Like those of many major (and, for that matter, minor) museums, the podcasts of the Tate are both archivally inspiring and digitally (information-architecturally?) puzzling.
For example, they tend to pop up in large batches, hours upon hours of art-related lectures and panel discussions that appear simultaneously in your RSS feed in a way that is more overwhelming than enticing, making for what may best be described as institutional tantalization.
The experience can be a bit like receiving one of those film festival flyers so packed with a month of rare movie-going opportunities that the end result is you see no films at all, and just stay home reducing your TiVo and Netflix queues.
To some extent, the Tate’s batching of lectures is emblematic of the museum’s outsize ambition, which may have its closest rival in the Getty, at least in terms of online audio of art history and criticism. (I write that previous sentence eager to be proven uninformed, so I can add even more rich feeds to my RSS reader.) One recent batch of Tate podcasts included several dozen individual recordings, and those dozens included among them such multi-part events as “Urban Encounters: Routes and Transitions,” “Museums and Mobiles in the Age of Social Media” (this is England we’re discussing, so “mobiles” means phones not Calder scupltures), and the alluringly alliterative “Sexuality and the Surrealist Sensorium,” together consisting of a dozen lengthy MP3 files.
But the batching is also seemingly unnecessary. These MP3s invariably date back several months, and could more palatably be rolled out evenly and sequentially.
For example, recently popping up was a talk from November 26, 2010, by Susan Philipsz (MP3), who a week later would win the Turner Prize, the first ever such award for a work of sound art. (It was in defense of her winning that I organized the Lowlands: A Sigh Collective response album, and wrote about her work for BoingBoing.net.)
The talk is a solid overview of her work, explaining in detail the various historical threads that led to the development of “Lowlands,” the piece that won her the Turner, and other of her works. Included are extended sequences of various pieces, including one where her live singing voice was played in a Tesco supermarket. (There’s a Tesco subsidiary, Fresh & Easy, opening in my San Francisco neighborhood soon. Perhaps we can stage an American installation of her piece?)
One final peculiarity about the Tate feed. The URL leads to a page (tate.org) that appears to offer tickets for sale for an event that has already passed.
And should you wish to subscribe via Google Reader or any other feed reader of choice, the URL for the Tate feed is: tate.org.uk.