Mediamatic Magazine vol 5#1+2 Madelon Hooykaas, Elsa Stansfield 1 Jan 1990

Radiant, a personal observatory

The Artists

Remenbrance in Morse


Radiant -

Modelon Hooykaas' & Elsa Stansfield's Personal Observatory is located next to their Museum of Memory, the two locations even being linked together in a subtle way. The Museum of Memory [video- installation-cycle, 1985-1988) is a sort of elusive memory without a fixed central core, introvert, inward looking. The Personal Observatory on the other hand, is an 'observation post', open and outward looking. An observatory where one is welcome to cast an eye into space, to scrutinise a sighting. You may perhaps bear a strange, unexpected signal, or get a glimpse of a cosmicolly mysterious image.

Radiant is stationed in the observatory. A satellite dish mounted on a tripod points upwards, set to receive; a monitor placed in the heart of the dish picks up incoming signals and immediately beams them out. Atmospheric undulating images appear, seemingly from very far away, revealing only fragments of slowly moving figures in a misty, unfamiliar landscape (they could be moonwalkers), mast-like towers...

snatches of text shoot past: s was the first letter telegraphed... Words beginning with an S jump in and out of your memory. Despite the text there is no coherent narrative structure. The signals that Radiant receives and transmits are apparently not decoded according to the given rules. You have to search deep into your memory, finish the words yourself; sign, source, sows, sour, soul, show, s.o.s...

Marconi. Marconi transmitted the first telegraph signal, from the tip of Cape Cod (Massachusetts, USA) to Cornwall (England). He spanned the Atlantic Ocean with the letter s, tapped out in morse code as three dots... Radiant is a super-sensitive receiver with the capability of suspending time, of receiving sound frequencies and signals of past events and of what is to come, of peering into prehistory and of practicing science fiction. Images of Marconi's transmission masts, remains of which still stand on what is now called Marconi-Beach on Cape Cod. Images of people (who are they?) by a steaming ocean, as if all the messages Marconi ever telegraphed become vaporized. And sometimes the image of Radiant looms up. You could well imagine that Radiant is a satellite too, that can observe itself floating serenely among the heavenly bodies.

Memories often seem elusive and jumbled - just beyond reach - until some sort of external stimulus suddenly jogs the mind and gives them form and meaning. They have their own closed domain, and grant access only through special codes, that you can never really learn properly. They populate the memory in large numbers, but the majority will never reveal themselves to you openly. The brain communicates with itself through the memory, to stop it from foiling opart in the chaos. On another level, space itself is teeming with intangible and invisible rays and signals on various frequencies, some of which can be amplified and decoded with specialised receiving equipment. The radiation of the sun, the stars and the planets is received on earth and has been used since living memory to determine time and direction, and we can read much from their position in the cosmos. A certain amount of all these rays and signals are deliberately transmitted and received in the field of 'space communication', but - believe it or not - a still greater amount simply sail imperceptibly throughout the Universe: the flotsam and jetsam of a supersonic mego-brain, in which time plays no part and technology never enters the stage.

Radiant is a highly personal transmitter/receiver that con spark off a connection between a subconscious memory and an imperceptible signal. The resulting images may not be logical but they certainly are illuminating.