A Year of Radio Silence

A Year of Radio Silence is now a series of low-power FM radio broadcasts occurring occasionally. More information about the original project by Steve Bates, can viewed here. This version had two iterations; one originally broadcast from the artist's home for a period of one year, and a second, 5.1 broadcast version created and transmitted from Austria's Kunstradio program on the national broadcasting network of the ORF.

Last 30mins, a remarkable work by Jim Harold and Matthew Sansom will be the third broadcast of the series and scheduled to run the month of April, 2015, the 12th anniversary of the Iraq War. A fourth broadcast in this ongoing series will be by New Zealand artist, Radio Cegeste in the summer of 2015.

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18 November 2012, 22:00 - 18 November 2013, 22:00, 16:00.
88.0 FM

From 10 November 2012, 22:00 to 10 November 2013, 22:00 on 88.0 FM from the radiating point of 45º 31’ 49.7186” N / 73º 36’ 23.8114” W (position error +/- 213’), a signal of 25mW broadcast silence will be transmitted.

This broadcast is in the form of a community service to quieten the FM radio band at this frequency for a period of one year. At present, a naturally occurring broadband noise is saturating this frequency. It is unclear, at this point in time, what the concrete benefits of this action will be other than a quieter FM band. We can only imagine some of the outcomes.

The limitations of the broadcast and receiving equipment and weather will greatly effect the quality and strength of this signal. As a non-profit community service, we offer no guarantees. In short, we will do what we can to maintain this quiet space with the limited resources we have.

The beginning of radio silence:

Steve Bates recorded and broadcast an iteration of A Year of Radio Silence in Austria on Kunstradio. More information here.


When installing a pirate radio, one turns the transmitter on with no input to insert a silent space into the static of the dial. To find this broadcast signal, one scans the radio dial until the static gives way to a quiet, open space of stillness.

In part, the history of radio, or more specifically of radio-time as commodity in Capitalist culture, can explain the pressure to avoid silences. Not only can they be awkward, they are also moments left un-commodified. Dividends uncollected.

Contemporary radio has developed technological means to actually eliminate and shorten time between words and to eliminate gaps so as to condense capitalist time. A sort of Ford-ist acoustic space.

But there is also something inherent in the technology of radio that breeds awkwardness in silence. It is unnerving. Even in a de-commodified community radio context where the pressure of economic value by the minute is radically reduced or even eliminated altogether. We are embracing this awkwardness. Perhaps in our shared awkwardness, we will come out the other side in better relation.

The longer the silence, the more tense the situation becomes. And so why not a year of it.

With radiophonic space, silence is deadly - the oldest shudder known to man, as Walter Benjamin describes it.

Michel Serres ideas around systems might take us further into what this shudder could have represented, short of death. Outlining the age of thermodynamics as an age where direction was ultimately given to time, that systems lead to entropic behaviours, that surroundings influence systems, that death awaits everything. A silent radio broadcast was the ultimate system error. A moment where energies were dissipated in all directions at once with no way to gather up all the spilling electrons.

A physical system... is isolated-closed. One must understand by this that no flow of matter, no circulation of heat, light, or energy, crosses the walls that define it and demarcate it in space. Under this condition and this condition only, the two laws of thermodynamics apply and are valid. With the slightest opening, the system is no longer governed by general equations.
Hence the general displacement of philosophical discourse from the nineteenth century to Bergson's posterity. Once couched in terms of differences, reservoirs and circulation, energies, power and relations of force, time and motors, deviations, oppositions and dissolution, suddenly this discourse, as if reverting to the conditions of its own practice, begins speaking in terms of open and closed, of isolation and closures. (1)

A silent broadcast is an act against thermodynamics. A stoppage to the flow of energies. A breakage in the relations of force, time, circulation. A leaking reservoir.

It is an action against death. Or maybe even an investigation of death.

It is a willful act of listening to our bones move and dissolve. Of listening to the gears of the universe rotate. Without fear.

To listen to a silent broadcast is to listen to the silence as an open space in a field of static. To send no signal into a transmitter is to broadcast quiet into a universe-wide expanse of static and electromagnetic pulses.

1) Serres, Michel. ‘The Origin of Language: Biology, Information Theory, & Thermodynamics’. Harari, Josue V. And David F. Bell, ed. Hermes: Literature, Science, Philosophy. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1982. 72.