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Radio Nonchalance Hits Pirate Radio with its Urban Participatory Game

Radio Nonchalance

A mysterious pirate radio station cropped up today during the 2010 01SJ Biennial Build Your Own World conference in San Jose, California.  According to the festival website, ZER01 and other artistic collaborators will convene in San Jose from September 16-19 to present various events and performances.

The pirate radio arm of this event is airing in San Jose on 91.3FM for the next few days under the moniker of Radio Nonchalance. People who happen upon the station might hear bits of old-time radio sounds being transported from the very early days of radio in San Jose, courtesy of the ghost of Charles Herrold‘s original radio engineering school. Amid the collage of material are short documentaries, bits of philosophy, propaganda and reports from Doc Herrold. When I tuned in, I heard soundbites such as “it’s a whole new world…radio is certainly here to stay,” as well as people sharing stories about bookmaking projects and westward migration.

According to the 01SJ website, Radio Nonchalance is the product of festival “infiltrators” with the intent of leading participants toward secret pathways and hidden installations, encouraging them to ‘tune in’ to the untapped or unnoticed possibilities throughout the urban landscape.”

It turns out that Radio Nonchalance is actually part of a much bigger project from the “hybrid arts consultancy” group Nonchalance. This San Francisco-based group crafts experiences using play and situational design and they have set up low power pirate radio stations in a number of different locations. If the San Jose station wasn’t trippy enough, the home base of Radio Nonchalance in San Francisco (107.9 FM near Dolores Park in the Mission District) offers up reports from the Elsewhere Public Works Agency, which “provides non-liable encouragement, suggestion, influence, direction & shoving towards potential Nonchalance. The EPWA does this through subverted suggestions & disguised guidance.” Part of “Games of Nonchalance,” both of these pirate stations help listeners explore hidden histories and secret spaces in San Francisco and San Jose. To dive even deeper into this, take a look at the Jejune Institute website, which is another piece of the urban game that Radio Nonchalance is a part of.

I’m fascinated by this project, especially the EPWA website which will take you back to the early days of DOS computers, with its command-based interface. At various festivals and events the Nonchalance folks have also set up urban games in which they utilize pirate radio and combine it with a citizen journalism game.

Their antics have certainly sparked listeners’ curiosity and are a great example of how terrestrial radio has the potential to surprise and delight.


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