So during one of my frequent explorations across the internet I came upon an interesting press release. At the beginning of April, the Tate made for the first time all the issues and supplements of the magazine Audio Arts available in digital format on the Tate website.
Audio Arts was established by artist Bill Furlong in 1972. Furlong used the new cheap portable media format – the cassette. This allowed Furlong to create an unmediated platform for artists to talk about their art, to record professional debates and conferences, as well as interviewing artists in their own surroundings – thus giving the listener an authentic snapshot of the art world.
Furlong continued to edit Audio Arts until 2004, so the Tate’s archive holds 33 years’ worth of audio – or as the Tate so impressively states “245 hours of material featuring 1,640 interview contributions”. So there’s no doubt that this digital archive provides an invaluable resource and fascinating insight into the art world.
But what does the digitisation of these cassettes mean for Archives and Creative Practice I hear you ask. Well it’s hard to say as possibilities are only limited to one’s imagination. But the longevity of Audio Arts provides an audio timeline of the changing appearance and beliefs of not just individual artists but of British Art as a whole. Whatever the future projects these archives inspire, it is perhaps a shame that these ‘built for sharing’ cassette tapes will remain for the most part unplayed – but thanks to the digitised copies not silenced.
The full digitised copies of the Audio Arts and its supplements can now be listened to on any internet connected device thanks to the Tate’s website – www.tate.or.uk/audio-arts