In 1968 Hungarian artist Tamás Szentjóby painted bands of sulphur on the sides of a common brick to approximate the dials and switches of a portable radio. He had been inspired by stories of Czechoslovak teenagers diverting the attention of the Warsaw Pact forces that occupied the country in August 1968 by carrying bricks wrapped in newspaper pressed to their ears as if they were transistor radios.
Silent, Szentjóby’s radio invited the listener to think about what could not be heard on state radio. In this talk, David Crowley accepts this invitation by exploring the art of noise of Eastern Europe in the years before and after 1968 including the experimental radio programmes created in Warsaw and Brno by composers and artists inspired by John Cage; the sounds of Aktual, the proto-punk group formed by Fluxus artist Milan Knížák in 1967, and The Primitives, the Czech beat group whose immersive performances were designed by artist Zorka Ságlová; and the investigations of noise conducted by Krzysztof Wodiczko in a series of ‘instruments’ and performances in Warsaw.
David Crowley teaches at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. His books include Warsaw (2003) and three volumes co-edited with Susan Reid, Socialism and Style. Material Culture in Post-war Eastern Europe (2000); Socialist Spaces. Sites of Everyday Life in the Eastern Bloc (2003); and Pleasures in Socialism: Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc (2010). Crowley also curates exhibitions including ‘Cold War Modern’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2008–9 (with Jane Pavitt), ‘Sounding the Body Electric. Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe’ at Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, 2012 and Calvert 22, London, 2013, and ‘Notes from Underground. Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe 1968-1994’ at Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, 2018 and Akademie der Kunst, Berlin, 2018 (both with Daniel Muzyczuk).