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Spectres of Shortwave installed at Dazibao in Montréal

  • Dazibao 5455 Avenue de Gaspé Montréal, QC, H2T 3B3 Canada (map)

Spectres of Shortwave will be installed and running on a loop in the spectacular screening room at Dazibao. Excellent theatre space with comfortable seating, bright projection, and full 5.1 surround sound. You can come and view the film in perfect screening conditions any time between Nov. 15 and Jan. 29. It will be screening a few times per day, every day that the gallery is open.

Spectres of Shortwave / Ombres des ondes courtes  is a body of work about radio waves, relationships, landscape, and loss.  Long before the internet, there was shortwave radio, and for 70 years, a mysterious web of radio towers dominated the Tantramar marshes of New Brunswick. Meanwhile, local residents heard radio broadcasts in foreign languages, emanate unexpectedly from their fridges and toasters.  This body of work explores tales of technology, personal relationships, military strategy, and strange sounds from household appliances.

The Radio Canada International shortwave site was built during World War 2, to broadcast to Europe and Africa. Located in Sackville, NB, it was perfectly positioned to transmit across the Atlantic Ocean, and covered most of the globe with its transmissions. It continued to broadcast around the world during the Cold War, not only for Canada, but also relaying transmissions for Radio Free Europe.  Only 20-30% of the world has access to the internet, and many authoritarian regimes censor the internet in their countries.  Shortwave radio is affordable and accessible to everyone, no matter what their geographic or financial situation.  Shortwave is an objective source of news and information for people in many countries, because it cannot be blocked or censored.  Canada was one of the last democratic voices on shortwave radio, and in 2012, RCI stopped broadcasting, and the site was dismantled in 2014.  I was the only person present to document the dismantling of this international communications site, and I have incorporated that documentation into a series of image and audio based works.

This series began with an experimental documentary film focused on the flat marshland landscape accompanied by stories told by local residents and the technicians who worked at the site.  This landscape film contains no images of humans, and it is structured over four seasons and ends with the demolition in winter.  Images were filmed on 35mm and many of the sounds were recorded by placing handmade contact microphones on the towers themselves. The soundtrack of the film also functions as a radio art piece and has been transmitted as an international shortwave simulcast whenever the film has screened in theatres.