Tiarney Miekus, host and producer of Art Guide Australia’s podcast, suggests a range of podcasts on art, perfect for those who want to listen as well as look.
Whatever your interest or obsession, there is likely to be a podcast for it. Flourishing since the mid-2000s, podcasting is a regular staple in many media diets. One in three Australians tuned-in to a podcast in the last month and regular listeners consume around six hours of podcasts per week.
With such an engaged audience, and the ease with which anyone can start a podcast and engineer a listening experience, this new cultural form is growing in abundance — there are now, Vulture reports, over 660,000 podcasts in circulation, generating 28 million individual episodes. With such staggering numbers, finding the podcasts that resonate with your tastes and curiosities can be difficult. And if your interest is arts and culture, finding the right arts podcast can feel like wandering an endless room — or a long scroll through your iTunes app. As the host and producer of Art Guide Australia’s podcast, I’m regularly sifting through arts podcasts and have crafted a selection from those currently capturing my attention.
A World of One’s Own is clearly a reference to writer Virginia Woolf’s classic feminist essay, A Room of One’s Own. This interview podcast centres on understanding the thoughts and artistic practices of women and gender non-binary artists from a variety of backgrounds. Hosted by artist Tai Snaith, A World of One’s Own initially grew out of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art’s lauded feminist exhibition Unfinished Business, and soon became a compelling podcast in its own right. Intelligent, relaxed and humorous, Snaith talks to one artist per episode, asking questions across personal, aesthetic and political spheres.
Featuring interviews with artists including Patricia Piccinini, Sally Smart, Megan Cope and Lucreccia Quintanilla (this last is a favourite episode), the podcast is a timely series speaking on topics as diverse as parenthood, artistic risk, experimentation, activism, vulnerability and aspiration. With season two having just wrapped up and season three a possibility, the show has also been artistically generative, influencing Snaith to create her own new work in relation to the conversations.
In the early years, podcasting was stigmatised as simply amateur radio. Now radio hosts and producers are beginning to ensure their programs can also be ‘podcastable’. In Australia, ABC Radio National has been leading this change, creating podcasts based on their regular shows, including The Art Show. Reliably informative and always timely, The Art Show is hosted by Ed Ayres and appears in podcast form almost immediately after the show has aired on radio. Featuring interviews and radio features, The Art Show may not be as intimate or themed as other podcasts, nor revolutionary in its model, but it’s a guaranteed weekly release with well-reported, country-wide content delivered with charm.
Although FIELD WORK only had a short run of eight episodes, they were eight important and interesting episodes. Co-produced by Melbourne artist-run-initiative Bus Projects and Triple R’s Bec Fary, the show was hosted by artist and academic Drew Pettifer who brought together one artist and one expert for each episode, generating a three-way conversation. Every show was grounded by a certain theme that was mined for both its artistic and societal implications. These included environmental activism, bioethics, queer rights and representation, fashion and identity, intersectional feminism, Indigenous trauma, otherness and activism. It’s a smart format in which the pairing of artist and expert gives the art context, while also implicitly illustrating the ways in which societal and political concerns are worked through aesthetically. While I’d rate all of the episodes, a personal favourite is the environment-centred show pairing artist Raquel Ormella and Greens Member of Parliament Adam Bandt.
Propelled by the personality and humour of host Tamar Avishai, The Lonely Palette is an American podcast that has one simple premise: each episode is devoted to discussing one artwork, avoiding the mundanity or pretentiousness that can characterise some art reflections. As Avishai says at the beginning of every episode, The Lonely Palette “is the podcast that returns art history to the masses one painting at a time.”
With a new episode released roughly every four weeks, each show begins with an audio montage of ‘everyday’ museum and gallery visitors explaining what they see, and their opinion of what they see. This immediately overcomes a central problem that podcasts discussing artworks may have: listeners can’t see the artwork. After these anonymous descriptions Avishai picks up the conversation, mixing intelligent reflection with the historical, cultural and aesthetic particulars of each artist and painting being unpacked. While the show does tend to focus on white, male masters such as Marcel Duchamp, Rembrandt, and René Magritte, it will be interesting to see if moving forward Avishai gives greater air time to more historically marginalised artists.
True to its name, The Art Newspaper is centred on art news. For Australian listeners, it gives perspective and insight into the art world at a more global (particularly American) level, with episodes not only containing interviews with artists and features on exhibitions, but explorations into the art market, the processes of collectors and dealers, and the economics and politics of art fairs and events. In essence, you get information on how both artists and the art world work, and on the big events of the moment. Released weekly, each episode features multiple guests and voices, with an hour-long focus on one or two main questions or exhibitions, delivered in a reportage style.
The podcast called dos is alluring because it’s so… strange. The premise is that two people discuss an exhibition as they view it — neither of these people are the artist or curator, and neither have involvement in the show being talked about. But rather than air this conversation, the dialogue is transcribed and is then performed by two actors, with this performance being the final episode. This re-performance works in compelling ways, giving an intimate listening experience alongside a sense of detachment. The singularity of the listening experience is exciting, particularly as it gets to something very personal, subjective and voyeuristic that I haven’t heard in other arts podcasts.
Even though Starving Artist both started and ended in 2017, I’m convinced – after recently re-listening to a few episodes – that it only grows more relevant. Hosted by the smart, humorous and introspective writer and podcaster Honor Eastly, Starving Artist is for anyone in the arts trying to figure out how art and money work. As Eastly writes of the podcast, “Making money creatively is either a mystery, or hidden behind a big banner reading “SELLOUT.” I’m trying to change that.” Featuring interviews with Australian creatives from many fields, the podcast dealt with the economics and pragmatics of working in the creative industries. It’s not a question of how to make big dollars from art, but how to sustain a practice, how to ask for a raise, what it’s like to quit your day job to be an artist, and how to live a creative life in ways that are sustainable both for your bank account and your well-being. Across 13 episodes, plus a few bonus shows, Eastly talked with creatives ranging from artist Frances Cannon to I-D and VICE editor Wendy Syfret. Through the series listeners can sense Eastly’s earnestness — that she genuinely cares how creatives survive — which fulfils one of the central necessities of great podcasting; forming a genuine connection with listeners.
And you can find Art Guide Australia podcasts on Soundcloud, or you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. And keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming four-part Curator Series, in which we speak with four different curators to unpack the processes, intricacies and particulars of contemporary curating.