Friday, January 24, 2014

Reel to Reel Tape as Read Write Cultural Artifact

I have chosen a Tandberg Series 14 reel-to-reel tape player as an artifact for the Tensta Museum Apartment as I believe it reflects the democratic values and social possibilities associated with the Million Program (Swedish: Miljonprogrammet). The company of the same name manufactured the Tandberg between 1968 and 1978 in Oslo, Norway. Tandberg was a high quality device that was used in schools, universities and homes in Sweden. (1) The reel to reel placed media in the hands of ordinary people, allowing them to record audio and even abstract and collage the sounds around them. In this sense, the Tandberg represents the beginnings of a read/write culture that is standard with digital media today.  

People could produce media as well as consume it with the Tandberg. 

Like the typewriter in the early 20th century, the reel-to-reel tape recorder enabled people to record and represent and even abstract their experiences and ideas. But unlike the typewriter, the Tandberg did not need extra coding (i.e. literacy) to operate. As long as someone could speak and listen, home produced audio became accessible. Finally, the Tandberg player here is accompanied by a found recording from the early 1980s of the exiled Somalian writer Nuruddin Farah (b. 1945). On the tape, Farah speaks of his writing, as well as the Somalia he grew up in and of the diaspora he was part of and his exile. The Somalian diaspora is an important part of Tensta today. Thus, almost 50 years of Tensta history is embodied in the Tandberg Series 14 reel-to-reel player, from the aspirations of the Million Program to the multiculturalism of Sweden today.

James Barrett

1. "På 1950-talet och 1960-talet ansågs Tandbergs bandspelare vara bland de bästa och det var som regel Tandbergbandspelare som köptes in till svenska skolor." Music in Folkhemmet

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