Fields Work and a little sugar

The past months have been fully research-oriented, thanks to the most generous support of a John S. Guggenheim Fellowship from Sept 1 2023-Aug 31 2024, and subsequent support from the Arts Division and the Office of Research at University of California, Santa Cruz. Travels have taken me to Chicago, to Atacama desert in Chile, to Upper Hudson Valley in New York state, and to Germany and Austria. I’ve also been able to invite collaborators to Santa Cruz to continue thinking through projects based on the west coast, such as ongoing work in the CZU burn scar with Gabriel Saloman Mindel.

Together with Rodrigo Ríos Zunino under the title We Build Ruins, we have been working since 2017 in the industrialized areas of Atacama desert in Chile. This year we returned in April for another stint of production and inspiration, along the way performing live audiovisual concerts at the Parque Cultural in Valparaíso, Chile and at the Lab in San Francisco, and presenting an audiovisual installation as part of a group show celebrating the Rydell Fellows at the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz. I’m currently working on a solo radio art work entitled Children of the Sun to be completed at the end of the summer as part of this desert research, and Rodrigo and I continue our work on a feature length film plus installation works and an artist book.

And a bit of unexpected good news: Revenant, which I created last year for ORF Kunstradio (the long running radio art program on the cultural channel of Austrian national public radio), won the Karl Sczuka Prize in 2024! Many thanks to the jury and to Südwestrundfunk for this honor.

Salar: Adaptation

As part of the 2022-2023 cohort of Rydell Visual Arts Fellows, I have new work on exhibit at the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz California, from January 18- March 24, 2024.

These works are part of a longer art research project entitled We Build Ruins that reconsiders the history and fate of the industrialized Atacama desert in northern Chile, by simultaneously understanding it as a place once covered by water, as an arid environment described by rare geologic and organic systems, and as a high-altitude mining site transformed and abused by devastating infrastructures. Robotic extra-planetary modules such as the Mars Rovers and Perseverance have been tested here as the conditions and geology serve as ready analogs for Martian environment and terrain. The mining techniques currently being developed in Atacama are also contributing to a neoliberal imaginary for eventual off-planet operations.

I seek to re-frame the common narrative of deserts as ‘wastelands’ made productive only through industrial exploitation, and to shift the goals of both earthly and extra-planetary inhabitations away from dominion and extraction, and toward listening and adaptation. This trio of works includes a multi-channel audio work, a single channel video projection created together with key project collaborator Rodrigo Ríos Zunino, and a series of photographs arranged as a dual screen slideshow, which consider the contrasts between different orientations to being a visitor, and perhaps one day a guest, of the Atacama desert. The video features glimpses of an ‘Earthsuit’, or clothing that I knit and wove by hand from materials found in the desert (undyed sheep’s wool, plastic bags, twine, cassette tape) that are intended to be both practical but adaptable, not a spacesuit that completely insulates its wearer from the elements of a place but a suit continuing life on damaged Earth using materials at hand.

My colleague Zac Zimmer, Associate Professor of Literature at University of California, Santa Cruz, wrote this short text for the exhibit:

Listening and Adapting in the Age of Extraction: Two figures, two suits, two ways of being.

We have ancestors in common, but Margie the Martian returns to Earth for the first time, and finds an all-too familiar landscape: the inhospitable desert. Contained within her spacesuit, armored against a hostile environment, Margie carries her own atmosphere with her. She has practiced for this descent her entire life. This is the terrifying inversion of terraforming: the moment that Earth becomes Mars.

The Earthsuit’s weave is a pattern of hospitality. It, too, offers some protection against the formidable beauty of the Atacama, but its mesh of Andean wool and plastic bags is permeable and open to adaptation. An Earthsuit is a tool for listening, sensing, and emplacement. It is a garment for the visitor who wishes to move through the Atacama’s grooves across all scales: the cracked earth of a desiccated ancient seafloor, the artificial valleys between tailing piles and mountains of evaporated salt, and the tire-tread patterns of heavy machinery. Embraced within the knit and the weave, whoever wears the Earthsuit will find the stillness necessary to integrate into landscape and soundscape.

Tactus Radio Festival

This weekend I’m taking part remotely in the Tactus Radio Festival, hosted by UsmaRadio in the Republic of San Marino. Giving a talk on Transmission Ecologies December 1, and joining a multi-nodal international sound improvisation on December 2.

As part of the festival, the generative radio piece Morse Mountain, created together with Absolute Value of Noise, will be transmitting on Radio LADA from December 1, 2023 and continuing for the next couple of months.

Continuum: December 2, 2023 19:00-20:00 CEST (GMT +2) A radio network created for/by telematic performance with artists on site and remotely, continuing and deepening experiments born in the 1990s. A telematic performance where some guests of the festival improvise together with artists remotely.

in San Marino:
alien productions (Andrea Sodomka, Norbert Math), Gaia Ginevra Giorgi, L’Impero della Luce, NicoNote, Roberto Paci Dalò, Tobia Bandini, Vittoria Assembri

Anna Friz (Santa Cruz, CA) Bauhaus Radio Ensemble from Weimar, Germany(Tilman Böhnke, Fritzi Buhtz, Adrian Ciesielski, Lefteris Krysalis, Finn Röhmer-Litzmann, João Afonso Soares Leiria Parreira Ticão, Amir Shokati, Karlotta Sperling)

Tune In: and San Marino RTV (San Marino), (Germany), Wave Farm (USA), ARTxFM / WXOX 97.1 FM (USA), Fango Radio (Italy), NEU Radio (Italy), Beware The Radio (UK), Radio Raheem (Italy), Radio Tsonami (Chile), diffusionFM (Australia), Radio Bloc ORAL (Canada)

Water Line/Estuary Almanac

photo by Anna Friz

A 365-day generative radio piece that follows the rhythms of tidal waters at the river’s edge.
by Absolute Value of Noise and Anna Friz © 2023

Commissioned for the annual project KONTINUUM by Deutschlandfunk Kultur (Berlin) and Ö1 Kunstradio (Vienna), April 2023 – March 2024.

Listen to the live stream here

At the mouth of a river, salt meets sweet water. Tides fluctuate. The river floods and dries with the seasons. The muddy delta shifts position over centuries. At the tideline, life persists. It exists both in and out of the water. A sand spit rises once a day and disappears again. It’s a home for clams, oysters, other molluscs, anemones, sand dollars, shore birds and seals. A rock shelf full of tidal pools is filled with tiny fish, crabs, urchins, starfish, bivalves, and seaweed. Fish swim down the river to the sea and return to spawn. Plants and trees are engulfed or left high and dry. As a consequence of (over)use by modern cities and societies, extractive industries dominate a major river and its ecologies, then atrophy and decay, replaced by new modes of global commerce, tourism, and shipping. As ice packs diminish, the seas warm,. Water levels rise and rain patterns change. The spaces between high and low water become more and more exaggerated. The dynamics of change seesaw across the year, creating dangerous patterns in this time of climate crisis.

Water Line is a generative audio piece that imagines the space between the tides and between the salt and the muddy waters. Depending on the height of the tide, listeners are oriented below or above the surface, from deep sea to thousands of meters in the air. Combining field recordings (acoustic and electro-magnetic) with poetic composition, Water Line works with both documentary and imaginary riverspace, the creatures and organisms that live there, the human and the more-than-human. The dynamics range from the roar of engines and turbines to the very subtle sounds of clams, the scuttle and high pitched hisses of crabs, or the scattering of sand fleas. Environmental sounds meet electronic compositions to express the many perceptions of being above or below water. From the undersea kelp forests and high tide zones across the mud flats and swampy areas; from the industrialized river to nearby rocky coves; the artists incorporate field recordings mixed with imaginings and playful interpretations of the river to craft a composition that oscillates across the day, the month and the year.

The piece is centered on the muddy, shifting delta of the river that is called stal̕əw̓ by indigenous hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓-speaking Musqueam people, or stó:lō by indigenous halq’eméylem speakers, Coast Salish peoples who still inhabit the river valley of what is also known as the Fraser, which winds through the greater metropolitan area of the city of Vancouver. The Fraser’s colonial legacy is one connected to extractivist enterprises such as fur trade, logging and pulp mills, mining, fishing and farming; eventually the suburbs of Vancouver encroached across the river delta displacing farms with houses, parking lots, and an international airport. But the river is still its own, a place that the salmon have defined ecologically in many ways, and currently stó:lō still has the largest salmon run of any river in Canada.

Water Line is not only a generative audio piece unfolding for 365 days with the help of generative software custom-created by Absolute Value of Noise, it is also a piece that accumulates sounds across the year, as the artists continue to record and compose, and as the electronic elements in the piece oscillate between foreground and background. The piece stages fictional confluences of stó:lō with distant rivers, as though a river could receive a transmission or dream of the life of other rivers like the Danube, a similarly long waterway traversing mountain and plain, spilling out into the sea. The compositional accumulation includes the flow of the Danube, canals of the Mur, in the constant stream of sounds upriver in an urban riverscape prone to flooding.

At the end of the year, the piece will become Estuary Almanac, a compilation of rivertimes, documented and imagined, with our ears attuned to the waterline. Though the river banks are built more and more concretely, though the waters hold ghosts of the past that the summer drought brings into view, these are vital rivers whose life spans have and will surely outlast empire.

Listen to the live stream here


Revenant is a new solo radio art composition premiering on ORF Kunstradio on July 30, 2023 at 22:05 CDST (GMT +2). Listen live or stream from the project page. Rebroadcast on WGXC Upper Hudson Valley, September 8, 2023.

Here’s what it’s all about:


A new radio art work in two parts, exploring mortality, rot, and regeneration, using electronic and radiophonic instruments, and sound from below and above ground. Recorded in the mighty RP4 studios of the ORF Funkhaus in Vienna and on various locations in Santa Cruz, California. Thanks to Martin Leitner, Elisabeth Zimmermann, and Indexical.

1: Outside
In the increasing heat and haze of summer, the days are long and hot and the nights insomniac. After brief, fitful sleep, the sun is a tarnished penny in the morning when it rises behind an orange haze of smoke and ash from wildfire. Stuck indoors when the air is hot and thick, other creatures find their way inside to take refuge with me: coming in along the plumbing, up the drains, in the vents and down the chimney, through the cracks under the door or the walls. Unexpected insects, worms and a lizard that dry on the floor, various arachnids running up the walls, a small bird, a bat. It seems I must change my approach to cohabitation: when the creatures move into my nest, I trade places and take to the airwaves or escape down into their burrows.

2: Revenir
The difference between the living and the dead is hard to discern. That which is dry and buried may not lie still, but move, resurface, rehydrate, transform. The dead gone to ground may yet pay visitations, or am I the visitor? Time underground enables metamorphoses of body and senses.

A portion of this piece is based on an earlier live remote performance for Indexical, Santa Cruz, from October 2020, a year in which I and my community weathered quarantines and evacuation for the CZU Lightning Complex wildfire. The next years saw drought, flood, regrowth, more devastation from storms, and more growth here on the ground. Outside my tiny backyard, a meadow is transformed into a gopher barrens each summer, pock marked and dry like a moonscape as imagined by rodents. I can’t help wondering what goes on underground, and what I might become if I tunnel down and join the potentially vast world of creatures and organisms there.

Studio Days

I have been hosted by ORF Kunstradio this past week, enjoying three days in studio at the ORF Funkhaus on Argentinierstrasse in Vienna working with the full foley capacity of the rooms. Sadly the Funkhaus is undergoing a transformation, with much of the building being renovated into other uses and the old studios unavailable for at least three years, so I was determined to make the most of my (possibly last) chance to work there, bittersweet though it is. And who doesn’t love a good foley pit?! Together with the joyful playful expertise of engineer Martin Leitner, I played all the surfaces and experimented with all sorts of mic set ups.

The new piece, entitled Revenant, will be completed later this month for a premiere on Kunstradio on 30. July 2023. A work two parts, including a section built from an earlier live sound performance entitled Outside, Revenant weathers the long hot summer, in drought and fire, where the sun seems suspended and the nights are insomniac, considering mortality, loss, and regeneration. Using electronic and radiophonic instruments, it slips between the surface and the underground.

Here’s a nice old Austrian radio we found in the basement:

Useful Radio at the Smithsonian Museum

Sunday April 30, 2023, 11:00am-12:30pm EDST.

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Baird Auditorium, 10th St. and Constitution Ave, NW, Washington DC 20560.


Taking a deep dive into Rick Prelinger‘s radio listening archives as well as our own, me and my long time collaborator Jeff Kolar will be creating a live show that composes across shortwave, UHF and VHF, from air traffic control to citizen’s band, from encrypted security systems to emergency scanners. Employing live and sampled radio signals together with radiophonic and electronic instruments, we tune in to the ordinariness, the urgencies, and the intimacies of everyday radio communications, exploring the musicality of this transmission ecology.

Hosted by Walter Forsberg, Alison Reppert Gerber, Dave Walker of the Smithsonian Library and Archives, the event takes place at the Baird Auditorium at the Smithsonian.

Part of the Radio Preservation Task Force conference at the Library of Congress, April 27-30, 2023.

Full conference schedule here (conference is free and open to the public!)

The Desert of Realities: Atacama

This past winter I remounted the multi-screen and multi-channel sound installation work created together with Rodrigo Ríos Zunino: Salar: Evaporation is based on intensive fieldwork in the industrialized Atacama desert in Chile.

On view from February 3, 2023 at esc medien kunst labor in Graz, Austria, launching esc‘s yearlong theme “The Desert of Realities”. esc medien kunst labor, Bürgergasse 5, 8010 Graz Austria

A significant portion of the world’s lithium is mined in the Salar de Atacama, the salt flats of the high altitude desert in northern Chile. This desert was once the bottom of a sea and still consists of rare geologic and organic systems, though now it is aggressively mined for the ingredients for batteries used in smart phones and electric cars. Salar: Evaporation seeks to de-totalize narratives of industrial extractivism in favour of manifesting many worlds from the perspective of temporality, land, and space. This multi-channel video and sound installation takes an experimental rather than purely documentary approach, challenging the deadly hubris of human exploitation in the desert by working with the forces characteristic of the desert itself, such as mirage, perceptual distortion, and the long duration of the geologic present.

The work reflects on landscape, infrastructure, and environmental change, exploring the micro and macro scales of human intervention and activity in relatively remote areas which occupy the space between urban sprawl and wilderness, and investigates the role of people (and artists) as agents in the myth-making and storytelling process which bring critique and create counter-narratives to those of progress and growth that propel unsustainable extractivist corporate and state-sponsored industries. The people of Chile have been engaged in widespread national resistance in 2019-2020 and drafting new versions of the constitution in protest of business as usual by the state and corporate forces that have ravaged the country and environment while propagating gross economic and social inequities. In this time, such areas of resource extraction like the Atacama desert can hardly be understood as peripheral or as neutral sites of industry. Instead, they are centers of power, networked globally and to a degree outside of state control; the desert is exploited to feed the forces of global capital to the benefit of a global elite. The future technological ‘smart’ cities will actually function as the peripheral expressions of this power which is being pillaged from the desert. Instead, we consider how the desert produces power in the form of unique and fragile ecosystems and geological expressions of time, from which we may learn and imagine alternative worlds.

This project is part of a larger series of works based on my research and fieldwork in the Atacama desert in Chile entitled We Build Ruins, and was made possible with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Hellman Fellowship, the Rydell Fellowship, the Arts Research Institute of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Committee on Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Morse Mountain

A generative overnight radio piece for Tsonami Festival de Arte Sonoro in Valparaíso, Chile

December 3 – 10, 2022
by Absolute Value of Noise and Anna Friz © 2022.

Listen here.

The mountain sleeps; dreams stone. Festooned with power lines and communications towers, striated by long-ago meltwater and creeks that have since evaporated, blown bald by the prevailing winds. Some day, come earthrise or landfall, the mountain will walk out into the sea. Until then, micro-movements in the sediment and rock are its uneasy speech, while the antennae atop its massive breathing shoulders continue to call and respond.

The piece is inspired by coastal mountains that have been implicated in human long distance communications and listening, whether occupied by overland telephone and telegraph cables, military monitoring stations, radio and acoustic beacons for ships and airplanes, or 5G cell towers. Morse Mountain considers the ephemeral human occupations of signal space as they overlay mineral durations; fireflies buzzing around ancient beings that have merely paused to rest.

Morse Mountain streamed for Art’s Birthday 2023 and was featured on 24 Hours of Radio Art, CiTR 101.9FM Vancouver.

Art’s 1,000,060th birthday