In the 1990s, twenty minutes was all it took for local authorities in the Austrian city of Graz to detect and neutralise any illegal radio transmitter. Back then, Reni Hofmüller was part of a group of activists who took over the airwaves with pirate broadcasts every Sunday from the mountains surrounding the city. After short 18-minute sessions, the Radio Dauerwelle team would pack up its equipment and clear out, moments before the authorities arrived. It was a way of bringing new sounds to listeners while at the same time reclaiming the radio waves trapped in a state monopoly.
Since then, Reni Hofmüller’s artistic practice has continued to move between the mundane and the structural. Her work focuses on technology and new media, and their influence on our everyday lives. But she also questions infrastructures and sophisticated systems – from water treatment to the internet – that affect entire communities.
As an artist, activist, and director of the esc media art lab, also based in Graz, Reni akes a an exploded DIY approach to her practice: she’s just as happy to take gadgets apart as to dismantle complex and/or invisible infrastructures in order to better understand their inner workings and imagine new uses. Her practice and activism, often embodied collectively, have led her to experiment with assembling antennas and nanosatellites, to explore phytoextraction, and to find out what buildings sound like. “No one killed my curiosity when I was little,” she cheerfully admits.
In this podcast, Reni Hofmüller shares her obsession with dismantling the invisible in order to understand and question it. A trip through time that takes us from the 1980s to the present, through her personal involvement in feminist discussions from the perspective of new media. Our conversation is riddled with references to her commitment to open source, to doing things together, to the uninhibited mixing of disciplines, and to her passion for radio and bicycles.