Strange Lines and Distances is a two-channel audio-visual installation focusing on Guglielmo Marconi’s first transatlantic radio broadcast. The work is inspired by Marconi’s belief that sound never diminishes, but rather grows incrementally fainter and fainter. He believed that with an adequately sensitive receiver, one could amplify the echoes of history. Strange Lines and Distances looks at and listens to the past, revisiting Marconi’s original transmission sites in order to explore the hauntological aspects of radio and landscape. The installation invites a consideration of the monumental impact of the first wireless transmission, and explores the medium’s potential to conflate and fragment both space and time. Strange Lines and Distances takes its title from a passage in Francis Bacon’s utopian text New Atlantis, in which Bacon imagines a futuristic society’s culture, politics, history and media. In contradistinction, Strange Lines and Distances moves backwards, retrospectively exploring the invention of radio while looking for echoes and historical intimations of the past within the present.
Strange Lines and Distances’ dual channels represent the transmission site in Poldhu Cove, U.K. and the receiving site at Fever Hospital, St. John’s, NL. Each historical site is documented using 16mm colour negative film. The sonic composition was created from site- specific field recordings, shortwave and longwave radio recordings and archival material. Mired in static and atmospheric interference, the recordings exist as fragmentary spectres of outport beacons, noise, musical passages and human voice. Visually, each channel contains imagery that resonates and rhymes with the opposing channel in terms of shape, line, colour, light and optical geometry. Through a visual examination of the sites’ topographical similarities, the work plays with the juxtaposition of landscape, architectural ruins, flora, and geological and meteorological phenomena. The images unfold as a series of long shots, and this play with duration creates a montage that asks the spectator to consider distance and the poetics of form.