Radio Off

Solo Exhibition at Gallery North, Northumbria University. 17 February – 11th March 2023

Radio Off is an audio-visual installation by Cecilia Stenbom that documents and sonically reimagines driving. The installation consists of a series of looped films accompanied by a score, made from collected footage and recordings from local car journeys.

The project took its jumping off point from the cinematic road movie and a desire to explore the gap between the film genre and everyday driving. In the road movie the characters set off in search of freedom. Radio Off is anti-road movie of sorts, as there is no liberation from the demands of everyday life or oppressive hegemony, no discovery or rediscovery of oneself, and no catharsis or freedoms awarded. Instead of transformation offered through cinematic kinesis, the journeys in Radio Off serves the tyranny of the mundane: forever travelling through the Tyne tunnel, circulating a Tesco parking garage or commuting to and from work.

The car is not just a feature of the road movie, often it is involved in its production by providing a mount for the camera, generating its distinctive travelling shots. In real life most footage captured on the road, through traffic and dash cameras, is rather dull and un-cinematic. Radio Off set out to combine these two aesthetic opposites, by employing a number of strategies to capture the journey, from suctioned mounted to hand-held cameras. The end result combines the digital crispness of a wide GoPro windscreen view with cinematic tropes such as the use of wing and rear-view mirrors as framing devices or the repeating light patterns of reflections on bodywork and windows.

The installation title is a nod to Radio On (1979) a British road movie directed by Christopher Petit. In Petit’s film, the soundtrack is used to link characters and scenes. While filming Radio Off the car stereo was turned off, capturing only the sound of the engine and vehicle moving forward. The installation combines the diegetic sound of driving with a fictional mix tape playing in the space, short sonic tracks made by manipulating audio from the driving recordings. 

In an effort to minimise carbon emissions, filming was limited to planned trips such as school runs, commutes, errands and food shopping.

Additional credits:

Mixed Tape: Driving in Hell is made in collaboration with Jamie SextonAdditional sound recordings by Sami Stenbom-Moss. Transfer to cassette tape by Toby Lloyd Phillips

Additional footage by Evripidis Karydis and Mike Booth.

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