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In the year 2146, after nearly 150 years of business as usual (government corruption and privatization, toxic resource extraction and industrial practices, bad weather, civil uprising, earthquakes and pandemic), approximately 40 million people remain in New North America.
Although originally developed as a psychiatric home tele-treatment procedure for long-term depression patients, the entertainment potential of transmitting emotions over radio frequencies is soon monopolized by corporate broadcasters. Hi-Zenith Inc, based in Fortress Alaska, begins broadcasting pure standardized emotions to the general public on The Joy Channel®. This sudden domination of the EM (formerly FM) radio spectrum encroaches upon another, more arcane radiophonic pratice: radio-empathic communion. Wandering in the relative silence of wasted urban and ex-urban spaces in the central continent, small communities of empaths had begun to form and to reach out to one another. They discovered that the FM radio spectrum, largely abandoned during the upheavals that accompanied the population collapse of the late 21st century, was open ground for a type of communication not yet experienced in human history: tele-empathy. These neo-nomads developed the sensitivity to feel one another across greater and greater distances without the use of transmitters or receivers. Their process is rudely interrupted when Hi-Zenith's standardized emotional broadcasts go live to air from coast to coast.
The Joy Channel is an experimental multi-channel transmission work by Anna Friz and Emmanuel Madan. It takes the hybrid form of a science-fiction style radio drama and an experimental sound/transmission art piece. Two versions of the piece have been developed to date: a theatrical live performance which premiered at Radio Tesla’s RadioVisionen:250 Jahre Radio in Berlin, October 2007, and a broadcast work commissioned by Kunstradio in May 2008.
In the live performance of The Joy Channel Madan and Friz, who play most of the characters and create the live sound, are joined by Brian Dunn (as Dr. Brain, the scientist of the future), and physical performers Florian Bilbao and Sybille Müller (playing the part of mute Joy Channel junkies). The piece begins with the corporate Joy Channel emo-casts and gradually moves into the world of tele-empathic radio pirates who jam the signal; correspondingly, the sound design moves from narrative and character-driven drama in the corporate world of the Joy Channel to very abstract sonic representations of the empathic communication between the pirates.
The broadcast for Kunstradio approaches The Joy Channel’s narrative premise from the opposite point of view: rather than looking into the desolate landscape of twenty-second century corporate emo-casting, the audience is first invited to listen in to the communications of tele-empathic communities wandering the de-populated wastelands of New North America, and then to witness the disruption which ensues when the Hi-Zenith corporation encroaches upon this territory with its initial coast-to-coast broadcasts of The Joy Channel.
Additional voices: Vince Tinguely, Victoria Stanton.