I was using six watts when you Received me

27 September – 09 November 2013
New Zealand

Project commission for SCAPE 7 Public Art Biennial

Curator: Blair French


  • 34 audio tracks of historic, pre-quake sound recordings from Christchurch sourced from New Zealand Sound Archives Nga Taonga Korero;
  • Radio operators from Christchurch Amateur Radio Club;
  • VHF/FM transmitters;
  • Nissan Civilian bus;
  • Letterpress QSL confirmation cards
  • @ZL3ISS Twitter account

Producer: Maddie Leach
Co-producer: Jem Noble
Project Manager: Jo Mair
Radio equipment and operation:
Christchurch Amateur Radio Club (ZL3AC)
Sound Archivist: Sarah Johnston
Designer: Warren Olds, Studio Ahoy

Supported by
Sound Archives Nga Taonga Korero
Christchurch Amateur Radio Club

With thanks to
Rory Deans (ZL3HB), Sarah Johnston & Karen Neill at the Sound Archives, CCC Transport and Greenspace Unit; School of Art Whiti o Rehua, Massey University Wellington.

SCAPE 7 Public Art Biennial was the first major art event to be held in Christchurch after a devastating earthquake struck the city in 2011. Australian-based curator Blair French drew on "three guiding principles that spoke both to and beyond the immediate experience of the city: that of mobility; of embracing, or at least anticipating the unexpected; and looking forward, of possibility. Together they encompassed ways of thinking across the recent past, the present and the future of life in Christchurch."

I was using six watts when you Received me was centred around a Nissan Civilian bus parked in an open field in the city's Hagley Park. From there, radio operators from Christchurch Amateur Radio Club made repeated attempts to contact astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) when it orbited over the city. Leach described this contrast of sites as "an idea of ‘imaginative transcendence’, seeking the possibility of communication with the International Space Station as both a highly remote, elusive entity and as a physical destination. It is a site deliberately chosen because it operates at great remove from (or above) the current conditions of Christchurch and is itself an idealised site of construction, research and collaborative effort."

I was using six watts when you Received me had the radio call sign ZL3ISS and transmitted on 107.1 FM for local ground-based audiences within a 2 kilometre radius of the bus. Working with historic material held by the National Sound Archive Ngā Taonga Kōrero, the project broadcast a selection of historic audio recordings made in Christchurch buildings and public spaces lost or transformed by the 2011 earthquake. These included recordings of the city's Cathedral bells, 'factory whistles', Radio New Zealand interviews with eccentric public figures such as The Wizard and the "rubbish bin lady", buskers in Cathedral Square, press coverage of the Queen's visit in 1954, the Springbok rugby tour of 1981, port workers in Lyttelton, communal gardeners in the 1970s, and a small boy caught stealing daffodils in Hagley Park. The final recording features a news reporter speaking on the telephone at the moment the earthquake struck on 22 February 2011.

Had contact with the Space Station been successful, QSL cards would have been exchanged. In amateur radio, a QSL request stands for "Can you acknowledge receipt? I am acknowledging receipt."

For the duration of SCAPE 7, the ISS radio contact sessions and local broadcasts were overlaid to produce intriguing new sonic artefacts. These new recordings are now held as part of the National Sound Archive collection.

I was using six watts when you Received me


I was using six watts when you Received me

Listen & Watch

Listen to a selection of the 34 audio tracks broadcast from Hagley Park, September to November 2013:

I was using six watts when you Received me


A short text written by Abby Cunnane for the SCAPE 7 catalogue, 2014.