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Text: Kate Donovan

***In the beginning, there was radio. ***

Some say that there was a quickening, and that the Earth’s core bubbled and burped to release the egg, and that the soft, brittle egg cracked to release the worm – the double worm of two entwined in one – to let it slither out and go underground, to disperse through all elements and up through the aether, burrowing down and emerging up at the same time. (Though some say it was the other way around.)••• But the sun and rocks and stars know that there was radio even before that, and nuclear waste (among other things) will go on to tell our (non-human) successors of the future, that there will still be radio, even then.

The final day of the festival saw us move the studio outside into the garden, toes in the earth, voices in the air. The theme for the day, as I understood it, was threefold: slowing down, thinking about materialities, and imagining. Radio precedes and exceeds us, it lends itself to the imaginary because it stretches beyond our wildest comprehensions. Thinking in such timescales forces us to think beyond what we know, have known and could possibly know; it is a wonderful moment for what Donna Haraway terms ‘speculative fabulation’. (I made that up about the radiating DNA worm.)

What I find most compelling about the so-called Anthropocene, is the curious, yet ironic effect it has of making us humans think beyond ourselves, beyond the space and time of ourselves, to the matter in, of and around our planet. And it pushes us to think further, if we can, beyond our physicality to a materiality of immateriality. In the radio garden – a materiality of frequencies.
Paying attention in the garden, we become aware of the unseen transmission of information, between plants, between insects, between humans, between living cells, molecules, bacteria, between all or any combination of these things with each other, all the time. Sometimes we need to slow down to notice the details, to concentrate, to focus, to ruminate. To decelerate. To work against the speed and force in which human endeavours are impacting the Earth.

Some say that the experience of dying is twofold: time slows down whilst mental images cascade. Here I will provide a cascade of images from Datscha Radio17’s final day, for you to read slowly:

  • a text on the interaction of elemental fluxes, the codes of the universe held within a breeze, being read over recordings from a wind tunnel;
  • talking about how one lives on, how the seeds of ones essence are dispersed after death, and how they may suddenly begin to grow in unexpected places;
  • listening to the details of our shared immediate surroundings, and taking our subjectivities into consideration;
  • dunking our heads into the waters and finally hearing what the sirens have to say;
  • singing, spontaneously, together;
  • talking with plants about their root system communications and ancestral knowledge;
  • carefully, carefully looking in the garden to make music with water and air;
  • wondering at the immensity of burrowing insects and seismic vibrations; pushing our senses to the limit in order to smell the airwaves…

…though let’s see this not as an end, but as a step into winterly rejuvenation. This year saw a good and varied harvest in the Datscha garden, and this catalogue is just one of the many fruits. Some others – which were airborne – have already scattered through the elements as electromagnetic waves and more, dispersing and combining with other remnants, to compost, to create and share nutrients, to enrich the soil, and will emerge again when the temperature is right.

***In the end, there will still be radio***

 

 

 

 

Translation: Gabi Schaffner

 

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Text: Rafik Will

Making radio and listening to radio, garden work and garden recreation – what is the outcome of a combination of these components in “radio gardening”? Datscha Radio17, a temporary radio station, is dedicated to this question. In the summer of 2017, it re-flourished for five days at the edge of Berlin and one thing became clear: the powerful symbiosis went beyond the constraints of both radio and garden.

One did not find a sound-proofed broadcasting studio in a magnificent building guarded by a janitor, but a cozy datscha that opened its mic not only for invited guests, but also for surprise visitors; besides international sound artists and neighbours from the garden colony, there were also the song-loving birds of the area, and occasionally even plants. Because potatoes and peonies can express themselves, too. Not via spoken word, but via other electric or fragrant ways. Alternative communications.

All these wondrous discoveries remind one slightly of the ‘Perinphon’ networks from Dietmar Dath’s science-fiction novel The Abolition of Species, in which the descendants of humans keep themselves updated via an information system that is based on especially designed scent molecules. In Dath’s novel, the gente can simply smell what’s going on. The plant world of today has already attained this science-fiction! Could we also see Datscha Radio17 as a futurististic translation machine for communication with the plant world that is way ahead of its time, way ahead of a breakthrough into the mainstream of its time? Why not!

Communication was an important keyword for the entire Datscha Radio 17. It was not just about making as many people as possible interested in its programme, but also the communicative interaction with its audience, as well as with its location; the biotope of the garden played a major role. What is the societal role of the garden today, and what might it be in the future, was also vigorously debated in various discussion rounds.

But also as an acoustic gallery, Datscha Radio17 cut a grand figure. Whoever came out to visit the open garden society could listen to poetry readings under the honey yellow moon, witness live concerts with the accompaniment of crickets, or soak up the variety of guest contributions that arrived from almost all around the globe with a glass of apple cider.

In conclusion: The concept of “Radio gardening” is convincing. The garden is transformed from a sealed off plot, where a sole ruler decides over the weal and woe of the plants, to a real place of encounter for a diversity of life forms. Such a policy of open borders is an effectively lived utopia in times of increasing tendencies to compartmentalise, and a real ray of hope. And radio is transformed from a one way medium to a media platform that is shaped by participation. With Datscha Radio17, even the listening itself does not happen like usual wireless consumption – only at the breakfast table inside one’s own four walls or in the car, that is, either alone or with the familiar yet closed company of family, friends or acquaintances – the garden-based listening groups that came together in various locations were exemplary of that.

Only a drop of bitterness remains: the short flowering duration of the five day Datscha Radio17. But just like a herbaceous perennial that hibernates after blossoming, Datscha Radio17 will surely reflourish in one of the coming summers and, like a rare plant, will enlighten the radio landscape again.

 

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Hans Kellett

New Zealand artist Hans Kellett took daily strolls through the adjoining gardens and along the Berlin wall path to converse with the locals. And so a series of poems came to bloom, that naturally also found its way into the broadcasts.

Here are two of them:

LOW-MAINTANANCE BORDERS
 
I’m tending my parents‘ grave
 here in the Rosenthal Cemetery
 and I’m trimming the hedge.
 I think you have to do it twice a year
 I do it in spring and late summer
 I don’t know if that’s the right way to do it, but it suits me that way.
 It’s not raining, and it had to be done,
 so I thought I’d do it today
 I’ve been doing this for ten years
 since my parents died
 two-thousand-and-one
 or… yeah…
 two-thousand… um… nine.
 Since then.
 It’s like my little garden,
 because I don’t have any other garden.
 And it’s big for a grave –
 a double grave two by two metres,
 not just a little spot for an urn.
 There’s a bit to be done.
 I decide spontaneously what to plant, and how
 I wanted something taller, that offered some shade
 So I chose this Japanese Maple,
 a little one
 a couple of roses
 and the rest more ground cover.
 I like the maple: it has such a beautiful colour, its reddish leaves.
 My mother chose this spot when my father died
 they – so to speak – reserved a double
 so they are both buried here now.

But it’s a beautiful little cemetary
 and there is a tawny owl up in the church
 you can see it even in the day.
 He observes everything
 he’s always been there, I think
 as long as…
 I don’t know how old they get
 if that’s already the next generation.
 When I trim the hedge,
 it should just be a bit straighter
 afterwards…
 a bit shorter, a bit narrower
 otherwise…
 usually you’d use a string –
 stretch it along the sides
 so you have the same height all around
 and go by that
 but it’s not such a big hedge
 what is it?
 thirty centimetres?
 or twenty-five?
 It’ll be enough if I measure it by eye…
 Then Ines and I walk round to see
 The tawny owl in the chapel wall – it’s one of three
 To me it looks first like a loaf of wholemeal bread
 perched in a niche, til two slit eyes turn bread to head
 And Jörg’s eyes are both opened now
 He asks his phone, and tells us how
 tawny’s been crowned ‘Bird of the Year’
 A cloud moves on,
 the sky’s trimmed clear.

GARDENING ON SANDY SOIL

The Spree shifts
casting drifts of
fine sand,
scattering its broad banks
with silica seeds.

And Lisa loves dill,
so she hopes that it will grow
in the sandy soil
of her city satellite.
She was fire and flame for a garden.

But Prussian sand
is stronger-willed
than April
stronger
in its multitude of grains
than dill can deal with.

In the centre 
of the sparsely-grassed lawn
a stand of tree.

Its name means
‘Tree of Life’
and yet
it is eternal uninvited guest
at burials.

Cypressaceae –
its sap
can stop
your planting plans.

You can’t compost it.

Members of its family
hang around like paparazzi
like oglers at a car crash,
the bouncers at 
Böcklin’s Hotel California.  

This sand, though
is more giving
than the chalky cliffs
of The Isle of the Dead.

It whispered to Lisa
of Old Frites
and so they came,
the end of season staple -
pink, and white,
and glossy with butter.

Now she’s not planting,
but shaping,
shifting the soil into a
productive patchwork

Tonight
there’ll be a barbeque
and soon
she’ll harvest her herbs.
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Text: Niki Matita

The fourth of those beautiful days in August was as sweet as honey. Early birds and busy bees buzzed, hummed, chirped and warbled on the airwaves. We dedicated ourselves to the fauna, especially to bees and birds that also seem to be the prototypical garden sound sources for many of those who responded to the open call. Snails and other creatures were treated to sounds, spirits were conjured up and forgotten eccentrics introduced.

City air makes you free” as the Town Musicians of Bremen already knew, and also seems to apply to the wild animals who are fleeing from the fields and woods to the cities more and more. Undisturbed by agricultural engines and pesticides, they can breed, nest and mate in rows of houses and allotment gardens and find plenty of, mostly species-inappropriate, nourishment.

Birds of a feather flock together//And so will pigs and swine//Rats and mice will have their choice//And so will I have mine//

Blackbirds, starlings, sparrows and crows are our next-door neighbours, who also occupy the Datscha garden’s complimentary breeding burrows and nest boxes. Antje Vowinckel, an author of radio plays, brought along a piece called “Cuckoo’s Chance” featuring the aforementioned brood parasites, and also pays tribute to hobby ornithologist and manic egg collector, Edgar “Cuckoo” Chance and his work.

South-american artist Suetszu is deeply enchanted by the chanting of birds, and devoted her turntable performance “Flightmaster’s Whistle” to ornitho-acoustic field recordings, weaving them musically into a featherlight twittering soundtrack. Musician and shamanic healer Zelda Panda established contact with animal spirits in the Datscha garden, faced a falcon and unfortunately became sorely afflicted by obtrusive mosquitos that were especially attracted to her.
Some may say, it is non-voluntary and therefore an act of prey and hatch killing; others put their own delight in the product above the exploitation of the creature, and regale their palates with honeycomb gold. Dominik Jentzsch and Caroline Schaminet introduced their project “Berlin buzzes”, which awards prizes to bee-friendly gardens and allotments and informs about the apinae. They focus not only on bee-keeping and yield, but also on wild bees, bumble bees and hornets, which are equally essential for pollination and therefore secure the mere existence of all our vegetal nutrition. As Inox Kapell aptly points out: “The labour of insects is worth millions!”

Snail, Slug, slimy bugs//Eat their supper when the moon is up//

Sound artist Marek Brandt went into prone position to reach out to his slow audience: “Music for Slugs” is the latest part of his ongoing series of compositions “Music for Animals”. Discovering the hearing abilities and the musical taste of the species to be treated to sounds, he creates specific works for special locations. The addressees of his composition joyously turned up, ready to party on the subwoofers.

The live concert by Hamburg band “Junge Haut” offered a far more conventional set-up. Guitar and voice formed the perfect musical accompaniment to the Indonesian Gado Gado, which was served at the long table to the joys of the Datscha team and our guests, strengthening us for the last night of the festival.

(Proof-reading by Cesca Bondy)

 

 

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Text: Verena Kuni | Kate Donovan

If the beach grows under the pavement, what is growing under the lawn and under the seedbeds? Perhaps the jungles of a future that will no longer be ours, because we probably lost it long ago. Of course, in our gardens we are still dreaming of it. Here, in our gardens, we hope to find our paradise. A place that does not know about the Fall of Man: flowering landscapes, which blind us to our ruthless exploitation of all conceivable resources; green treasures, which lead us to believe we would be able to bring back bygone biodiversity at any time; community gardens, which allow us to pretend the social care we have otherwise omitted from our everyday lives. Here we are creating the most beautiful pictures, to show them off with us inside.

The Tree of Knowledge, however, has long been felled – as compensation we planted an arboretum, like a book which we can consult at any time. In the olden days one had to take long trips to visit it, in order to gain knowledge about the world. Today we enjoy cheap flights wherever, whenever we want to go on holiday, elegantly hidden under the pretense of cosmopolitism, albeit at the expense of our climate and global ecosystems. At the same time, thanks to technology we feel oh-so-secure that all the necessary information about the world, and therefore the world itself, is always at our fingertips and available with only a swipe. So for some of us it has become really attractive to actually dig with our own hands in real dirt – given that the latter is the fruitful soil located in our backyard and not one of the contaminated landfills elsewhere around the globe to which we have sent our computer waste.

But what if these dumpsites – these stinking, dead beds of rotting technology that we are cultivating so eagerly – had meanwhile grown into the real gardens of our nature? After all, gardens have always been among the spaces and places mirroring man’s dream of “nature” as something to be dominated and determined. Moreover, gardens have always been techno-nature- cultures. This is likewise true for the concepts they are based upon and built from, for their investments and their structures, their designs and their uses. Over the centuries, humans have developed a wide range of tools and techniques, many of which are operating directly on and with living organisms – particularly in the garden and for gardening: be it for the cultivation of soil or to control the growth, spread and multiplication of life, including the extinction of existent species as well as the breeding of new species and subspecies.

And now, since people are increasingly confronted with the serious consequences of their egoism, greed, and a hardly justifiable belief in technological progress, gardens shall adjust: as biotopes and hideaways for a vanishing biodiversity, as spaces of experience and as places for learning that can help to raise awareness and to gain knowledge of something that has been lost long ago. In our radio garden, we try to listen to it. We are carrying our transceivers into the green to find resonance.

 

[Excerpt from: ECHO (THE GARDEN, HEREAFTER)] Verena Kuni

 

So many resonances from our Sunday in the radio garden, but here are just a few:

Kat Austen helps us to use empathy to find new symbioses with our non-human contemporaries; Marta Zapparoli takes us on an afternoon adventure through her ‘inaudible sounds’ – the phenomena of radio frequencies, captured on cassette; Gabi and Dirk talk about plant porn cinemas; Jodi Rose pays a visit to the studio, we talk of the language of natural and built environments, of possible futures; Seamus O’Donnell and MiHo set up a table for their performance outside – a lamp, bed springs, and a glockenspiel to sample, and a big rake head discovered in the datscha garden.

 

Kate Donovan

 

 

 

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Text: Gabi Schaffner

Concrete pig4Datscha Radio: Courtesy Karl Heinz Jeron

“Merde – C’est une belle chose” – the radiophonic opening of our second radio day began with a quote from Alfred Jarry and a contemplation of this special mass by the artist Kerry Morrison. Her text “Body Garden Experiment” describes intercontinental transportation of seeds, the body as a catalyst for multiplication and dispersal: “Clearly, my body waste was not entirely waste material. It had fecundity.”

Datscha Radio17’s “New Symbioses”, in their combination of food, biology, radio(making), ecology and experiment, continued to take on new forms throughout the day. In contemplating the day’s essence, the thought surfaces as to whether or not a radio day can be envisaged as a body. On this elongated, partly winding, partly translucent body which spreads via radio waves across the garden and into the world, there are openings and enates, there are dish-like hollows where tomatoes are stacked next to fishes, and there are tentacles equipped with LEDs emitting the most diverse signals. This body is not human and it is not garden. It is not a breed – not by nature – and it is not a system. Four examples of our symbiotic broadcasting body must suffice to highlight the day’s events.

Raymond Brouwers from Urban Street Forest reaches the Datscha just in time for Carte Verte. It should be clear to us, says Raymond, that our (Western) lifestyle devours landscapes elsewhere, it robs them of water, energy and resources. In the unification of vertical city greening and reforestation, for every urban tree planted, so is another one in areas threatened by desertification. His “One Tour Tree Forest” tour will take him throughout Europe this winter, where he will scout out new buildings for greenification.

The home of symbiosis is the interstice. There it thrives, there it makes its connections: between the buildings of the city, between the continents, between the material and the immaterial, between human and machine. In its semi-opaque depths, hidden in the vibrant folds of its existence, question and answer, wonder, fallacy and fact become one. What could knowledge and learning mean in the future?

After a moment of hesitation, and an effort to imitate a moth, our radio body takes on the shape of orchid blossoms. The broadcast “Hidden elements: reciprocal knowledges” by Shanti Suki Osman and Kate Donovan evolves into circular vortexes of talk – interrupted every so often by a “wow” – about the communication of nonhuman garden dwellers. There are species of orchids that mimic the body of female wasps in order to attract the appropriate pollination partner.  Others, in turn, are able to create a sound that resembles the frequency of potential prey insects…

A couple of hours later: A long, thin black cable winds out of a knife’s handle, disappears into the inscrutable tangle on the table and ends up at a keyboard and an assortment of switches. Kasia Justka’s “Singing kitchen” performance merges cutlery and gadgetry, music and electronics into continually new improvised soundscapes.

New Symbioses: Do they require our faculties of imagination? Do they need their own invention? Or could it suffice to translate what already exists into ever-new oscillations? Is not radio itself a symbiotic source of communication and a ‘world receiver’?
By the end of the day the channels of the Datscha Radio body open up for breakfast at the other end of the world. We broadcast yet we don’t: Sophea Lerner’s “Saturday Night Breakfast” from Sydney is streamed onto our server whilst we sit down in the nightly garden to finish off the remains of the tomato salad and listen. New seeds for mind and body!

Gabi Schaffner

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Text: Gabi Schaffner

When we tilt our heads to gaze at the sky, we do so for various reasons: to count the stars, to let our eyes wander through the blue, to dream towards the clouds. Gardeners, however, like to check the weather. The dream of a reliably predictable future resonates with the actions and passions of weather forecasts. And why not? The world does consist of resonant frequencies.  And consequently of radio…

Under the title “Plots and Prophecies – Parzellenprognosen” Datscha Radio 17 broadcast 24/5 from the 25th – 29th August straight from an allotment garden and out into the world. The process of radio making – otherwise quite a hidden event – becomes transparent in the Datscha’s winter garden. Creative, interdisciplinary and open to everybody, Datscha Radio17 transformed the privacy of the garden into a public space for art and communication. Aligned with the length of the festival, the radio makers, artists and guests focused on five subject areas.

Our first day’s central point was the garden as a palladium of political and territorial relationships. The history of garden culture(s) and their associated metaphors of power and the body were re-established from the first minute on with the choir of the Hidden Stories Singers. Next to current issues about sustainable food production and ecological start-ups, naturally the “New Symbioses” of the second day were dedicated to outdoor-cooking and its hermaphroditic connection to the staged concerts and performances.

What will our living worlds look like in future perfect? “Biotopes in Future Perfect” combined science, performance and art into a “radio-active” kaleidoscope that continued to glow in subtle colours even long after sundown.

On the fourth day, artists, guests and the Datscha team addressed the theme of “Bees and Birds”,  – starting with current developments in Berlin urban gardening, to insider knowledge on cuckoos, and live music for the resident slug population.

The last day of the festival was reserved for dark matter: the soil, deceleration, the immersion into the unknown and with it, of course, the imaginary garden.

Just as radio waves spread simultaneously in all directions, Datscha Radio17’s spectrum resonated beyond conventional formats and forms. More than 40 international sound gardeners and radio makers responded to our open call and took part in the programme. Additionally, an “International Garden Radio Listening Club” invited the listeners to parallel listening parties.
And so the radio days grew organically by themselves; there were parallels and reflections, sequels and surprises, constants and mysteries. For instance, the New Zealand poet Hans Kellet continually held conversations in the neighbouring gardens and transformed them into poems.  What can be considered a real mystery though, were the “Greenhouse Emissions” – a plant language translation machine first introduced by Kate Donovan and Ryan McFadyen – that were broadcast on three days of the festival.

While we worked together in our greenhouse of plots and prophecies, the techné of radio increasingly transformed into organic communication. The future – doesn’t it rather lie in the resonating frequencies of the here and now and their materiality? In roaming the (radio) garden, day by day new perspectives began to open up. Rarely did they disclose a view of ‘the whole’, they led us rather onto selected paths and trails… just like this publication.

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The weather was just too fabulous and we moved our studio outside under the tree. Featured artists this Tuesday were Frieder Butzmann, Rosanna Lovell and Hannes Wienert.

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