Helicotrema 2017

Imaginative Radio Plays

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Overview | Details | Exhibitions | Conceptual Framework | Artist Statement


Imaginative Radio Plays is a 6:00 sound landscape / poem / radio art work, one of eighteen works by international artists jury selected from one hundred submissions, for Helicotrema Festival 2017, as part of the world renowned Venice Art Biennale.


Object: Audio file
Format: mp3
Bit Rate: 356kbs
Duration: 6:00
Created: 2017
Creator: John F. Barber

Exhibitions / Publications / Broadcasts

Helicotrema Festival

Helicotrema Festival 2017
(Juried; 1 of 18 international artists selected from 100 submissions)
Part of the Venice Art Biennale
Palazzo Grassi
Venice, Italy
20-24 November 2017
Event website
My work at event website

Helicotrema borrows the format of the film festival, replacing the film screening with a program of collective listening sessions throughout Italy. Each is inspired by early radio broadcasts. Each experiments with how the listening experience can be enriched and adapted to different contexts.

Helicotrema is curated by Blauer Hase and Giulia Morucchio. Blauer Hase is an art collective founded in Venice in 2007 by Mario Ciaramitaro, Riccardo Giacconi, and Giulia Marzin, Daniele Zoico with the aim of proposing experimental forms of cultural production and experience.

Helicotrema moves from the observation that, in the field of contemporary art and—to some extent—of contemporary theatre, the last decade has witnessed a gradual comeback of interest in the forms of audio plays, audio dramas, audio documentaries and various kinds of timeline-based formats based only on an acoustic component.

Such formats share numerous features with classical radio plays, such as: the audience is expected to listen to the whole piece (differently from a gallery-specific sound installation); a precise common gathering for the audience is established (as it happens in film screenings); the piece involves, often, both spoken language and musical or sound elements; the piece presents a (be it fictional or documentary) timeline.

Selected sound works present a narrative evolution over time such as radio plays, audio documentaries, experimental poetry, field recordings, musical compositions and other timeline-based formats based only on an acoustic component.

Conceptual Framework

Imaginative Radio Plays imagines a mashup of sound elements—spoken word, music, environmental and mechanical sounds—combined as strands in a time-based sound narrative. This work is experimental, both as sound-based narrative, as well as a form of cultural production and experience.

This approach is purposeful, and designed for a collective listening experience where an audience specifically engages with the work. Ideally, audiences will listen to the entire work, consider how it sparks their imaginations over the time of the work, and afterward, discuss what stories they heard.

Artist Statement

Inspired by early radio broadcasts, experimental poetry, and field recording, Imaginative Radio Plays is a 6:00 audio work composed of multiple, simultaneous sonic narratives, another added with each turn of the tuning dial. Rather than disappearing, these sonic snippets combine to build a meta-narrative about collective listening experiences.

At one time, we listened to radio broadcasts in our homes, separated from others also listening in other places, yet connected through our shared act of listening. A favorite was radio plays, where in exchange for entertainment, listeners were expected to listen to the entire work. Despite this expectation, listeners were free to tune the receiver, seeking other listening experiences.