Lead to Air | Performance

  • The Barn 1543 Burden Lake Road Averill Park, NY, 12018 United States

Creative archaeologist and journalist, Christine Finn, celebrates the role of the media, in Lead to Air, a performance art piece inspired by old newsroom technology and collaborative process, in sound, word, and action. The timing, on the Sunday of inauguration weekend, is a nod to the significant international news event and the long-form reporting, and deep investigation, of traditional Sunday newspapers.

Lead to Air is a multi-layered durational work. In an otherwise empty barn, Finn will type at a desk for six hours using a vintage Royal typewriter, and onto a roll of continuous paper. She will be listening on headphones to another six-hour durational work, A Lot of Sorrow www.alotofsorrow.com by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson and Brooklyn-based Ohio band, The National. Lead to Air is not a collaboration with these artists, but a tribute to the work of collaborative technology and creativity. 

Finn's piece is the consummation of various influences over her 40-year career as a writer, reporter, and artist. It is a homage to analogue newsroom technology, lino-type machines, the era of copy-takers, and a nod to Jack Kerouac's continuous paper manuscripts, Remedios Varo's 1961 surrealist painting Embroidering the Earth's Mantel, Tim Youd's 100 Novels project timyoud.com, and overlapping process: reporting as a form of poetry, and performance as a form of archaeology. While exploring these over years, she found the catalyst for Lead to Air in a dark room at the Chicago Art Institute, where the video installation, A Lot of Sorrow, was playing on a continuous loop. The durational intensity and sound of the piece, her first encounter with The National's music, produced an unexpected recall: long hours working in British newsrooms in the 70s and 80s on press days, in particular the sound of typewriter keys continuing relentlessly against an advancing deadline, one shared by all the participants in the process. For Lead to Air, Finn will type what comes to mind, and the copy will be available to the audience as it emerges from the typewriter. The recording of A Lot of Sorrow which Finn will be listening to over headphones in the barn, will be heard in the Mill House. Her own performance will be recorded. The work launches Finn's wider dig into the legacy of old media, and what has been lost - or retained - in the process of technological transformation.  


Christine Finn (b Jersey, Channel Islands 1959) worked as a print and broadcast journalist before studying archaeology and anthropology at Oxford, continuing there to a doctorate on archaeology and poetry, Past Poetic, (Duckworth, 2004). Since the publication of Artifacts: an archaeologist's Year in Silicon Valley (2001, MIT Press) she has made several BBC radio programmes about old technology and creativity and the archaeology of the digital age, including Tales from the Digital Archive, and It's Big and It's Beautiful: the Rise of Retro Tech. She regularly speaks at Vintage Computer Festivals, where she has also installed old tech as sculpture. Several of her site-specific art works in the UK, US, and Europe, have links to pre-digital technology, including Overlooked, which featured a collaboration with the estate of the musician, Nick Drake, in which the remastered vinyl of his Pink Moon was played on the Drake family's old record player. Finn is a regular contributor to the BBC's flagship radio programme From Our Own Correspondent and has reported for the Sunday Times in the UK, the Guardian, Wired.com and the science salon, edge.org. She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and both a former Fellow and Visiting Fellow at the Reuter Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford, where she began to research the pre-digital newsroom. A former Kent Journalist of the Year, as an artist she has received seven awards from Arts Council England, and others from Jersey Arts Trust and Creative Scotland via Timespan Gallery, the site of her most recent UK installation, Under the Rays of the Aurora Borealis, an archaeology of media photography http://timespan.org.uk/explore/artists/under-the-rays-of-the-aurora-borealis/

A huge thank you to Ragnar Kjartansson and The National for their generous permission to use the inspirational art work and music of "A Lot of Sorrow"; and to those in the US and UK, who helped my project translate from idea to performance: Caroline Burghardt at Luhring Augustine, Elyse Cogan at BMG, Abby Rubin and Kathryn Braddick at Beggars label; Ed Horrox at 4ad, and Cally Callomon. To David Gersten, Che Perez, and Frida Foberg at Arts Letters & Numbers, much appreciation. And not least to Robert Dalton Harris and Diane DeBlois for kind loan of the vintage typewriter, and the Gramercy Typewriter Co, for help with the ribbons.