What is Mini FM

Tetsuo Kogawa

Mini FM had no constant name when we started experiments of free radio. We called our activities just as "free radio". Because I thought we followed the free radio movement in Italy. As I explained the complicated process of the naming in my articles in Radio Rethink (Walter Phillips Gallery) and At a Distance (MIT), this was given by the mass media who didn't want to use the term "free". But we had no choice because Mini FM boomed. Meanwhile, I felt that "Mini FM" was not so bad. When I visited the free radio stations in Milano, Padova, Bologna, Rome and so on in 1984, I became realizing the differnece between the Italian free radio and Mini FM, and I articulated what the Mini FM is and will be.

1. beginnings
There were many motivations to start Mini FM, but as a matter of fact, Mini FM started in my seminar to cheer up my students who were isolated each other in the period between the collapse of students movement and the beginning of economic leap in the early 80s. They need some medium to re-connect them together individualistic and collective, not lumping them together. Mini FM created a comfortable (safer) distance between them. This was very important in that period just after the inside fights in politics. And then they started Radio Home Run their own radio station in a bohemian center of Tokyo.

2. transmitters
There were many micro transmitters to cover the usual FM dial (76-90MHz in Japan). I don't know why but you could suspect that many people wanted their own radio stations. In the late 70s, new radio policy started in the US, Australia and especially in Italy: public access, pirate radio, community radio, collage radio and free radio. In Japan, there was a kind of subculture to use micro FM transmitter and the audio facilities for a play to pretend DJ and radio technician. Also, there is a special town called Akihabara where hundreds of radio parts shop existed (still exit but lesser than that time).

3. how to use
Basically the airwave policy in Japan has been quite tight. A few broadcast companies monopolize the business interest. It is very hard to get license for new comer. Punishment for illegal use of airwaves is hard. Surveillance system has been sophisticated. So, we have to find a strategy to use the establishments paradoxically but legally. One day we found a special regulation for "very week airwaves" such as remote controller and wireless microphone. We used it for radio transmission.

4. philosophy
The service area of Mini FM is very limited only in 100-500 meter radius. This is a demerit from the perspective of conventional broadcasting. But Félix Guattari argued that we are now in the period of "Molecular revolution" and therefore "micro politics". Now we are familiar with the notion "Multitude". This is an umbrella concept to cover a micro unit of people. Today, the notion of individual is too large, to say nothing of "group" and "people". Inside the individual, many singularities are buzzing and expressing themselves. In order to respond to such singularities, we need micro and diverse medium. Mini FM may respond to it.

5. technology
Limiting the aspect of technology and art, FLUXUS artists such as John Cage and Num Jun Paik used technology qualitatively differently from the conventional and practical way. Radio and television sets are no more message machines. Even if they give message, it is not what the conventional communication theories thought: the sender and the receiver are mediated by the communication devices and the most proper way is that the medium in NOT the message. Although Marshal McLuhan said, "the medium is the message", that is 'the medium defines the message'. But still the conventional theory of communication does not approve his thesis at all. However in arts, you can have a radio without messages, silent radio, television without images and etc. Also, here the technology is no more means but comes back to the authentic meaning of 'techne' the old Greek of art, that is hand-work.

6. radio art
While being involved in Mini FM, I have become interested in the more smaller radius of airwaves. After the internet has been available, we have not to mind the length of service area. You can extend and reduce it quite flexibly. I thought that the time has come when we can explore and experiment airwaves for molecular revolution and micro analysis. Radio will resonate the more micro and deeper side of the individuals. It will have message but it may be something to do with emotion and feeling.