Middle Main

A neighborhood just a little off center

Check out a new radio show produced by Middle Main Steering Committee member Matthew Slaats:


Dead Hare Radio Hour fosters Hudson arts community

By Emma Daniels

Most Vassar students can say they have felt the constricting nature of Vassar's extremely close-knit campus. A new radioshow airing at 5 pm on Tuesday nights on 91.3 WVKR FM offers everyone a chance to escape the claustrophobia of campus.

From 5 to 6 p.m., community members Matthew Slaats and Christopher Albert will host Dead Hare Radio Hour, a show centered on the art scene in the Hudson Valley.

The radio show's primary purpose is to spread information about visual art in the Hudson Valley—to highlight the artists, the museums, the galleries and the projects that are created in the area in a far reaching, in depth way.

Albert said, "It's a lot about visual culture, since there is very little of that represented in the mainstream media. A lot of the conversation that happens is about promotion versus talking and sharing ideas."

Academic Computing Consultant at Vassar College, Slaats works specifically with technology in the Art Department. He is also an artist, activist and community organizer. In 2010 he began PAUSE (People Art Urban Space Exchange), a non-profit organization that uses art as a catalyst for community engagement and development. He is also organizing a panel talk about art in the Hudson Valley with the support of Vassar's Media Studies Department on April 20 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Cunneen Hackett Arts Center in downtown Poughkeepsie.

Albert is a visual artist based in Beacon, N.Y., and works—through blogging and public media—to spread information about arts and artists in Beacon and beyond. He has worked at Bard College, New York's Museum of Modern Art, and from 2005 to 2010, Albert kept a blog (maykr.com) about the art community in Beacon specifically, but also the greater Hudson Valley area. The duo has been working on the show for the last three months, recording and gathering material, and just began to broadcast.

The idea for the show came out of conversations the two artists had about the different art communities up and down the Hudson Valley.

Albert said, "We are both very interested in tapping into this network effect of really getting to know what's going on in various communities because they are rather separate. They're not that far from one another but I look at them like little feudal states, medieval communities that are very isolated from one another," he said, adding, "You have a few people who cross over but by and large something happening in Woodstock or Saugherties might go completely unnoticed to someone in Poughkeepsie or Beacon." Albert hopes the show will widen the scope of Hudson Valley arts, providing an outlet for the spread of creative information and a way for artists to connect and collaborate: "Part of the idea of doing the radio show is to try to explore that phenomena and also try to coalesce the activities of all the artists in the area, to put people in touch with one another about what they are doing," he said.

The many meanings behind the show's title say a lot about the show itself and the men who host it. Dead Hare Radio Hour primarily references Joseph Beuys and his 1965 performance "How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare." It was also chosen because hare could be interpreted as hair, and Slaats and Albert claim that there's a strong relationship between the genre of radio station one listens to and the hairstyle one sports on one's head. They also like the fact that Dead Hare bears a lovely semblance to the radio term "dead air."

As well as providing numerous explanations for the show's name, Slaats and Albert discussed the wide-ranging mission they intend the show to serve. Slaats, an experimental artist himself, stressed that the show is about promoting unconventional ways of making art. "Mainly because I work in alternative ways, I see the show as part of my art practice. It's about teasing out alternative ways of art," he said.

Slaats mentioned that he and Albert have known each other for four years. He said, "We've always had these really great conversations so I had this desire to see these conversations happen more and more about connecting these disparate spaces. We want to look at what's in the area and produce a place where people can start referencing what's going on and get to know the Valley in a greater way."

One segment of the show is what the pair are currently calling "Threads," where they do a short interview with an artist and then ask that person to recommend another person for them to interview.

"We want to follow these connections between people, start them at different places and see how they connect or move away from each other," said Slaats.

As well as highlighting the creative processes of different people and focusing on artistic exhibits and events happening in the Hudson Valley, the show will also function as somewhat of an art itself--the hosts will use sound and music creatively to set the backdrop for their content.

The first show this past Tuesday focused on, according to Slaats, "taking the cultural temperature of the Valley"--essentially surveying the artistic goings on of the area. The next show is on an exhibit about Vassar's Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and another show will be about an exhibition at SUNY New Paltz.

They both commented on the experience working together. "We both bring different perspectives, and it's been a great collaboration so far," said Slaats. "We're not polar opposites," said Albert, "but we're bringing a full picture of the way people are working in the art world."

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