Critical Radio, Springerin 1/2024

“Hideakie Gushiken, documenta fifteen, 2022.” foto: Sumugan Sivanesan

“Critical Radio: Community Building and Solidarity in a Low-Bandwidth Medium” published in Springerin 1/2024, "ArtGPT." Excerpts below:

At an assembly held during documenta fifteen, it was suggested that net radio is a kind of low bandwidth activism taking up digital space in a largely privatized and commercialized World Wide Web. While this may be so, fugitive radio claims that the critical front is not at public facing websites, rather “critical radio”1 emerges in the kinds of organizing, skill sharing and community building that occurs alongside the production of content. Hack-labs and live broadcast happenings facilitate sharing, co-learning and generate enthusiasm for alternative networked-sociabilities. While such gatherings are often premised on pursuing free and open (source) culture and promoting digital commons, it is arguably conviviality that shapes the micro-politics of experimental radio activity. 


“Make friends not art” was a phrase that memed during the Jakarta-based collective ruangrupa’s takeover of documenta fifteen (2022), also known as “lumbung one,” valorizing of the social aspects of art-making over its commodified objects. Friendship was thus politicized as it determined the communities, practices and issues leveraged through infrastructural art power. This was notable as evidence of antisemitism alongside racist and transphobic attacks rocked the event, leading to censorship, withdrawals and the resignation of Documenta’s Director General Sabine Schormann. Nevertheless, solidarities resolved among those remaining and initiatives, such as lumbung radio, are ongoing. Organizations have since proposed to “learn from lumbung,” a reference to an Indonesian community rice barn, emphasizing the pooling and redistribution resources among inter-local networks and collective planning. I think it would also be wise to learn from the Humboldt Forum.


When I moved to Berlin in 2017, curators I met sought to politicize their practices. Now some admit to being strategically silent, contributing to a climate of self-censorship and antagonism that recalls East Germany’s Stasi era or McCarthyism in the United States. As spaces holding multiple perspectives are dramatically reduced, what are the alternative platforms for critical debate?

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