(2021 - ongoing)
audiovisual mixed media, assemblage
Image Frequency Modulation is an ongoing iterated body of work investigating the sonic, visual and haptic frequencies of images. It is concerned with ancestral memory, transmission, oral tradition, and metaphors of radio technologies as sites of possibility for the African diaspora, beginning in the home, the body, the Black interior. Frequency modulation, or FM as popularly known in radio, is the encoding of information in a carrier wave, which becomes a representation of Black Atlantic connectivity across time and space. IFM installations are shapeshifting, site-specific, and process-based, decrypting Black feminist theorist Tina Campt's notion of 'haptic images': how we touch and are touched by images.
This work prompts us to attune to frequencies that aren’t always available in our normal registers — a counterintuitive method of engaging with photographic archives that requires more ‘affective labor’. As haptic images move us ‘emotionally but also in a tactile sense through our physical contact with them’, they propel the ongoing event of image making. In this practice, Ethel recurrently asks: “How do images hold memory over time? How do we reactivate archives? How do we listen to images digitally?”
The first iteration reactivates her father's photographic archive by interlocking and layering memories of past and present, in an attempt to encode a future archive. Memory in this case is reframed as a present experience rather than a past, while collage and assemblage are adopted as modes of memory-making. In the process, she examines her father's notable relationship to sound as an interpreter, radio host, and storyteller throughout the course of his life and career. Through recorded call-and-response proverb recitals in her mother tongue (Limbum), taught to her by her father, we observe the circularity (spirality) of time through transmission and oral tradition. Ethel examines moments of intimate haptic encounter, inviting the audience to reflect on fragments of our collective histories, (dis)placement, and frequency (recurrence) in our personal archives. The shape-shifitng 'time capsule' installations feature 'portals', analog and digital photographs, moving image, sound, ephemera, and a sensory device which converts touch into sound.
Nyū e ke coo à mbùunkur ku bap à ngàptú’.
The sun sets in the evening, but still rises in the morning.
Do not despair in life, because no condition is permanent.
Melkweg Expo, Amsterdam, 2021
The second iteration (in-progress) seeks to confront a sense of wounding across the Black diaspora by charting fragmented histories and affective registers of inherited photographs from my father’s archive. Gathering material that exposes the fragility between the public and private, this work investigates custodianship, the Black interior, and the metaphors of transmission through radio.
In a fictive program tagged ‘IFM [radio]’, honoring her father’s time as a radio presenter-turned-interpreter, listeners are taken on a sonic journey through a Black Atlantic constellation: a collage of soundscapes, dialogue, and song from the artist's own lived experience. Invited callers tune in from several satellite locations to form channels and waves of resonance in the spirit of call-and-response. Borrowing from The Black Audio Film Collective’s Last Angel of History and adding an element of performance to her role as ‘radio host’, I position myself as a ‘data thief’, a time-traveling trickster digging for fragments of history and technology, leaping through space in search of codes to unlock our collective memory. IFM [radio] employs a mode of bricolage, working with ‘leftover’ second-hand materials in a haphazard fashion.
Through sensory explorations of memory and retrieval, IFM [radio] comes ‘on air’ in the form of audiovisual installations that restage archival photographs showing her father’s relationship to sound. In these ‘listening booths’, which recognize the ability of radio to activate our imaginaries, the sonic, visual and haptic are in conversation. The materiality of radio within the home versus public space is revisited through site-specific assemblages of collected devices that embrace impermanence by returning to their respective homes when ‘off air’. IFM [radio] attempts to complicate temporal axes between analogue and digital, ephemeral and permanence, then and now, through the broadcasting of latent and embodied collective memory re-encoded in a future archive.
AFRIKANA FILM FESITIVAL (USA) >>
THIS PROJECT IS SUPPORTED BY