Art and Obsolescence Podcast

Reviewed by:
Michalle Gould, Librarian
Sage Hill School
GouldM@sagehillschool.org
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17613/90zh-7922

"Art & Obsolescence" is written in white text on a purple square. Beneath is text that reads "36 episodes. Conversations with artists, collectors, and professionals shaping the past, present, and future of art and technology."
Art & Obsolescence podcast logo

The Art and Obsolescence Podcast describes itself as “Conversations with artists, collectors, and professionals shaping the past, present, and future of art and technology.” The podcast presents the experiences and thoughts of each interviewee about the specific challenges and rewards involved in making and preserving time-based and ephemeral artwork. These types of new media are more vulnerable to breakdowns in the presentation and preservation of the material, because of the more rapid development of technology than traditional media like sculpture, drawing, and painting. (Whether the comparative stability of those mediums is something of an illusion might make for an interesting episode in itself.) The following review is based on a sampling of several podcast episodes and their transcripts.

Host Ben Fino-Radin does an impressive job of formulating questions to draw out the thoughts of the artists, curators, technicians, gallerists, collectors, and other guests working in the field. Fino-Radin maintains the flow of the conversation without ever taking the focus off the person being interviewed. A standout episode for this reviewer was Episode 35, with Richard Bloes, who has served as an AV technician at the Whitney Museum of American Art for over 41 years, and who recounted stories about the challenges involved in working with time-based media and how the field has changed over the years. 

The podcast conversations presuppose a familiarity with the institutions, artists, and genre of art under discussion, suggesting that the intended audience includes listeners who hold a strong pre-existing interest in contemporary art. While the intersection of art and technology is increasingly of general interest, the focus of the podcast is time-based media art, a more niche topic. However, the quality of the interviews expands the likely listenership to those interested in contemporary art in general. The resource is free and easy to access through its website, Spotify, or Apple podcasts. Listeners will find the transcript option helpful as a way to return to quotes or anecdotes that interest them, and art history researchers will appreciate the ease of quoting interviewees through the transcripts as well.

The image is a screen capture from the podcast's website, showing a list of links relevant to the episode, and a brief description of the podcast.
Each podcast episode features a list of links to relevant topics discussed in the episode.

The podcast’s website may strike viewers as somewhat under-designed: the homepage is simple in appearance and includes little beyond links to the episodes, the podcast’s social media pages, a bio of the host, and a donation link. However, the page for each individual episode does include a selection of useful links. The podcast’s homepage could be improved by adding some context about the format under discussion – perhaps a brief history and timeline of time-based media and links to major events or exhibitions going on in recent years. Such additions could draw in casual listeners whose interest in the art form becomes piqued by the podcast. While experimenting with media may be beyond the scope of the podcast, this reviewer was curious about whether the presentation of the podcast could reflect the theme of obsolescence and technological experimentation. However, that is not the stated focus of the project, and perhaps shows the effectiveness of the podcast in expanding a listener’s interest in experimental, time-based art. All in all, Art and Obsolescence accomplishes what it sets out to do: provide interesting discussions with interesting people engaged in a very specific art form, and it does this very well.

PodcastRE

Reviewed by:
Freyja T. Catton, Independent Consultant
Wordeater Consulting
freyjacatton@gmail.com
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17613/53j0-ty12

Screenshot of the PodcastRE website, with light blue text on a dark teal background.
A screenshot from the PodcastRE homepage

PodcastRE is an interface resource to preserve podcasts and collect links and metadata records. Website users can search the database, analyze the metadata using visualization tools, and stream the audio if the original feed is still available online. PodcastRe(search) is founded and directed by Dr. Jeremy Morris of University of Wisconsin Madison and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The website is free and accessible by web browser. Comparable podcast directory services include proprietary services such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon, or Pandora. Comparable free services include PodBean, Podchaser, iHeartRadio, and Podcast Index. PodcastRE stands apart from these services with its goal of archiving podcasts for researchers of the future, rather than marketing. PodcastRE has a much longer-term approach to data and access, and researchers requiring more in-depth information about a podcast can make an account to access original files. There is a contact form for users if they want to add to the collection or obtain further information.

Branding is consistent and clean with teal and white colors throughout. The header and footer in the background have vertical bars of different lengths and heights, indicating digital sound waves. The home page has a search bar in the middle of the page, and below that from left to right are the advanced search, keyword cloud visualization, and the term frequency line graph buttons.

PodcastRE is intuitive and easy to navigate. The basic search query is prominent on the home page and resembles a Google search. The advanced search resembles a library catalogue search, where users can type in their keywords and use dropdown menus to refine the search. Searchable fields are All Fields, Author, Keywords, Categories, Description, Title, and Podcast Source. A basic search for “art” returned 75,734 results, with thirty per page. Each result has an image on the far left, with the podcast title and publisher to the right of the image. The earliest and most recent episodes for each podcast are listed, followed by teaser text descriptions for each podcast. In combination, this gives a useful overview of each podcast.

A screenshot of the PodcastRE database showing search results for a basic search for the term "art."
Results of a basic search for “art”.

The first thirty results showed publication dates ranging from 2011 to 2022 with a range of subjects and creators– from artists to critics, art history stories, one French-language podcast, and one business podcast. “Search within these results” adds the advanced search on top of the existing search. Clicking on one result leads to a new page with a list of episodes for that podcast, where users can click to listen on PodcastRE. Clicking on the podcast title takes you to the podcast’s original website.

A screenshot of a word cloud visualization using keywords on PodcastRE. Colorful text appears underneath the heading "Associated Keywords." The word "Podcast" is shown in large black type.
Word Cloud visualization for “art.” All Keywords are selected, but Podcast Keywords and Episode Keywords are options.

PodcastRE has visualization tools to generate word clouds and keyword line graphs. Word clouds might be used to help determine what metadata is most common for each topic, and the line graph is an interesting way to discover very old resources, such as an “art podcast” from 1996!

A line graph visualization for Keywords Over Time on PodcastRE. The line spikes between the years 2018 and 2020.
Line graph visualization for Keywords Over Time for the search terms “podcast” and “art”. The line is flat between 1956 and 2006 before it spikes to six-digit figures in 2018 and again in 2020.

It would be difficult to access all this information in any other format, and other database platforms typically present a paywall or a lower quality of data. PodcastRE seems well organized and well prepared for the inevitable increase in data to manage. A web accessibility test reported no alt text was provided, form labels were missing, there were multiple instances of low color contrasts, and the home page lacked page structuring. These are relatively simple design adjustments to implement and would help improve the long-term accessibility of the database. PodcastRE stands as a great resource for people who are looking for subject-specific podcasts or those interested in the history of podcasts in general.

Nautilus Catalogue

Reviewed by:
lauren c. molina, Digital Assets and Records Manager
Autry Museum of the American West
lauren.c.molina@gmail.com
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17613/g7p5-bc33

The aim of Nautilus Catalogue is to provide a database of Nautilus pompilius shells-turned-art object by aggregating information from a variety of disparate collections – and it does exactly this. Created by independent art historian Marsley Kehoe, Nautilus Catalogue consists of a web-based database and downloadable dataset that expands on on Hanns-Ulrich Mette’s 1995 catalogue of nautilus shells.

Text from the ‘About Shells and Mounts’ page of Nautilus Catalogue which lists common terminology terms in bolded text and following each term, defines the common term as used within the website

Kehoe explains the Nautilus Catalogue in detail on three of the resource’s five web pages. Most helpful of all are the “Common terminology” (NautilusCatalogue_3.png) section of the “About Nautilus Shells and Mounts” page and the “How to use this Catalogue” page in its entirety. Reading the text at both of the aforementioned pages makes the experience of using this resource more meaningful (although it is not at all required).

Three records and thumbnail images displayed on Nautilus Catalogue which were returned when searching for ‘coral, figure’ in the search bar under the main menu at the left of the page.

Built with WordPress and Omeka by importing CSV data, the Nautilus Catalogue successfully achieves what Kehoe has set out to do. This free resource displays true to itself across devices and browsers. It is unfettered by any special media viewers that might otherwise make it difficult to translate from desktop to handheld device, giving the user freedom of continued access from any place. There is an easy and effective search bar below the menu panel of this site, which allows the visitor to explore the items of this digital collection using one or many terms (NautilusCatalogue_1.png). The home page does not immediately present image(s) before the user begins their journey by navigating to the “Browse Items” page or by dreaming up a search term to find an item. This site is heavy with text to assert its purpose; text that reads easily, yet at its length may feel somewhat overwhelming to a visitor favoring the image. However lengthy the text is, it informs the user what can be found within Nautilus Catalogue, how to find it, and why it is presented. While this reviewer wonders if a more image-dominant web design might benefit the resource (perhaps with images inserted within the body of the text on the home page), the textual data found within provides detailed information pertaining to each nautilus object, which may be more relevant to audiences aligned with Kehoe’s own scholarship as an art historian. Most entertaining of Kehoe’s decisions with this resource is the choice to include a word cloud within the “Browse by Tag” section on the “Browse Items” page where terms are shown at scale. The word cloud (NautilusCatalogue_2.png) visualizes the catalogue when individual records may still lack images of the objects themselves to view. The word cloud also reveals that stripping shells, whether selectively or wholly, is a common practice in the creation of these objects.

Text which has been assembled into a word cloud that can be seen by clicking on the ‘Browse by Tag’ tab on the ‘Browse Items’ page of Nautilus Catalogue

A variety of audiences may benefit from this resource: curators, collectors, history scholars, and shell and oddities enthusiasts. Nautilus Catalogue is Kehoe’s attempt to “make sense” of this broadly collected and somewhat obscure type of object. It is an interesting starting place to begin to consider some of the motives behind the European fascination with exoticism and ornament, or museological histories, or specialized crafts, or a number of other reasons why this specific kind of object was made, prized, utilized, and/or presented. Despite (and perhaps because) Nautilus Catalogue is a very pared down, straight-forward resource, it has the promise of being a site where historical, conservational, art, and cultural research might converge upon these curious items.

Play a Kandinsky

Reviewed by:
Tonya D. Lee, Instructional Technology & Online Learning Coordinator
Moore College of Art & Design
tlee@moore.edu
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17613/f0ve-sz86

A screenshot of the homepage of Google Arts & Culture’s, Play a Kandinsky, including an image of Wassily Kandinsky’s 1925 painting Yellow-Red-Blue with seven interactive hotspots. The image includes a blue “Launch Experiment” button.
Homepage of Google Arts & Culture’s, Play a Kandinsky, including an image of Wassily Kandinsky’s 1925 painting Yellow-Red-Blue with seven interactive hotspots. To begin the four-step resource, participants choose to “Launch Experiment.”

The Google Arts & Culture Experiment Play a Kandinsky is an interactive digital resource that provides participants a unique opportunity to delve into the question “What if you could hear color?” Using the writings of abstract painter and theorist Wassily Kandinsky, Play a Kandinsky demonstrates the complex neurological condition of synesthesia using simulation technology. A collaboration between Google Arts & Culture and the Center Pompidou, this free resource combines interactive visual elements with musical interpretations by sound artists Antoine Bertin and NSDOS, who created audio samples from music in Kandinsky’s library.

Play a Kandinsky uses Kandinsky’s painting Yellow-Red-Blue (1925) to explore the interconnectedness of color, shape, and sound experienced by those with synesthesia. The resource uses experiential learning practices and includes four scaffolded interactive exercises that deliver content through visual, audible, and kinesthetic activities appropriate for various learning styles and audiences. Each exercise is tiered in complexity and engagement, resulting in a user-created unique and shareable musical score generated by Google’s machine learning neural network, Transformer.

The resource can be accessed through a web browser or Google Arts & Culture’s mobile app. Because this resource uses visual and audio elements to demonstrate synesthesia, one must have speakers to gain the whole experience. Once launched, audio narrates the transitioning text as pop-up boxes detail actions to take to interact with the content in the first step of the resource.

A screenshot of the first step in Play a Kandinsky, showing a dark red circle on a medium red background with the instructions “Keep clicking the circle. Each color represents a sound.”
The first step in Play a Kandinsky, participants are introduced to synesthesia by interacting with moving shapes to hear different sounds representing different colors.

In the first step, participants click on a moving circle to play samples of sounds the artist might have heard when seeing different colors. In addition to introducing the basic principles of synesthesia, this activity establishes the foundational knowledge and technical know-how needed to engage with the remaining steps. Navigating between steps is either automated or initiated using the navigation bar at the bottom of the page. In future iterations, creating greater consistency in the transitioning between steps would improve the predictability of the user experience.

A screenshot from the second step of Play a Kandinsky, showing a dark blue circle on a light blue background. Text on the image reads “BLUE” “which Kandinsky heard as an ORGAN” “and associated it with emotions like HEAVENLINESS.”
The second step in Play a Kandinsky highlights three shapes from Kandinsky’s painting Yellow-Red-Blue and asks participants to interact with each to hear color and sound associations described in Wassily Kandinsky’s writings. The sounds are artistic interpretations by sound artists Antoine Bertin and NSDOS, who used Kandinsky’s music library to create music samples.

Navigating to the second step, participants interact with three shape elements from Kandinsky’s Yellow-Red-Blue to read and hear about the relationship between color, shape, sound, and emotion. By clicking on the blue circle, one hears organ music that represents the artist’s belief that round forms best represent “soft, deep colours” like blue, and the darkest blues generate the sounds of an organ (Kandinsky 1977, 39). In this step, the developers missed an opportunity to connect the content directly with Kandinsky’s writings. Adding citations that substantiate the content would provide participants with avenues for continued learning and firmly root the lessons in texts of historical significance and relevance.

A screenshot from the third step of Play a Kandinsky, showing seven play buttons on top of Kandinsky’s “Yellow-Red-Blue.”
In the third step, Yellow-Red-Blue is presented with seven interactive hotspots that play music samples that allow participants to “hear” the painting.

In the third step, Yellow-Red-Blue is presented with seven interactive “movements” that, when clicked, play Antoine Bertin and NSDOS’s music samples to allow participants to hear the painting. In this third step, the interface provides a set of variables that yield unique and differentiated outcomes based on the individual’s interactions.

A screenshot from the fourth step of Play a Kandinsky, showing a pop-up box outlining the instructions on how to create a user-generated musical composition and share the results.
In the fourth step, participants use their emotions to create a unique rhythm that is the foundation for a user-generated musical composition. Upon completion, the composition can be shared using the share icon.

The intentional skill and knowledge scaffolding, combined with increasingly personalized interactions, results in a final step that embraces experimentation and creative freedom.

In the last step, participants select their current mood to play sounds that provide the rhythmic foundation for an original and shareable user-generated musical composition created by interacting with elements in Yellow-Red-Blue. Because the composition is based on the order and frequency that each hotspot is initiated, the combinations are seemingly limitless. It is essential to mention that the interactive “emotion” buttons in the web browser version Play a Kandinsky have contrast issues that would be an accessibility concern.

Using interaction design principles combined with experiential learning methods, Play a Kandinsky provides an engaging introduction to the complexities of synesthesia through a well-produced digital technology that engages participants of varying experiences and learning styles. Google Arts & Culture and the Center Pompidou have created a tool that engages participants in a unique sensory experience that would be further enhanced by considering the mentioned areas for refinement.

Listen to the author’s unique musical composition created by Play a Kandinsky here: https://g.co/arts/fZrbhXuC1UU2zZb38

Materia: Journal of Technical Art History

Reviewed by:
Julia L. Bourbois
Pomona Public Library
julia.bourbois@pomonaca.gov
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17613/vf8y-f039

Launched in the spring of 2021, Materia: Journal of Technical Art History is a biannual, born-digital, open-access, peer-reviewed journal for the technical study of art objects.. Materia is situated at the convergence of conservation science, art history, and related fields, and is co-edited by an international group of conservators and art historians. The journal aims to cater to a broad and international audience, including conservation specialists, museum professionals, art historians, students, and researchers engaged in the interdisciplinary field of material culture. Additionally, the resource is intended to act as a scholarly forum that bridges diverse fields often siloed by paywall barriers. Readers can access issues of Materia directly from their website (materiajournal.com) or by signing up to the mailing list to receive the latest information on calls for abstracts, issues releases, and news.

Materia foregrounds access both in terms of content and authorship. For example, conservation articles examine the treatment and analysis of material culture objects without being overladen with technical jargon. Additionally, Materia operates within a broad notion of  conservation, soliciting articles on objects in addition to traditional easel paintings. Art history articles offer fresh perspectives of both historically marginalized artists and well-known figures. The articles currently available is Issue 2 reflect this diversity with articles including “Technical Analysis and Treatment of a Siberian Reindeer-Fur Overcoat,” “Manet Across Media: Looking at Lola de Valence” and “The Problem with Bitumen.” Materia also provides a platform for publishing scholarly research undertaken by students and early-career professionals in conservation and technical art history.  

Materia’s approach to article access and journal production models is also innovative. The journal differs in comparison to similar journals such as the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, a membership or institution subscription-based publication, and the Technical Bulletin published by the National Gallery, a leading resource in the study of the materials and techniques of painting conservation since 1977. Instead, as an open access digital resource, the editors of Materia are dedicated to free readership and no submission fees to increase access to research material for both readers and writers. As such, the editors of Materia effectively sidestep the myriad difficulties that currently plague print scholarly journals including costs of print publication, working with publishers, and the bundling of online journals. 

Materia is well-produced and executed effectively. The website is clearly arranged and on the whole, easily navigable. However, it should be noted that once in the web version of an issue, there is no home button to return to the landing page of the site.  Issues are available as a navigable web version with zoomable images and linked citations. The interactive images available in the web version are beneficial and enable the reader to examine the images in greater detail than possible in other formats. Full issues and individual articles are also available as PDFs, and no additional software is required to access the content of this resource. 

Images showing the front and back of a heavily-worn child’s Siberian fur coat with colorful bead work at the wrists and waist, pre-treatment.
Detailed image of the sleeve of a child’s Siberian fur coat with colorful beadwork.

Materia is a valuable resource for anyone interested in technical art history, particularly those engaged in the technical investigation and analysis of works of art, as well as art historians, curators, and graduate students in these and related fields. However, it is worth exploring by anyone interested in material culture. 

Internet Culturale homepage

Internet Culturale

Reviewed by:
Spyros Koulouris, Cataloging Librarian
Gennadius Library – American School of Classical Studies at Athens
skoulouris.genn@ascsa.edu.gr
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17613/s5sz-qr26

Internet Culturale is a multiyear project that aims to bring together in one platform the digital assets created by Italian repositories. This national network of partners provides access to thousands of materials made available by libraries, archives, and museums. The platform is managed by ICCU – the Italian Central Institute for the Union Catalog, which is part of the Italian Ministry of Culture.

Currently 175 repositories across the country share their materials through the aggregator. Collections within the platform are organized by subject and/or medium. These include resources documenting visual arts, music, history, architecture, literature, and the sciences from the 8th to the 20th century in a variety of formats such as books, maps, images, manuscripts, drawings, music scores, and audio visual materials. Collections are displayed as online exhibitions that comprise objects from one or more libraries. A brief introductory text gives some summary information about the content of each exhibit, while users can either browse the collections, search for specific terms, or use the facets. Full-text searching is available for some of the resources.

Italy is notorious for its rich art historical collections that are spread all over the country. One of Internet Culturale’s strengths is that it makes visible the resources owned by small libraries, no matter if they are located in big cities or remote towns. Of additional value is that the records of some other Italian shared catalogs have been exported and are part of the platform. For example, records from SBN (the network of the National Library Services), Manus online (a database of manuscripts dating from the Middle Ages to the 19th century), and EDIT16 (the census of the 16th century Italian editions) are searchable through Internet Culturale. In some cases links to external catalogs are used for digital content that is not hosted in the platform. Among the many interesting collections currently available that users can find are the Autografi Palatini collection of the National Library in Florence (which includes 1200 autographs from significant personalities such as Orazio Rucellai, Benvenuto Cellini, Angelo Poliziano, Lorenzo the Magnificent, and Michelangelo), the maps collection of the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice, and the Judaica of the Biblioteca Palatina in Parma (with more than 180 incunabula and 16th century books). Another key aspect of the catalog is that digital content is provided under a CC BY-NC-SA Creative Commons license. The metadata created by the repositories have a CC0 1.0 universal public domain dedication, making it easy to distribute and reuse information without asking for permission. One potential concern is that the last import was made in 2020. Hopefully, the platform will continue to be updated in the future.

Screenshot of the Internet Culturale book viewer showing the book Liber quartus Vribium praecipuarum totius mundi

Currently, the site is only available in Italian, and therefore users will need to be able to read Italian to use the resource. With some targeted metadata improvements, Internet Culturale has great potential for expanding accessibility to an international audience. This can be done by increasing the use of multi-lingual controlled vocabularies and thesauri. Organizing the metadata in a more structured way would help surmount language-related barriers, supporting access for everyone. 

Overall, Internet Culturale has the potential to become the main hub to document and access hidden collections of Italian art and culture. In the post Covid-19 era, small repositories that do not have the staff and resources to manage their digital assets can benefit from it, curate their online collections, and offer them to the broader community. The platform can become a model for national-level catalogs to be used by  students, librarians, and researchers in a variety of disciplines: historians, musicologists, art historians, archaeologists, botanists as well as artists in different fields like music, acting, and visual arts.

Screenshot shows People of Craft homepage , including a blue banner reading "People of Craft is a growing showcase of creatives of color and their craft in design, advertising, tech, illustration, lettering, art, and more. It's time to redefine what a creative looks like."

People of Craft

Reviewed by:
Beth Goodrich, Librarian
American Craft Council
bgoodrich@craftcouncil.org
https://doi.org/10.17613/4gv2-nz23

People of Craft is billed as a “showcase” of creatives of color in the fields of design, illustration, photography, writing, web development and other adjacent fields. The landing page is vibrantly colorful, with each artist represented by a hero image of their own choosing. The simple interface allows users to browse the gallery of artists and provides links to the artist’s website and social media accounts.

This site is not as much a database as a gallery, offering no search capabilities; however, it provides filtering options by artistic field and geographic location. Artists have the option to be tagged in multiple categories, which include artist, creative director, designer, developer, entrepreneur, illustrator, letterer, manager, photographer, strategist, or writer. Website visitors may filter the gallery to specific categories, or they have the option to view all participating creatives. Filters are also available for specific cities from around the world.

Beyond the filtering features, there is very little functionality on the site. This reviewer found that many of the links to artist websites or Instagram accounts were no longer functioning, leading one to believe the site is largely self-maintained by the participating artists. Users must be prepared for content that is not up to date. Nevertheless, People of Craft can be a useful tool to increase familiarity with and visibility of the creative work produced by communities of color.

Screenshot shows People of Craft page with six tiles for participating who are letterers.
Screenshot of participating artists tagged as “Letter”.

The simplicity of the design of the People of Craft website makes it very easy and intuitive to navigate. The public interface takes place on one page only, with filters visible as a dropdown menu from the webpage header. Contact information for the website managers is also easily accessed from the banner, and this page provides all necessary information for submitting requests, email suggestions, and connecting to the People of Craft Instagram and Twitter accounts. The functionality of the site is maintained and easy to use when accessing from a smartphone. There is no paywall or requirement to sign up for an account to use the site, nor is there a fee for creatives to participate in the site.

There are few other examples of databases featuring artists and creatives of color. Inclusion in Art (https://inclusioninart.com) has a page featuring artists of color in the state of Oklahoma, which, like the People of Craft site, offers only browsing with filtering. Cartoonists of Color Database (https://cartoonistsofcolor.com), created and maintained by cartoonist MariNaomi, has a more sophisticated interface, including search features by name, geography, gender, genre, and roles. While People of Craft may be lacking in functionality, it recognizes a broader artistic and geographic representation.

Screenshot shows People of Craft page with three tiles for participating artists who are writers.
Screenshot of participating artists tagged as “Writer”.


For those looking to become more familiar with creatives of color in a particular field or location, this site can be a useful tool. This site may also be of interest to artists wanting to join an online community of creatives of color. Participants have a good deal of agency in how they are represented on the site, and the barriers for inclusion appear to be minimal. Participating artists may nominate themselves to be included on the site, or they may be nominated by others. Nominations for inclusion are submitted through a simple Google form that screens for artists who self-identify as people of color. Requests for updates or removal from the site may also be submitted through Google forms.

People of Craft is a project of Amélie Lamont and Timothy Goodman, with design assistance by Twisha Patni and Madelyn Hinojosa. The website is coded by Eric Jacobsen.