Catch & Release: Critical Mass (Audio)

May 26, 2021
Created by Jon Brumit (2004). Introduced by Jess Speer.

Neighborhood Public Radio is a project led by Lee Montgomery, Linda Arnejo, Michael Trigilio, and Jon Brumit that creates short-term microbroadcasting stations in communities and supports community and artist-created content for broadcast. The project’s name, acronym, and even logo are intended as critiques of National Public Radio, making the argument that truly non-commercial and community-based programming can be more powerful and meaningful to people than corporate-sponsored “public” content. In a 2005 interview with Punk Planet, founder Lee Montgomery admitted, “on a certain level, what we are trying to emulate is what National Public Radio used to be,” contrasting coverage of Vietnam War protests by National Public Radio in the 1970s in which reporters immersed in the protests letting the people around them tell their stories, to contemporary coverage of global protests against the Iraq War consisting of brief reports from journalists in different sites reporting from “above the crowd” and little more than estimates of numbers of people. The Neighborhood Public Radio project has riffed on other National Public Radio themes, producing a crowdsourced show called “American Life” that included broadcasts from Portable Radio Instruments (PRI), a riff on distributor Public Radio International and its popular show This American Life.

Since its founding in 2004, Neighborhood Public Radio installations have taken place in galleries, museums, art festivals, and store fronts in a wide array of cities including San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, and Hamburg, and were included as part of the Whitney Biennial in 2008. Installations often include partnerships with local community organizations and artists to create programming, workshops on creating transmitters and other electronic instruments, performances, and interactive broadcasting events that invite the community to be part of the station’s content.

During the 2004 installation of NPR at the Southern Exposure Gallery in San Francisco, artist Jon Brumit hosted a regular program called Catch & Release, which featured content gleaned from the streets of the neighborhood, as well as interviews and performances by artists and musicians, musings on garbage and revenge, and a live broadcast from Critical Mass in San Francisco. In this, the first episode, Brumit’s remote transmitter wasn’t working so he presented recordings taken from the streets on his Broadcast Bike, a bike modified with a drainpipe to function essentially as a large phono cartridge on the street, amplifying the sounds of potholes and other street textures, as well as recordings from a Honda Civic Brumit modified to become a percussion instrument/traveling performance. - Introduced by Wave Farm Radio Artist Fellow 2020/2021, Jess Speer.