Text from the performance Radio Études


After the World War it was felt that radio should serve to humanize humanity. It appeared as though families huddled around receivers would participate in cultural activity on an unprecedented scale. By negating geographic distance a new peace would envelop the Earth.

But there was more to it than simple geometry. Khelbnikov wrote, in true Bolshevist fashion, “Radio has solved the problem that the church has failed to resolve—that of giving mankind access to the common soul, to the common daily spiritual wave.”

Some radio entelechy would spare us the ordeal of performing any acts of tyranny against our own collective will. A great telepathic force was to guide our evolution—right out of the air. Acheiving peace would be as easy as aspiration.

But radio itself had no interest in telepathy, peace or anything else. We bestowed upon it belief and even endowed it with sensory apparatus. An ear, perhaps to hear the love-lorn cries of a teenager yearning for some loose-kneed singer. Or an eye to see shivering masses dying in a bombed out barrio. We still use expressions like ‘up in the air’ to mean we are undecided, ‘in the air’ to describe an entire zeitgeist, and to ‘clear the air’ is to relieve tension and resolve conflict.

Decades before Hertz’ seminal experiments Bakunin had pointed out another intentional system which radio might occupy. Some of his recruitment rhetoric sounds more secular than the Bolshie’s ever did: “Invisible pilots in the center of the popular storm, we must direct it, not with a visible power, but by collective dictatorship without badge, without title, without official right, yet all the more powerful because it will have none of the appearances of power.”

Radio would have to be invented.

The reification of this radio dialectic can be found in Guevara’s treatise, Guerilla Warfare. ?The radio is a factor of extraordinary importance. At moments when war fever is more or less palpitating in every one region or a country, the inspiring, burning word increases this fever and communicates it to every one of the future combatants. It explains, teaches, fires, and fixes the future positions of both friends and enemies. However, the radio should be ruled by the fundamental principal of popular propaganda, which is truth; it is preferable to tell the truth, small in it’s dimensions, than a large lie artfully embellished?


Ean White, 10/93