Matthias Hurtl (AT/NL) is a sound artist and researcher currently based in Rotterdam/the Netherlands. In his practice, he often is fascinated by activities occurring in the earth's orbit. His current research Drowning in Æther focuses on the audibility of satellite signals through a practice-based approach. Part of the project involved developing his personal signal hunting toolkit to capture and improvise with satellite signals.
In my practice, I am often fascinated by activities occurring in the earth's orbit. Currently, my interest is centered around the countless number of signals and indeterminate messages emitted by the artificial objects discreetly surrounding us. Multitudes of satellites transmit different rhythms and frequencies, spreading inaudible, encoded messages into what was once known as the æther. Signal transmissions have been a persistent part of human history and since the emergence of radio technology we are now more than ever dependent on them. Many of our technological developments rely on radio technology. GPS, for example, is implemented in a multitude of everyday devices and is assisting them in tracking every move we make. Most of those signals are not meant to be heard by the human ear.
My current research focuses on signals transmitted by ghost satellites and outdated hijacked military satellites.
Ghost satellites are space debris, malfunctioning objects floating in space that are no longer in use. Some of them still continuously communicate to earth even though nobody is listening to them anymore nor understands their data. They have outlived their designated function and their research programs have been shut down for decades, but despite that, they do not withdraw, streaming continuously the silent proof of their presence.
The latter are UHF (ultra high frequency) satellites hijacked by a small community referred to as satellite radio pirates. These man-made objects are in a geostationary orbit 36000 km from the earth and are mostly used by the U.S. military and NATO. Since these are first-generation satellites (launched in the 60s), the communication channel is open, not encrypted, so satellite radio pirates are capable of exploiting the satellites as their private worldwide radio communication network. They not only converse with each other but also use that military equipment as their private entertainment network, occasionally playing music and sometimes, perhaps often, getting drunk while doing so.
My lecture performance Drowning in Æther focuses on the audibility of satellite signals and invites the audience on a trip through the radio spectrum, to drown in the noise of the static, hunt the Pirates of the Ionosphere and the silent whispers of forgotten ghost satellites.