From Casual Art History, Academic Readings, and Social Media Debates, To Songwriting with Birds and Learning About the Connection Between Shakespeare and Surrealism

Art Curation podcast selection

Latest social media trends, and are they relevant? Are you obsessed with social media and its intersection with pop culture and social politics? The Polyester Podcast is a weekly short conversational format, hosted by Iona Gamble, the editor-in-chief of Polyester (a UK-based feminist, fashion, and culture publication). They always come up with spicy topics: Why being a hater is so much fun? Should only gay people play gay roles on-screen? Why are we fascinated with con stories? Or, is it ok to say that you feel lonely considering how social media aestheticizes loneliness? Gamble speaks candidly with her collaborators, as if they were around her kitchen table, on things that perhaps not all of us care much about (I am skipping the episode on the Kardashians) but also on the many issues that are just too rarely brought up in public. You should be intrigued by at the very least one episode, if only to keep up with what’s going on online from a New York-London axis (mostly).

Fashionably Classic. Readings is a series of cultural podcasts unfolding from the programme of Fondazione Prada, and particularly connected to its editorial activities. It proposes a growing collection of readings—critical essays and narrative texts—that were commissioned by the foundation for the catalogues accompanying its sleek and ambitious exhibitions, in Milan and Venice. For instance, you can listen to Boris Groys’s “Art Topology: The Reproduction of Aura”, an essay from the catalogue of the 2013 exhibition “When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/Venice 2013“, which reconstructed the seminal 1969 exhibition curated by Harald Szeemann at the Kunsthalle in Bern: “Live in Your Head. When Attitudes Become Form”. Even if you haven’t seen the exhibitions connected to the texts, you can appreciate their educational contents—and solemn enunciation—as it ranges from interests into the mutations of the classical canon; synaesthesia; or why artists steal images, as well as many other questions that lived before, and will still live after, the exhibitions they were raised for.

When grassroots are invited to the institution. The Art of … is a podcast by Tate but produced by different people or organisations accoridng to each topic. For instance, The Art of Healing, an episode questioning how Black women can rest and heal when they are always seen as being the strong ones, was made by a Black female-led production, and hosted by London-based multidisciplinary artist, curator, writer, and researcher Pelumi Odubanjo and artist Shanelle Callaghan. And the Art of the Hustle (or How do you balance personal expression and making a living?) is  presented by DJ and producer Martha Pazienti Caidan with artists, entrepreneurs, and other creative guests. You can also find an older series of podcasts by Tate, Walk of Art, that recorded conversations walking around an exhibition or one of London’s best arty areas through meetings with artists and curators. Listen to exhibition specials episodes such as “Is there more to life modelling than posing nude?” (with Lucian Freud’s former model, Sue Tilley, and others) or take your ears for a stroll along the Thames, which places the river as background to art happening and a source of inspiration.

Songwriting with birds, reviving dead branches with water, and zen masters. The Emergence Magazine Podcast, features interviews—the latest one is with folk singer and author of “The Nightingale: Notes on a Songbird” Sam Lee who speaks about his collaborative song writing with nightingales; narrated essays—such as the one read by writer and poet Sumana Roy who collects branches of fallen trees in her house and is then puzzled by her nine-year old nephew who waters them; and other inspirational material such as the reading by Emergence Executive Editor Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee of the Ten Love Letters to the Earth, a series of meditations “that engage us in intimate conversation with the living world” by Buddhist monk and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, in homage of his recent passing. 

Sustainability and Art Librarians. Melbourne-based Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) produces a collection of podcasts related to its programming and overall interests and values, which of course can materialise as an artist and curator talk—for instance, between Colombian curator and Artistic Director of the 23rd Biennale of Sydney José Roca and artist Keg de Souza on practicing sustainability and the challenges to do so. But also conversations and lectures, where among other things we learn how general librarianship can be different from art librarianship in a podcast created in collaboration with the Melbourne Art Library.

Humanities and Art. Technecast is a monthly academic podcasting community (technē is ancient Greek for human craftsmanship and art) open to all arts and humanities researchers. One of their latest podcast series is a three-chapter programme on Surrealism, which started with a focus on the art and writing of Leonora Carrington and her charming and bizarre characters; then unravelled unsuspected connections between Shakespeare and Surrealism; and lastly unpacked the different lives of the “Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse”, a wearable sculpture by British-Argentinian artist Eileen Agar.

Art history from your pals. Art Slice describes itself as a cool art history podcast, which is like going to see art with “uncle Fred who doesn’t like art and takes selfies with naked butts”, but then uncle Fred actually finds a piece he falls in love with. The podcast is made by visual artists and art historians Stephanie Dueñas and Russell Shoemaker, who talk casually about the work of artists such as Giotto (and his Scrovegni Chapel frescoes), modernist painter Agnes Pelton, or Hilma af Klint; but also tackle art subjects such as colour theory (in several chapters) or the seminal manga oeuvre of Seiichi Hayashi.

Design Criticism in Practice. Scratching the Surface is a podcast about design, theory, and creative practice with deep conversations with designers, architects, writers, academics, artists, and theorists about how design shapes culture. It is the brainchild of designer, writer, and educator Jarrett Fuller who was interested in the intersection between design criticism and practice and started interviewing relevant people in 2016. Expect conversations about architects who don’t build and alternative forms of disseminating research—as with architect, engineer, and scholar Lydia Kallipoliti (Kallipoliti is assistant professor at the Cooper Union School of Architecture and the co-curator of the 2022 Tallinn Architecture Biennale). Another episode focuses on designing the future of food and what designers can learn from food systems, with founder and editor of the 10-year old digital and print magazine MOLD, LinYee Yuan, who, raised in a Chinese family, claims “food was our love language”.

Art critic and writer.

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