In 1954 the radio show “Music USA—The Jazz Hour” went on air for the first time. Broadcast by Voice of America radio station and produced by the U.S. Office of War Information, the show played a major role in the global expansion and reception of jazz. Promoted as the “voice of freedom” the U.S. government regarded it as an important means to reach out to the world and spread Western ideas. However, communist and socialist governments and apartheid regimes banned the program so the show could only be received illegally. While radio listeners worldwide felt the music was “played by someone, who is free,” African-American jazz musicians experienced racism and discrimination on a daily basis in their homeland.
The Freedom of sets out as an investigation into a lost chapter in radio history. Broadcasts can be recorded, stored and thus memorized but reception can’t. Sounds transmitted over the air seem to vanish into the ears and minds of unknown listeners. There is no ground to dig in, no place to examine, no object to be grasped—just ideologies, misconceptions, and promises traversing the intangible landscape of the ether. The work evokes a space in which all the properties of sound and its reception become visible. A battlefield where the impulse to “extend the area of freedom” and persistent efforts to disturb that sense of mission crisscross. It contemplates how freedom comes into being by questioning its means and meanings.
The installation represents the last part of a trilogy preceded by the drawing series Wade in the Water (2010) and the video Disquieting Nature (2012). In her long-term project the German artist Christine Meisner confronts the ideological American landscape with its notion of liberty. History is approached through music and its role as a powerful tool of resistance able to reveal contradictions that have seeped deep down into the ground.