Radio transformed an oak tree at the Sculpture Park into a micro radio station; a transmitter embedded into the tree relays the tree’s reactions to light, motion and moisture via sensors and probes in the tree’s canopy. These were heard as a series of fluctuating electronic tones that visitors can tune in and listen to via their own personal radios or mobile phones with an FM receiver while in the vicinity of the tree. This work was produced with a small budget and limited time on site allowed but it allowed me to test the idea of a transmitting tree and put it on practice. For this project I will develop the idea further and create a Tree Radio wireless system for playout and distribution across the woods, which also allows for participation from visitors.
New digital wireless masts are often disguised as trees and not only is this is a playful way of getting people to think about trees themselves as transmitters and receivers, revisiting radio’s early military history, but also to re-engage the sense of technological enchantment intrinsic to such early radio experiments within a contemporary woodland context.
The new project develops from Tree Radio which I worked on at a residency at Yorkshire Sculpture Park read my article on Tree Radio for “Reflections on Process in Sound” Reflections_on_Process4_2015-MH