The Radio Art Hour: Rachel Rosenthal, Sheila Davies Sumner, Scanner (Audio)
Aug 13, 2022
Produced by Wave Farm Radio Artist Fellows and Artistic Director Tom Roe.
This week tune in "filename:FUTURFAX" by Rachel Rosenthal (1990) and "What Is the Matter in Amy Glennon?" by Sheila Davies Sumner (1989), both introduced by Jess Speer. Plus the show finishes with Scanner's "Hardcore." First, like the best of dystopian fiction, "filename:FUTURFAX" (1990) at first takes us in with the premise that the future is a technological utopia where problems of hunger, deprivation, uncertainty, and unhappiness have been solved forever. The narrator receives a fax from a future civilization after a great crash, sent through a time warp, written and clarified by a computer operated by a team of scientists sending good wishes. Whispers of uncertainty slip in when you hear that art is no longer made after being deemed superfluous and subversive by the lawmakers (they do tell jokes, however). Recalling 1984 and Brave New World, the future civilization is founded on total technocratic control and scientific progress, having become de-deified and losing religion because they control all the natural functions formerly ascribed to mysterious divinities. And then moral and social decorum are maintained thanks to the implants (should we say that?). Soon its revealed that some people suffer incredible fits of boredom, and some, labeled deviants, even escape to the world outside the domed structures of the SSC (self-sufficient communities). These deviants have set up a parallel civilization, one that our scientist reports with great astonishment appears to worship the very environment, in spite of the great hardships imposed by the natural world and the ruins of 20th century civilization. Humanity, at this unknown future date, is reduced to a population of comfortable citizens living in an environment where every element, including themselves, is controlled, and a group eking out an existence and sacrificing themselves in the work of making amends with the natural world, often becoming sick or dying during cooperative clean-ups of the ruins. And then tune in "What Is the Matter in Amy Glennon?" by Sheila Davies Sumner (1989) also introduced by Jess Speer. In What is the Matter in Amy Glennon?, Sheila Davies Sumner showcases her interest in the connection between the physical and metaphysical, storytelling, science, and psychology, as well as her agility with words and quick wit. The piece simultaneously tells and constructs the story of Amy Glennon, whose body and mind have been separated by The Great Fathers of Science, as she reckons with her consciousness, relationship to the quantum, and the bitterness of self-knowledge, and transmutes it into a marriage of philosophy and science, and wisdom in the form of paper cups of hot coffee. The story is told alternatingly by a narrator and by Amy herself, accompanied by a chorus, and is worked and re-worked within itself in an auction-house whose auctioneer takes bids on the content, direction, and meaning of the text. Deeply philosophical, the piece is filled with rapid-fire confetti blasts of references to mythology, science, metaphysics, philosophers, theorists, artists, and subconscious symbolism, playfully hurrying the listener on in a delightful almost giddy pace towards the center of human and universal thought and experience. In its many transmutations, twists, and turns, the piece encourages the listener to reflect on storytelling, identity, the relationship between science and philosophy, and the very nature of being in both the physical and metaphysical senses. Some listeners may feel compelled to listen again and again to follow the various paths, references and trains of thoughts. The script of the piece can be read on the New American Radio archive. - Introduced by Wave Farm Radio Artist Fellow 2020/2021, Jess Speer. The show ends with with Scanner's "Hardcore" from his 1993 debut "Scanner 1" album. The British artist scanned cell phone signals into his work here.