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Georgiou & Tolley: Ode to Hilversum – How Far Have We Failed to Travel

Resistencia (Barcelona’88) ©Georgiou&Tolley2018

Resistencia (Barcelona’88) ©Georgiou&Tolley2018

Resistance’68: A Radio-Film for the Mind’s Eye – reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the 1968 protests, social conflict, counterculture and the Art of Resistance as creative weapons against political repression. The format is a sound art prototype – a filmic cut-up for radio with a difference, linking the activism of the past to the art of the present through a practice-based research – conjuring the spirit of the underground from a year that shaped a generation. Weaving sound through archival fragments of music, documentary, news and pop culture the broadcast echoes a watershed time of struggle against the status quo; revolution, assassinations, civil rights, the Vietnam War and space race. The programme is a beginners guide to the Art of Resistance inspired by rebellion, counterculture and the possibility for art, music and education as creative weapons for resistance against political repression. It is a reflection about learning from the past and noting failings as much as ambitions, that looks for patterns and makes links to the here and now – occasionally joining the dots to the contemporary issues of today.

Playlist /Artists: Le Tigre – The Beatles – Nina Simone – Caetano Veloso – Frank Zappa – Yoko Ono – Pussy Riot – Rolling Stones – Aretha Franklin – Serge Gainsbourg – Brigitte Bardot – Yves Montand – Shin Jung-hyeon – Dirty Art Club – Silver Apples – The Wild Bunch – Sound System – Massive Attack – Vangelis – Jimi Hendrix – Pulp – Small Faces – Delia Derbyshire – Daphne Oram – Steel Pulse – Simon & Garfunkel – Lluis Llach – Buffy Sainte-Marie – Klaus Doldinger – Noel Harrison – Paul Mauriat – The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band – White Noise – The Monkees –  Miles Davis – Francoise Hardy – The Creation – Primal Scream – Fantastic Plastic Machine – David Bowie – Duran Duran – Pye Corner Audio – Dan Deacon – Michele Mininni – The Plastic People Of The Universe – Hai Phuong

bush Radio 1953The radio is the last hope in the battle against cultural insomnia, as contemporary art forms are packaged and styled on a treadmill focused on capital, importance and mystique in a Dantesque version of purgatory of rolling biennales, festivals, Messes and art fairs. Its musical equivalent is to listen for ever to the interminable babble of songs and faux dramatic suspense of the results of every Eurovision Song Contest from 1956 – there are 62 of them – on a continuous loop of Boom Bang-a-Bang and Ding-Along-a Ding-Dong.  Where the corporate ossuary showrooms of art have become tight-lipped and tight-arsed projecting a distant cold and sadistic faux glamour, the radio is a medium of conversation where nostalgia and physics, and dreams and ideas can be shared with the unexpected voices from an underworld; where disenchantment with existing virtual realities has produced a desire for a real experience of place.


Georgiou & Tolley have created a place somewhere on the radio dial as an ode to Hilversum for the 21st century. Hilversum is a real place in the Netherlands, a small town of 90,000 people located between Amsterdam and Utrecht, and also a media city at the centre of which is a complex of radio/television studios and broadcasting organisations. Hilversum is also an invisible non-place, ethereal and mysterious, accessed by hand-tuning a dial amongst the swishing, crackling sounds of Light Orchestras on the cultural furniture of Radiograms and Radio dials in the 1950s. Hilversum also represented an anonymous facade for the dark voices and Morse code signals of social and political interference blocking the sounds of popular music and popular freedom from Radio Luxembourg and the pirate ships Radio Caroline. Hilversum and the sinister colourless iron curtain radio capitals of Prague, Belgrade, Budapest and Moscow with their cold-war undertones were a monochrome aural world at a time when people dreamed in black and white as their view of the world was seen through a black and white television screen. Parallel to Hilversum was Eurovision, with a modernistic op-art logo and a world of coded logos from the close-distant continent – ARD, ORF, ZDF, RTF, TVE – challengers to the safe world of the B.B.C. with the coded British class stratifications of Home Service, Third Programme, Light Programme, and World Service broadcasting to the declining Empire. It was a world of tunes and fine tuning, family listening and our forces overseas; Two-Way Family Favourites and BFPO, when in 1955, The Radio Times, the in-house magazine of the B.B.C. had the largest circulation in Europe with average sales of 8.8 million. Hilversum is an ode to a place of nostalgia.

Current projects by artists Georgiou & Tolley are linked by a documentary format where image, film, music and text combine as a contemporary digital library or museum, a store of sound and image stories. Superficially, it seems to be a standard multi-media facade of – eye-ear-vox-pop – but the images and voices are sourced from deep, dark and dense places ranging from Gramsci to Banksy. The references are closer to the ancient Musaeum at Alexandria –  an Institution of the Muses – a three-dimensional storehouse of art and texts that encompass music, poetry and philosophy that creates a place for scholars and thinkers as much as watchers and listeners. A place of knowledge and research, study and debate. The images are as much a graphic symbol as an icon, and the iconography looks back at religious portraits of the Renaissance. “One of the hallmarks of European portraiture is a sense of reality, an apparent intention to depict the unique appearance of a particular person. Each portrait is thus meant to express individual identity, but as Erwin Panofsky recognized, it also “seeks to bring out whatever the sitter has in common with the rest of humanity” “(quoted in Shearer West, Portraiture [Oxford, 2004], p. 24).

The texts absorb the intellectual and philosophical literature of resistance of cultural theorists Gramsci, Adorno, Marcuse and Stuart Hall. As well as Tony Hancock in the 1961 film ‘The Rebel’ where the faux-artist satirises the conformity of  the Bohemian life of an artist in Paris and the parties of the Existentialists who sleep in diving suits, dye their hair green and paint their pianos like Scottish tartans.

“Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how the state and ruling capitalist class the bourgeoisie use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. The bourgeoisie in Gramsci’s view develops a hegemonic culture using ideology rather than violence, economic force, or coercion. Hegemonic culture propagates its own values and norms so that they become the “common sense” values of all and thus maintain the status quo. Hegemonic power is therefore used to maintain consent to the capitalist order, rather than coercive power using force to maintain order. This cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions that form the superstructure.”

luther Reformation_centenary_broadsheetThe Musaeum was destroyed by flames on the orders of administrative decrees from Rome, a powerful patrician empire ever paranoid and suspicious of scholars. Tolerance and Intolerance. One thousand years later in the 15th century the printing press arrived in Germany and submission slowly turned to resistance. The British Museum / BBC Radio 4 series and book A History of the World in 100 Objects broadcast / published in 2010 makes a claim for the significance of objects that promote equality, liberal opinion and social justice. The broadsheet was a source of both public word and image that challenged the monolithic authority of the Church and the religious icon. Printing enabled the bible and the broadsheet to spread news and popular, satirical and individual concepts of thought and belief, of debate and dissent. The section ‘Tolerance and Intolerance (1550-1700AD) in the BM / R4 selection includes No.85, a ‘Reformation centenary broadsheet’, made in Germany in 1617, “This broadsheet commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation of the Christian Church. It depicts Martin Luther nailing his thesis to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral in 1517. Protestants regarded this moment as the start of the Reformation, when the new Protestant Church, opposed to the power of the pope, split from the Roman Catholic Church. Luther is shown writing on the door with a huge feather pen that knocks off the pope’s hat. The lion is a reference to the pope’s name – Leo X.” The image shows Martin Luther as an instigator of change, a liberator in the political, religious and heretical act of posting his 95 Theses marking the moment of resistance from 1617.

From 1617 to 1968 to 2018 – How Places Feel

Resistencia (Barcelona ’88) ©Georgiou&Tolley2018 – images from a larger body of work originally taken walking around pre-1992 Olympic redevelopment in Barcelona with a copy of Homage to Catalunya whilst documenting political street art and unofficial public art. Ten.8 photo magazine – the image theory publisher – had a related photography touring exhibition programme and the exhibition Catalan Climate in 1988-92 explored the art of resistance through urban counterculture art, street symbols or signs that represented political or cultural struggle.

GT Barcelona Site master

Resistance ’68. Part 1 is a Radio-Film for the Mind’s Eye that mines image archives, whilst making connections with soundscapes and music to create a sound collage of archival fragments – a ‘cut up’ approach. Part 2 is an art school ‘lecture’ about art and the potential role of art and culture in these divisive times – a radio conversation conjuring the spirit of the underground from a year that shaped a generation, 1968.


Magician Walks into the Laboratory – The first part of a trilogy of Radio-Films is a Pseudo-art installation presenting Pseudo-political and Stasi CIA KGB surveillance in collaboration with actor and academic Jack Klaff. The departure point is the collective paranoia of the post-1945 cold war spy activity and of CIA transcripts concerned with ‘remote viewing’, or extrasensory perception (ESP). An audio-visual narrative is set-up in a room to re-enact fragments of a CIA remote viewing session. The date is set specifically as 4th December 1980 at 14.00 hours. The title is taken from that of a real CIA file Magician Walks into the Laboratory, in a folder named Stargate, which was declassified in 1998.

GT LiverpoolThe World Lived Here: L8 explores the individual lives and identities of the people behind the public face of the Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust in Toxteth, Liverpool 8. Residents worked with Georgiou & Tolley to create images, film and text to remember and redefine the area three decades on from the riots of 1985 that amplified the voices of resistance diminished by the government.

MWITL Russian

Ode to Hilversum – How Far Have We Failed to Travel

Resistance and Submission – Tolerance and Intolerance. From the Musaeum to the broadsheet; from the ikon to the Goggle Box “looking with wide open eyes, typically in amazement“. For Georgiou & Tolley art can still be a positive tool for resistance to create a framework of thoughts and ideas that underpin a wider body of research and practice. One question being: How Information Becomes Authoritative? – in turn exploring the way that we map and classify the world in order to understand it. Combining complexity, humour and playfulness – whilst merging inherently flawed systems or philosophical propositions with the seemingly objective experience of the ‘archive’. Art is a shadow theatre that can address social and political satire in alternative ways to media channels of TV, radio and newspapers. It is more flexible in its language, and therefore less easy to censor, and more difficult to control than state or corporate backed media. Marcuse argued that “art is the only form of expression that can take up where religion and philosophy fail and contends that aesthetics offers the last refuge for two-dimensional criticism in a one-dimensional society.” The alternative is making replicant pictures of cats and dogs as liturgical art for galleries of market Puritanism and their acolytes – columbaria of fetish objects and Molotov Mocktails – hermitages of the ascetic curator/priest – and running from your shadow forever.


As artists and film-makers, Georgiou & Tolley’s Radio-Film, Pseudo-Installation and Photo-Documentary are collectively an An Ode to Hilversum – part physics / part poetry / part dreaming / part sociology / part politics. Their process of hybrid research and cultural investigation between the archive and the still and moving image is linked through their approach to the subject of historical memory. In an attempt to reveal the disparity involved in seeking to ‘represent the past’ their research and work explores How Places Feel – that often involve disturbance, turmoil or perceived injustice – Spaces of Trauma. They are interested in the tension between truth, fiction, history and memory that embraces art, sound and archival fragments moving across genres to observe the roles of the “magician” to change the information processes in the organism of the subject. How do you question or undermine global folly? Georgiou & Tolley’s typical themes range from politics, religion, military, Cold War2, surveillance, art, commerce, culture, social and media distortion, and to leisure – as anaesthetising or consumer distraction – travel, shopping, tv, sport. The point being that we are all complicit or ‘guilty of folly’ – in some way. How far have we failed to travel indeed.

Georgiou & Tolley  – Resistance’68 on MixCloud:


Magician Walks Into The Laboratory on MixCloud:


The World Lived Here: L8:


Georgiou & Tolley: Magician Walks into the Laboratory


Georgiou & Tolley: The World Lived Here, L8. Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool



Georgiou & Tolley Artist & Image Maker


Website: www.georgioutolley.tumblr.com


Coming soon: www.artslabinternational.com

Instagram: georgioutolley

Twitter: @GeorgiouTolley

Photo-artists’in residence at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool for ‘The World Lived Here: L8’ as part of ‘Culture Shifts: Local’ exhibition for Open Eye Gallery, 5 October – 22 December 2017

‘Magician Walks into the Laboratory’ (premiered at the Coventry Biennal of Contemporary Art 2017) Ongoing trilogy of interdisciplinary works for 2018-2019

Rebekah Tolley-Georgiou is a BOM (Birmingham Open Media) Fellow 2018-2019

About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


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