The station's founders curate a guide to a few of their favorite shows from 'Tongue and Cheek' to 'Piracy, Libraries, Access'
Back in 2018, A.M. Bang, Stacy Skolnik, and Thomas Laprade founded Montez Press Radio, an offshoot of Montez Press, at the nexus of the Lower East Side and Chinatown—or as some call it with wry fondness, ‘Dimes Square.’ A response to the splintering of New York’s artistic communities, the platform brings together emerging and established figures from the art world into its live studio, granting them full creative freedom during their allotted air time. The shows possess a unique, often interdisciplinary conceptual basis; Tounge and Cheek, for instance, intercuts “mumbling, stroking the walls, or talking to guest puppets” with “cerebral conversations about the mechanics of sound, psychology, neuroscience and the body.” That theory is so integral to MPR’s programming follows: the theoretical demands discussion, lending itself wholly to the medium. Experimentation and conversation, then, are MPR’s proposed solutions to stagnancy and exclusivity. And they work.
While the lockdown has paused MPR’s live studio space programming, remote radio contributions have sustained the project without compromising its quality. In fact, the circumstances have only elucidated the power of radio to cultivate community in spite of physical limitations—and these very limitations, in turn, inspire an urgent desire for dialogue. All live broadcasts remain free, and archived shows are accessible by adding them to MPR’s global playlist or by subscribing to its Patreon.
Document asked the founders of MPR to describe a few of their favorite shows, providing a sampling of the engaging, original content characteristic of the platform.
“Montez Press Radio has produced nearly 1,000 shows since the summer of 2018, so making a selection we could count on our fingers was pretty tough. To narrow it down, we’ve decided to introduce you to some of our recurring shows and themes,” Laprade says.
Tongue and Cheek with Tim Simonds, Aaron Lehman, and Emma McCormick-Goodhart
“Tongue [and] Cheek, one of MPR’s longest running recurring shows, is a series about how we communicate. T&C often starts with vocal warmups or chanting before maybe putting a mic up to a motorcycle parked outside or the fish they brought into the studio. The best episodes guide us through exercises that have us on the ground mumbling, stroking the walls, or talking to guest puppets. Absurd as that might seem, it’s all cut with intensely cerebral conversations about the mechanics of sound, psychology, neuroscience, and the body. While many of our shows tangentially comment on the ways that technology shapes the way we communicate, Tongue and Cheek reminds us you can never take the body as it exists in space out of the equation (or algorithm). So much of what we do at Montez Press Radio circulates around our incredible space in Chinatown with doors that stay open to the public. For instance, our semi-regular karaoke competition, Montez Got Talent hosted by Lena Greene, sees local weirdos, musicians, and art critics erupt into shouting matches about how karaoke should (or shouldn’t) be judged. And you can listen to the recordings of lively shows like that in our archive, but it’s not the same as being there in person.”
Sparkle Nation’s Silent Reading Hour with Gabrielle Rucker, Diamond Stingily, and Precious Okoyomon
“Montez Press Radio is an offshoot of the publisher Montez Press, so we obviously love books and a huge part of our programming circulates around literature, poetry, and the written word in all its forms. Sparkle Nation with Gabrielle Rucker, Diamond Stingily, and Precious Okoyomon is one of our regular segments that expands on the idea of the reading group and reminds us how the best books spring conversations that can go anywhere. Gabrielle, Diamond, and Precious are artists and writers, and their interdisciplinary interests bring together writing, language, criticism and visual art in a way that seems to highlight the cross-section at which Montez Press Radio stands. Not only that, but the poetry and art scenes in New York can feel pretty insular and we love the openness and sincerity that Sparkle Nation invites listeners in with—like a bunch of your smartest friends hanging out and talking shop.”
The Literature and Art of AIDS
“The summer we started Montez Press Radio the Whitney Museum had a major retrospective on David Wojnarowicz, an artist who comes up a lot when we talk about AIDS and art. While that was up we aired a segment from Derek Baron of Reading Group who had just re-published a series of recordings Wojnarowicz made on a cross-country road trip after he was diagnosed with AIDS. Listening to it at home or in the car is an intimate and harrowing experience that you probably can’t get standing in a crowded museum. Shortly after we aired that segment, the poet and performer Pamela Sneed came on feminist collective Belladonna* and offered a different take on the exhibition, reminding us of how lesbians and people of color are far too often left out of the historical narrative of the virus. These conversations branched out into segments about HIV art and literature with people and organizations such as Sarah Schulman, The Center, Lambda Literary, and just recently poet Maxe Crandall. In light of the current pandemic, it’s a good time to look back and think critically about how AIDS affected our city and communities and how we wrote, or failed to write, that history.”
Sam Korman’s In Conclusion: A Review of Reviews and Inter-views with Keenan Jay
“There’s an art to reviewing art and this show revels in it. Once a month, host Sam Korman pulls up to our recording studio with a stack of annotated art magazines and a fellow art writer. They tenderly read a selection of the month’s art reviews (you’d be surprised how soothing even the driest conceptual art can sound when read out loud by Sam) before getting into the nitty gritty. You might hear some art history or gallery politics, but Sam and his guests are really here to talk about the nuances of art captured in words.
The importance of oral histories comes up a lot in our programming too. Maybe that’s because radio, in all its immediacy and simplicity, has the power to record what can’t or hasn’t yet made it to print. We have a few amazing segments from the Trans Oral History Project for example, an organization devoted to recording the often unheard voices of trans people in NYC. We’re also tracing an oral history in Keenan Jay’s Inter-views, an ongoing segment in which we hear from the gallerists behind artist-run spaces in lower Manhattan in the ’80s. That might sound specific, but it’s a scene whose legacy shaped the global contemporary art market for better or for worse and to which the artists in our neighborhood are indebted. Some of those interviews are with Mitchell Algus, Oliver Wasow, Penny Pilkington and Wendy Olsoff of PPOW, Liz Koury of International With Monument (which famously gave household names like Jeff Koons and Richard Prince their first shows), and there’s an episode where legendary gallerist Jeffrey Deitch tells us stories about his early days in NYC.”
Channel PTP, Nick Klein’s Psychic Liberation Show, and Tabitha Piseno’s Noise and Politics
“When you think of noise music, you might picture a dark warehouse you’d never be able to find or get into. But we have a few regular segments that always open up our understanding and the door to the noise community. Channel PTP is a show which highlights collective members from a super active and supportive record label that makes a point to remind us of how essential communities of color have always been to the genre. Nick Klein’s Psychic Liberation Show and Tabitha Piseno’s Noise and Politics also offer perspective on the noise scene via conversations, live shows, and mixes. Tuning in, you can use these segments as maps in a canon of minimalism and experimental music, Fluxus and politics, or you can just get into it for the insane walls of sound.”
Piracy, Libraries, Access
“Don’t tell anyone, but if you tune in terrestrially while we’re broadcasting live you might just find us really low on the dial. Since its founding, MPR has been interested in piracy because of its historical and cultural significance in relation to access, community, and distribution. Working with radio producer and audio archivist David Goren opened up our eyes to the vast and complex web of pirate radio in New York City and beyond. Through him we were introduced to DJ Cintronics, a seminal pirate radio DJ in New York in the ’90s. With a few cheap transmitters, DJ Cintronics and Dren Starr ran their station WBAD from secret locations around the city in a game of cat and mouse with the law. WBAD was hugely influential in moving the sounds of underground hip hop and segments with Cintronics and other radicals like the founders from Kool FM (groundbreaking UK pirate radio station), the Free Black Women’s Library of LA, Library Stack, and Emily Jacobson (the correctional services librarian at New York Public Library) have also expanded our understandings of how information can and should be shared. That is, freely.”