In the month that marks the twentieth anniversary of the death of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and the release of ‘Britpop’ albums Parklife by Blur and His’n’Hers by Pulp, there seems to be a wave of nostalgia for a time when getting the latest music news meant a trip to the newsagents or staying in to listen to the weekly chart rundown.
Part of that nostalgia has been attached to the audio cassette, now mostly obsolete, but throughout the 1980s and 90s essential as the only way you could listen to your own music while travelling – whether in your car or on your fancy new Walkman – and definitely the easiest way of recording and sharing audio at the push of the play and rec buttons.
Long before podcasts and YouTube, artist William (Bill) Furlong was among the first to see the potential for this portable audio format in recording artists in their own words and making their voices available to an international audience. Initiated by Furlong in 1972, Audio Arts was conceived of as an audio magazine, recorded and distributed on cassettes. It documented the contemporary art world through artists’ and art professionals’ voices as well as sound works and performances, from 1973 to 2004. In continuous production for 33 years, Furlong and Audio Arts created a huge sound archive of recordings running to over 245 hours covering major art events and often charting the development in artists’ work and ideas as they were interviewed over the years.
The recordings included many of the most notable artists of the late twentieth century, including Andy Warhol surrounded by London journalists in 1986, or Marcel Duchamp talking about readymades, as well as contributions form artists ranging from Marina Abramovic, Carl Andre, Joseph Beuys, and John Cage, to Michael Craig-Martin, Tracey Emin, Gilbert & George, and Damien Hirst.
“In some respects Audio Arts could be regarded as a commentary and insight into a period of contemporary art history as in addition to the interviews a sense of time and place is implicit in each recording.” Bill Furlong
If you don’t still have your old tape deck to listen back to the archive, however, all is not lost. This week, the full catalogue has been made available online for the first time. The result of a two-year project to digitise each volume and supplement of Audio Arts, this archive is now housed at Tate and you can browse and listen to each publication both at your desktop or on your mobile (and no Walkman needed). To give you a taster of what’s in store in the full archive, here are five highlight moments:
1. Andy Warhol is accosted by enthusiastic journalists on his 1986 visit to London.
The artist plans to party every night at ‘Heaven, the Wag Club, the Jungle Club’, as well talking about his self-portraits exhibition at Anthony d’Offay Gallery and future film projects.
2. Jarvis Cocker talks about the process of short-listing 56 paintings for the John Moores Painting Prize.
‘We had to look at 1900 slides in 3 days – as you can imagine that was quite hard’.
3. Marina Abramovic talks about travelling to remote places and future projects.
The artist discusses plans for Marina Abramovic/Ulay’s performance involving The Great Wall of China.
4. Cornelia Parker discusses the buzz of the London art scene during Frieze Art Fair.
She also talks about a dress worn by Mia Farrow in film Rosemary’s Baby.
5. Marcel Duchamp discusses readymades.
Recorded in 1959, this interview was then released via Audio Arts Magazine in 1974.