Don’t Mourn

Sarah Kanouse

Kanouse writes:"“Don’t Mourn” is a series of memorial transmission performances to moments of violent conflict in Illinois labor history from the 1870s to the 1990s. I traveled to twelve otherwise unmarked sites to broadcast a distorted Internationale, the socialist and anarchist solidarity anthem, using a homemade mobile transmission kit consisting of a 4-watt FM transmitter, modified HAM radio antenna, and 12-volt wheelchair batteries. Radio’s invisibility underscored the marginality of these mostly forgotten, yet nonetheless significant events, while the minor act of civil disobedience represented by my lone, unlicensed broadcast connected it to the lost militance of the American left.

Informed by the writings of transmission artists and theorists like Frances Dyson and Joe Milutis, I was attracted to the apparent paradox of using an ephemeral medium as a technology of memory. Milutis has written about how radio—which was discovered during a period of intense interest in the supernatural—was understood by its early public as an extension of the “ether” in which spirits of the departed were thought to reside. Dyson discussed how transmitted sound mediates between the physicality of objects and the transience of time. The radio’s cultural and material life, therefore, seem ideal for anti-monumental approaches to memory work. As a form of omnipresent sound that cannot be heard by the unassisted ear, as an invisible immersive technology in which our bodies and spaces are always bathed, radio enacts metaphorically the troubled nature of public memories, always hovering on the brink of forgetting.

Video documentation of “Don’t Mourn” was exhibited at Open Source Art (Champaign, IL), Mess Hall (Chicago), and at the Southern Illinois University Museum (Carbondale). A Flash-based web version of the project that combined creative nonfiction writing and video documentation was published in the performance studies journal Liminalities in Fall 2007. It can be accessed at"

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