On air with market mavericks: Field Theory

The eye-popping colour of a fruit box has been put to inspired use in an ambitious art project at Queen Victoria Market.

Field Theory are a group of artists who created an ingenious cardboard speaker stack for a live radio project – buzzing with snippets of conversations from market workers, broadcast 24 hours a day for one week. The project is one of several installations created for the City of Melbourne’s first Biennial Lab public art project, curated by Natalie King.

The 14 artists chosen were invited to observe the city provocatively from within the market. Percolating since workshops in June, an artistic hotbed of ideas produced animation, photography, sculpture and performances opening on 17 October as part of the Melbourne Festival.


Field Theory are a group of artists who created an ingenious cardboard speaker stack for a live radio project. [Photo: Provided by Field Theory]

Field Theory’s Jason Maling explains the fruit box frenzy behind the broadcast, titled 9000 Minutes: ‘The boxes are recycled from the market so we’re building an entire speaker stack made out of all the recycled cardboard. I go down there twice a week and collect the boxes. The project is basically a live radio broadcast which goes for six days non-stop.’

‘We are putting a portable room in the middle of Queen Street between the market sheds and then we’re covering that room with this enormous speaker stack. It’ll look like this enormous sound system made out of all the boxes, words and colours from the market. And that’s our set for the performance that happens inside the room.’

Against saturated colour, ‘the context for the seven performers is a set of rules’, he says. ‘We can’t leave the market, the broadcast never stops. It’s on FM and streamed live as well, and the seven performers have to eat the food from the market, wear clothes from the market, we have to sleep at the market. We are there non-stop.’

With market life continuing around the project, many of the traders have their radios on and might tune in, he said.  ‘We’ll ask them “what do you want to hear when you’re packing meat? When you’re driving forklifts around? What happens at the market in the middle of the night?”.  Everything we can find content from will be fed into the broadcast.’

Visitors to the Queen Victoria Markets can bask in the first Biennial Lab, interact with public art works – and greet their favourite trader. Tune in to the 9000 Minutes broadcast from 10am on 17 October to 4pm on 23 October on 99.7FM within the market precinct.