Though I did not attend the Radio Revolten Festival, I did experience Kogawa’s contribution to it  a video entitled CONCILIATION OF SFERICS — online, and I recommend that you do the same. The video begins with the image of two radio receivers and four circular coils of red wire attached to small electronic gadgets about the size of a postage stamp. These are Kogawa’s latest “'all band transmitters,” which can cover large swaths of the spectrum, including most of the AM and FM bands.[2] As a hand reaches towards these transmitters, the camera angle shifts and I realize that Kogawa has used a bodycam to capture this performance, creating not only a piece of video documentation, but also a work of video art that allows viewers to virtually experience the performance from his point of view. I notice that the position of his hands roughly corresponds to the position of my own hands, which rest idly on the keyboard, and as I gaze into the screen, it is easy for me to imagine his hands as a digital extension of my very own.

CONCILIATION OF SFERICS by Tetsuo Kogawa (Video taken from posted by Mobile Radio, 19 February 2017).


After Kogawa attaches 9-volt batteries to each of the transmitters, an electronic squeal enters the scene. As it whines and falls in pitch, other tones ascend from below. When Kogawa places his hand over one of the batteries, this tonal chorus is squelched and as he picks up the battery, individual squeals once again break free and scurry up and down in pitch. As Kogawa slowly raises, lowers, and moves these transmitters from side to side, tiny chirps flutter around the stereo field, quickly and chaotically. Sometimes a crashing wave of noise drowns out these sounds. Other times, they seem to move in a synchronized harmony that forms a rhythmic drone resembling an accelerating or decelerating motor.


Kogawa specified three compositional rules for CONCILIATION OF SFERICS, and he describes his process for creating the piece in the following manner:


In the beginning, I made wide-band [...] transmitters covering 500KHz to 150MHz and more of the harmonics. [...] The point of my live performance is: (1) not using any ready-made sound-devices; (2) less creating ‘music’; (3) insisting on my hands moving as a kind of ‘hands-dance’. (Kogawa 2016c)


After reading Kogawa's rules for this performance, I realize that I will have a hard time discerning a direct correlation between the sounds I hear and the movements I see on the screen as the video plays. As much as I try to find connections among the signals produced and the positions of radio transmitters, receivers, hands, lights, and other material elements contained within the frame, the more I come to accept that I will never fully grasp the whole picture. There will always be something else — some extra element beyond my perception  that has caused these sounds to manifest in the way they did.

I have seen many art projects that deal with radio by making this form of electromagnetic energy easier to perceive, such as the Architecture of Radio app, which aims “to provide a comprehensive window into the infosphere” by visualizing wireless signals (Vijgen 2015: n.p.). However, Kogawa's performances are different. They keep the mysteries of the radio hidden. His slow hand movements and the chaotic agglomeration of sounds cause the airwaves to seem strange and make them more difficult to perceive in their entirety. Yet, within this obscurity, it becomes easier to perceive radio as something fascinating and unknown, a site for discovery filled with potential. Kogawa's hand movements begin to uncover this potential by investigating the aesthetic and performative possibilities of the airwaves during his direct interventions into and within this electromagnetic realm.


In an interview with his long-time friend and collaborator, the Fluxus artist, Yasunao Tone, Kogawa explains: “In my ‘hand-waving’ performance of radioart, my hands [are] not controlled by my senses nor by my taste” (Kogawa 2008). What, then, guides Kogawa in these performances? Perhaps he moves his hands and the radio transmitters in response to the sounds they produce, but if this is the case, then which object is really the transmitter and which one is the receiver? Also, what exactly is it that we hear in these performances? Since these transmitters are not attached to a microphone or an audio playback device, what is this sound anyway? Is it the sound of radio itself or is it something else?