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    the french-english war (under a red, white and blue flag)

    | 2007-02-24 | 17:38
    temos: VMS

    We are publishing Benjamin Cope’s presentation which was done on the 2nd session of Vilnius Media Seminar (VMS) “Strategies of Tactical Media: Noise Makes Sense” on 19th of February, 2007. His experiences in making radio shows and traveling all around Poland for interviewing local people without having good polish skills was very much of the tactical nature.



    A Radio Show presented from January 2005 to September 2006 on the Warsaw Internet Radio “Team Radio” by David Sauvignon, Benjamin Cope and Siarhei Liubimau. 


    To play music from other parts of the world than that which is heard on the mass media, especially from Central and Eastern Europe and France.

    To use the point of views of a Frenchman and an Englishman, and then also a Belarusian, living in Poland as a way of giving a different sort of comment on Polish society.


    At the time we really had no idea what we were doing or how it was going to turn out, but if I look back on it now, I would say we had two role models:

    “Là-bas, si j’y suis”

    A radio show by Daniel Mermet on French State Radio France Inter every weekday at 15:05-16:00 since 1989, which is an extremely successful example of a radio show used as a tool of sociological investigation and social protest: http://www.la-bas.org/.

    “The Danny Baker” Radio Show

    An extremely unsuccessful radio show that lasted only from 1993-1996 on British National Radio 1, which was remarkable for broadcasting things on radio that were profoundly visual: e.g. listeners would phone the show and say they were about to shoot a Britney Spears CD with an air-rifle, Danny would tell them to go ahead and then would be heard the noise of the phone being put down and something that sounded like a CD being shot with an air-rifle, but might have been something very different.

    You can check some material here http://www.internettreehouse.co.uk/radio1. See especially any of the excerpts recorded under the headings Destroying CDs, Stunts and Turmoil.  

    The Format

    The show was a music show presented in Polish with two forms: either in the studio with songs interspersed with improvised conversation or on the road recording onto a Dictaphone (digital or tape) which was later transferred onto computer and edited with songs.

    How it turned out

    Obviously Polish was difficult for us, so our improvised conversations ranged from the highly surreal to the virtually impossible to understand. Sometimes we managed to blend high culture/low culture, philosophy politics, society and the absurd in a great and creative mix – other times, nothing sparkled and it was just dull.

    We did play an interesting mix of music from a range of countries. A problem for us was that the radio station was run by young people who simply had ambitions to be a real radio station: this meant that they just copied mainstream radio badly without having ambition to do anything different.


    I think our highlights were the shows we made on the road, where the dictaphone and our foreigners’ naivety enabled us to enter conversation with a wider range of the population than normally appear in the media (we must admit that drinking a few beers also helped here).

    In turns of social protest, some moments that stand out were: whispering in a car that had been stopped for speeding and predicting that having a young beautiful female driver would save us from paying a fine (as a few moments later turned out to be the case); arriving at a jazz festival in the Crimea and buying a Jennifer Lopez cassette so that we could then record our show onto it; discussing how a Polish mobile phone company could possibly have planned that the Pope would die in the middle of their advertising campaign so that the colours they used on their huge billboards (yellow, white and black) would match those of the Vatican in mourning; hearing that the Russian psychobilly band The Mean-Traitors thought Warsaw a wonderful city because they had arrived got drunk, slept, played a concert and were now getting drunk again; listening to a 15 spontaneous debate in Russian in a Warsaw club as to whether France or England had had the greater influence on 19th century Russia.


    Very few listeners; our absurdity was at times simply incoherent; we failed to fully develop the social investigation side of the project (this was probably also caused by a lack of motivation due to an absence of financial rewards and a lack of listeners); sometimes our humor with regard to Poland came dangerously close to sounding like neo-colonialist arrogance.


    David Sauvignon once every two weeks makes a programme about music in Eastern Europe called ‘Yonderboi’ (after the famous Hungarian DJ of the same name) for the network of local French Independent Radio Stations Fera Rock. This is a network of local independent radio stations set up in the 1980’s which share programmes and information on concerts, etc., to establish a network of genuinely alternative local radio stations. For more info on what David does see: http://sonoritesdailleurs.blox.pl/html.

    We have organised concerts in Warsaw for Belarusian band “Serebrenaya Svadba” and Russian Kletzmer group “Nayekhovichi” and are in the process of organising a tour to France for Belarusian band “Nagual”.

    We try to move to a real airwave student radio station in Warsaw Radio Kampus in order to try to reach a wider audience.

    Questions our Experience Raises in Relation to Tactical Media

    Just by starting and doing what we wanted without thinking much about audience gave us a freedom to discover, to gain experience and start other things rolling. The formula of doing and then worrying about what we were doing later gave a lot of energy.

    We did manage to play music from countries that do not figure on major radio playlists or in record shops. We also created experimental radio forms that challenged the conventional logic that the form of radio shows must always be the same (i.e. no more than 3 minutes talk between songs, songs of 3 minutes, etc.)

    The use that tactical media makes of ‘noise’ (i.e. of communicating while also problematising the question of what sense there is in what is being communicated) is also a technique exploited by mainstream media (especially MTV and radio). Thus, even when we thought we were doing something very alternative we were perhaps not very far from the joyful ironic senselessness of capitalist media. Perhaps there is a need for media to report seriously on the issues that mainstream media overlook.

    Tactical media rely to a large extent on available new technology that bypass traditional media, but does this mean we too easily accept that mainstream media are dominated by empty nonsense when we should be fighting to have our voices heard in the wider public sphere.

    In the end, we came up against the problem of wanting to have more listeners: however, even in just making a demo for “Kampus Radio” it became clear that in seeking greater popularity we inevitably had to give up some of our creative independence.


    temos: VMS |

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