Ted Victoria (1970)
“Solar Audio Window Transmission” (1969-1970) came out of a series of sound scultptures in which Ted Victoria attempted to create something akin to an audio painting by isolating sound onto a visual surface. Eventually, he started to make works that could be transmitted outdoors and powered by the sun, and with “Solar Audio Window Transmission,” he used the sun to transmit radio signals through a variety of unlikely materials and surfaces such as trees, windows, and water.
As designed by Victoria, the series’ pieces took a variety of shapes and responded directly weather conditions at the time they were left outdoors. The sound source was completely random and came from a variety of radio sources—some were tuned into the National Weather Station and solely transmitted meteorological forecasts, while others were tuned to news, sport, music, and talk stations. Each sculpture’s physical dimensions were designed to alter the radio signals’ sound: a series of columns slightly distorted the audio source as it emanated from the piece and, in some works, several sources overlapped each other to produce a collage of sounds.
When exhibited at the Jewish Museum’s Software Exhibition in 1970, “Solar Audio Window Transmission” consisted of six solar pieces on the roof of the building, each connected to the various windows near the museum’s entrance. With each sculpture tuned to different radio sources, a collage of constantly changing sound blanketed the front of the museum whenever the sun was shining. By subtly altering the building’s façade, Victoria implored the audience to engage with the museum’s physicality in a new way while also considering alternative uses of solar energy—in this case, as a source material for information capable of producing works of art.