Critical Waves aimed to inspire creative approaches to research using radio, through an innovative series of events, in person and on air, which took place in spring 2015.

Elizabeth Johnson and Rebecca Wright, PhD candidates from the School of Arts at Birkbeck College, came up with the idea for Critical Waves in 2013. Since 2011 they were both part of a team of postgraduate students from the London Consortium who produced an annual radio series on Resonance 104.4FM called The Thread. The London Consortium disbanded in 2012 and with it The Thread also began to draw to close. Critical Waves was devised as a way of passing on what had been learned at The Thread and sharing the experience of working with radio with other postgraduate researchers.

At the start of 2014 they were successful in their bid for an Arts and Humanities Research Council Collaborative Skills Development Award to fund Critical Waves, which would be delivered in partnership with the ICA and Resonance 104.FM. Fellow Birkbeck researchers, Elizabeth Cetin, Claudia Firth and Grace Halden all came on board in summer 2014 to help take Critical Waves from idea to reality.

Critical Waves set out to address the new era of radio that the internet and streaming technology have propelled us into. Recording devices on laptops and phones, free online audio-editing software, podcasts and internet-radio mean that now producing and broadcasting radio content has never been easier. Drawing upon radio’s legacy as a forum for radical thought and experimentation, Critical Waves hoped to explore radio’s potential in academic research today by asking: What can radio teach researchers about what it means to have a voice, create an audience, find new ways to spread ideas and communicate them engagingly? How can the voice and audio be used to enhance and inflect what we communicate? Whose voices are denied when single researchers assume the role of the author? Can radio help in the production of new research rather than just its presentation?

Thirty-five current post-graduate research students or early career researchers were selected, from over 70 applicants, to attend a series of free events and workshops at the ICA and Birkbeck College, helping to set them off on a journey of developing their research into short radio programmes.

A selection of their audio work was aired on Resonance 104.4FM, and all of the participants’ programmes made in response to the project are archived here on the Critical Waves blog.

bbk 50mm with keyline (CMYK)      ResonanceFM LOGO 300dpi on white - PREFERED        ICA

CMYK Portrait enlarged

The Team

Elizabeth Cetin is an independent consultant working in the policy and practice areas related to issues of gender and gender equality. She holds degrees in Economics and Latin American Studies (BA, Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota), Public Policy (MPA, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, New York) and Development Studies (MSc -School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London). After working in finance, and on public sector projects, she is now a PhD candidate at the London Consortium. Her research interests are concerned with feminist theory and contemporary art practices.

Claudia Firth is an artist and cultural theorist.  She is currently an MPhil/PhD student in Critical and Cultural Studies in the Department of English and Humanities at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her PhD research revolves around The Aesthetics of Resistance by Peter Weiss, using the novel to discuss the relationship between history, culture and politics. In particular she is interested in how this relates to issues around the political imaginary, cultural production, pedagogy, translation and the political voice. She is also currently working together with Lucia Farinati on The Force of Listening, a new publication looking at the role of listening in contemporary conjunctions between art and activism, which will be published shortly by Errant Bodies Press.

Grace Halden successfully defended her thesis in July 2014 at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her doctoral research focused on ideas of the posthuman after 1945 through exploring ideas of the human condition in science fiction. She has a range of diverse publications including articles for Foundation and Science Fiction Film and TV. Currently, she teaches BA courses at Birkbeck and occupies several editorial positions.

Elizabeth Johnson is a PhD candidate at the London Consortium, Birkbeck College, University of London. Her research explores sculpture during the late 1960s and early 1970s through the work of the American artist Bruce Nauman. Her writing can be seen in The Object: Documents of Contemporary Art (2014, Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press) edited by Antony Hudek and The Alienation of Objects (2010, Zabludowicz Arts Projects) which she co-authored with artist Toby Ziegler. She is also an Associate Tutor, teaching on BA courses, in the department of History of Art at Birkbeck College.

Rebecca Wright is a PhD candidate at the London Consortium, Birkbeck College, University of London.  Her AHRC-funded research explores the representation of energy in the early twentieth-century thought. Her writing has featured in Studio International, Immediations, Dandelion, and Eros and she was a researcher on the World Energy Council history project. She was a 2013-2014 AHRC fellow at the Library of Congress Kluge Centre and she is currently a research associate on the AHRC “Material Cultures of Energy” research project at Birkbeck College London.

With special thanks to Ed Baxter, Ben Cranfield, Astrid Korporaal, Nicola McCartney, Scott Miller, Anthony Shepherd and Lee Smith.


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