„A short guide to becoming-bat“
Curated by Stefano Perna

„Men have always learned from animals, and even in this age of electronics and atomic structure we still have much to learn.“
Donald R. Griffin

Radio is not a privilege of the human species. With radio humans are caught in a becoming-animal that brings them closer to other regions of the living kingdom. Ethologists and natural scientists have shown that long time before humans began to exploit the properties of the electromagnetic spectrum to link each other at great distances, animals had already developed a sophisticated system for the manipulation of waves and the transmission of sound signals for the purpose of communication and orientation. Many species of dolphins, whales, insects and birds are in effect radio-creatures.

At the heart of this non-human radio-world we find the bat, the blind-flying mammal, a true FM-creature, able to modulate a system of echoes and resonances that define a non-visual space within which it moves, avoid obstacles, locate prey, hunt, communicate. Scientists call this ability echolocation. In the complete darkness of a cave, bats build an undulatory space made of signals and calls, of frequencies and amplitudes, a radically temporalized space, a pulsating space, that constantly changes, evolves, expands and contracts. Bats inhabit a radiophonic-world rather than a photo-optical world..

Years ago Rudolf Arnheim, in one of the earliest theoretical texts on radio, wrote about a "praise of blindness", a sort of an invitation to all the radio-listeners to becoming-bats. With the radio on, the listener enters the cave, the darkness falls and its space is suddenly changed. This spatiality defined by sounding coordinates – and that of sound waves preserves especially the quality of spread and contraction, of contagion and reverb – conflicts with the tangible places that surround our body. Listening to radio puts ourselves at the center of an ambiguous place – both concrete and mental – that is no longer designated by what we see around us. Where exactly are the sounds and the voices I'm hearing? And where exactly am I when I listen to the radio? Once abandoned the perspectival space of our home, of our kitchen or our car, we enter into a waveform space, whose geometry is unknown to us, a kind of non-human spatiality populated by forces and signs to which our perceptual system is not perfectly tuned. To understand and manage this uncanny space that materializes every time we turn a radio device on, we need – most of the time unconsciously – to quickly reposition ourselves into a new "place" made of a matrix of spatial and temporal relationships defined only by the propagation of waves, data and sound signals. In other words, to inhabit this place we are forced to practice a rough form of echolocation. Equipped with a radio-prosthesis this human-hybrid begins to wander into a kind of space somewhat similar to that of bats, insects and whales. From this point of view the man-with-a-radio-device is closer to the mythical figure of the Therianthrope rather then to the postmodern figure of Cyborg.

The series of works presented here are focused on the conceptual implications and on the metaphorical exploration of this transversal connections between different species, this strange form of kinship between bats (and insects, and whales, and birds…) and humans as living forms immersed in a radio space. Artists were invited to create pieces that could work as a sort of imaginary instruction booklets to guide the listener on the way to this technologically mediated becoming-animal.


1) "1799. How to become-bats?" by Stefano Perna and Ventriloque Media Collective
2) "Unseen Forces" by Pietro Riparbelli
3) "L‘Amicizia con la ciòca (In friendship with the bell)" by Davide Tidoni and "It's all so dark!" by Anna Raimondo with Younes Baba Ali
4) "Music for becoming-insect" by Sec_