The free radio group LIGNA exists since 1995. LIGNA consists of the media theorists and radio artists Ole Frahm, Michael Hüners, and Torsten Michaelsen, who since the early nineties have been working at the "Freies Sender Kombinat" (FSK), a public non-profit radio station in Hamburg. In several shows and performances they have been investigating the importance of dispersal in radio as well as of the radio. One of the main focuses is to refer to forgotten and remote possibilities of radio use in order to develop new forms of interactive practices (Mental Radio Show ). Another emphasis has been placed on the development of concepts and the production of performative audio plays (Labyrinthe und Interferenzen), in order to find out how radio can intervene in public and controlled spaces, so that its public nature reappears in the form of uncontrollable situations (Radioballett: Übung in unnötigem Aufenthalt).
On the basis of these different models the borders of (left-wing) media theory, the "white cubed" art space, and political intervention are theoretically and practically examined.
Radio BalletÜbung in nichtbestimmungsgemäßem VerweilenExercise in lingering not according to the rulesRadio-Performance at the Leipzig main station22. June 2003, 18.30-20.00
A Radio Ballet is a radio play produced for the collective reception in certain public places. It gives the dispersed radio listeners the opportunity, to subvert the regulations of the space.
The Radio Ballet "Übung in nichtbestimmungsgemäßem Verweilen" (Exercise in lingering not according to the rules) took place in the main station of Leipzig, Germany, a former public space that is under private control of the German railway company (Deutsche Bahn - DB) and it's associates since the mid-nineties. Like every bigger train station in Germany it is controlled by a panoptic regime of surveillance cameras, security guards and an architecture, that avoids any dark and dangerious corners. The system of control keeps out every kind of deviant behaviour. People, who sit down on the floor or start to beg are detected immediately and instantly expelled.
The Radio Ballet brought back these excluded gestures of deviant behavior into the main station. Around 500 participants - usual radio listeners, no dancers or actors - were invited to enter the station, equipped with cheap, portable radios and earphones. By means of these devices they could listen to a radio program consisting of a choreography suggesting permitted and forbidden gestures (to beg, to sit or lie down on the floor etc.). These suggestions were interrupted by reflections on the public space and on the Radioballett itself.
The Radio Ballet was not a demonstration (that could have been forbidden by the DB) but a "Zerstreuung" (a german term with different meanings: dispersion, distraction, distribution and, as well: entertainment). It also was not a mass ornament: The participants could act where they wanted to: on the platforms, on the stairs or the escalators or in the "Promenade" (the shopping mall in the station). They acted as a free association, that transformed the act of reception into a political intervention.
Like ghostly remnants the excluded gestures haunted for the 90 minutes of the performance the controlled public space and opened it for an uncanny and uncontrollable situation.
The first Radio Ballet took place in May 2002 in the main station in Hamburg. In both cases - Hamburg and Leipzig - the German Railway company tried to forbid the intervention before it took place. In Hamburg they even brought it before court - where we won: The court followed our argumentation, that the Ballet is not a gathering, that is forbidden by the regulations of the space, but a dispersion of radio listeners, that cannot be forbidden anywhere. In Leipzig the case was not before court and it turned out, that the railway company was unable, to put their prohibition into practice: it is simply not possible, to get 500 dispersed radio listeners out of a train station without shutting the whole place down.
In the end both attempts to ban the intervention helped us quite a lot to promote it. Ligna is now busy to develop forms of the Radio Ballet for different surroundings, especially shopping zones.
The Ligna presentation focuses on how radio can intervene in public and controlled spaces, so that its public nature reappears in the form of uncontrollable situations (Radioballett: Übung in unnötigem Aufenthal). Yet, Ligna's performances aim to confront the privatised, controlled production of capitalism with the dispersed, yet collective, uncanny and public production of the radio.