Open Mic – a Community Radio Experiment
The “Illuminated Night Ride” grasps one of the most habitual activities of a citizen – the act of taking a walk through the city center after a working day, studying or taking care of family members. The project aims to radically lower the barrier of participation in media through this experiment, so that the walker does not need to go to a radio studio, nor does s/he have to arrange an interview with a journalist to take part in the co-creation of a story that is distributed. Instead, MYCYradio creates a mobile space of participation that connects some of the historical paths of Nicosia with day-to-day life of the people in the buffer zone.
MYCYradio, a multilingual web community radio station, based in Nicosia’s buffer zone, performs the “Illuminated Night Ride”. The project consists out of the installation and incorporation of audio and light systems on bicycles used during the ride. This creates an illumination spectacle in the old town’s night. The light systems installed on the bicycles are connected to audio equipment that broadcasts audio and music segments. The light riders who participate in the pack, with (mounted) audio recorders, record the soundscape and the reactions of the public that observes and interacts with the night ride. The conversations between the riders and the public is captured.
Artists, activists and (un)organized cyclists in the old town participate in the ride and its preparation/installation along with community radio broadcasters. The event is open to members of the public. The idea of this ride combines the old town curation with activities of those organizations, where the old town stories/histories are rooted in the bicycle rides. The conversations arising from these stories among the riders and the public as well as the interactions and reactions are thereby audio-visually recorded. The captured soundscape (and the “awe” reactions, triggered by the “Illuminated Night Ride”) creates an artistic dimension that marks an intervention in the public space, in a very specific spatial context.
One of these bicycles also becomes an installation at the NeMe Arts Centre in Limassol. Moreover, a supportive preparatory training workshop is provided, not only for the radio technical aspects, but also to introduce the concept of community media and radio to the public and to instill its democratic participatory values and practices to the participants.
- Display at the Participation Matters exhibition
- Broadcast / Performance on 16.12.2017 during the R! Festival (supported by IKME Sociopolitical Studies Institute)
Interview with Hazal Yolga and Orestis Tringides (MYCYRadio)
By Olga Yegorova, on 22/11/17
Olga: You have been selected to take part in R! with a particular art project, but what characterizes your activities more in general?
MYCYRadio: We are a Cypriot community radio station that speaks to its audience in different languages and dialects trying to include not just ethnolinguistic or officially recognized communities, but also people who are considered minorities concerning class, ideas, gender, or interest. Everything is broadcasted live through the internet and partly captured in podcasts.
Olga: R! covers a variety of themes and concepts, where all projects relate to notions such as participation, democracy, community media and/or power, always in very diverse ways. From your point of view, which of these concepts play a role in your project?
MYCYRadio: The illuminated bike-ride touches upon most, if not all of the themes. Carrying the microphone around is about decentralizing the power, bringing agency to the people and getting their voices heard. If agency is brought to you, it bridges the gap between you and the soundscape of which usually only those with power get a hold of. It makes you being a participant resembling what a democracy stands for.
Olga: In your project, the distinction between performer and audience collapses, at least to some degree. Is this correct? And if so, why does it matter for your art?
MYCYRadio: The project is supposed to blur the line between the artist and the participant because the participant becomes ultimately the artist. In the public sphere, art can be a medium to get yourself heard and to reach out to people that you could not reach in any other way. Bringing participatory practice into art distributes power, increasing your potential. During the illuminated bike rides we claim the public sphere, just as we claim the media sphere in our regular radio shows through sound. Thus, we exemplify the correlation between the arts and community media.
Olga: How does that have to do with democracy or the democratic system?
MYCYRadio: Democracy is also about everybody getting a chance to speak and people representing each other. However, we see that even in systems that call themselves democracies, this is not happening. It is always a hegemonic discourse that makes its way to the crowds so that the people don’t get their opinion included. Although “Open Mic” is not a political project, it is a tiny initiative to see what happens when we let people speak and enter into a dialogue. It is an experiment, an exercise that may resemble democracy in a metaphorical way.
Olga: If you want to give voice to citizens, how do you prevent a situation where you get to speak for them?
MYCYRadio: You trust them instead of telling them what to do. We can propose a format, but leave it flexible and open for transparent changes and discussions. In that way, we decrease the risk of taking over the participants’ will. It is crucial to create a space where participants can be involved as much as possible. Then, it is up to them to choose their level of involvement. In our case, we allow people to speak into the microphone for 20 minutes if they want to, or leave it if they don’t.
Olga: How does the national with the local intersect in your project and what does this mean?
MYCYRadio: There are blurry lines between what you consider as being local and national or global. New technologies enable us to transcend these lines. Throughout the history of communication, you used to connect to something when it was local to you, while now, this has expanded. It mingles with other expanding circles. I can be an active citizen caring about the human rights in Syria although I am physically in Cyprus.
Olga: What does your project tell us about the relationship between the everyday and the political?
MYCYRadio: Everything we do is political. But for some reason, things that are beyond us as ordinary citizens have been defined as political. Politics became something that men in suits do in fancy rooms. I (Hazal) refuse that claim. Everything I experience as a woman on the street is also political. What we go through in “the everyday” is “the political”. Politics is not just about oil and gas or the euro rates – things that do not interest us on a daily base – but it is everything that we do. I think that is a good button to push, formulating a critique on those pre-set categories of the political and the everyday.
Olga: Your project also deals with careful listening. Why does listening matter to you?
MYCYRadio: I would say that observing rather than just listening is central to our project. Our project does not have a clear format that people are used to. We cause a lot of movement, biking through the city with flashy lights and music through an area where people are just used to shops. We invade the space of shopping, which is going to make people wonder about the meaning of this intervention.
Olga: Why is it important for you to invade the public space through your intervention?
MYCYRadio: People are used to being exposed to advertising, to cafes and the music of the people who are established and have the power to form the public space in whatever ways they want. This is what system their brains are used to. We want to break with that and cause confusion so that the persons can enter into a dialogue with themselves. Surprise and spontaneity cause authentic reactions. You cannot filter your reactions when you experience something novel. In this moment, you need to create your own, new understanding of what is happening.
Thereby, we challenge the norms that exist in a public space. If a car can blast out music loudly into the street, why can’t I sing out loud walking on the same street? Why can the car take over the soundscape but the human voice is not acceptable or perceived as weird? We blast out music with our bikes and by doing so, signify the people their own freedom to use the public sphere in ways they would like to use it, punching a hole into this restricted space of norms.
This is what art does also more globally. It opens the possibility for people to reflect. Now, we have a lot of ready-made information. Everything is set, written, interpreted. But art allows for the abstraction to take things in your way, instead of wanting a quick like or dislike. It reaches beyond the superficiality of pre-set meanings.
Olga: How do you think does your project offers an alternative perspective on what media can mean for citizens?
MYCYRadio: People are speaking of the media as an entity that is far away from us, saying things such as “we need to reach the media”, “We should invite the media”. But often, we do not realize that we are the media and that we can produce media, finding platforms to do the same thing. This project brings the media to the people, making them insiders of the same. It challenges the notion of media itself.
Work at Respublika!
Illuminated Night Ride on 16 December 2017