Michalle Gould, Librarian
Sage Hill School
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 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.