The newest venture by the folks who brought us such innovations in viewing as EyeHabit and RemoTour is their best yet. ArtAudio is a new publishing house/record label for art lovers, putting out a very select group of art books on tape.
Founded at the outset of 2010, ArtAudio was first conceived in response to the realization that art books (and their busy and/or blind readership) were being left out of the growing audio book market. But it really emerged as a surprising and provocative project through the significant critical and comic potential that lay in the challenge of translating images into spoken narration. As outlined in their mission, every book they produce prominently features—and, in many cases, revolves around—the oral description of pictures. And, while every reading is thorough (in that all printed elements of the source material are spoken and recorded), it is essentially left undirected by the production team so that each actor or reader is free to describe the visual content in his or her own words, affirming the subjective and chance nature of viewing art.
This is especially the case with ArtAudio’s first title, Rembrandt, 1606-1669: The Mystery of the Revealed Form (Taschen, 2000) which is primarily a coffee-table collection of color illustrations interrupted by snippets of text here and there. Read by Bronson Pinchot with guest vocal descriptions of the images by Martin Landau, Lindsey Wagner, and Estabella Gonzalez (Bob Dylan’s maid from 1996-2002) among others, the length, detail, and expressiveness of the descriptions varies widely according to the personality and instincts of each reader. Landau’s aural cameo is meticulous and verbose, going on for a good six minutes, while Wagner kept hers brief: “There is an old man seated with folded hands. There’s some gray hair on his face and under his soft cap. It is pretty muddy dark.”
Other early titles include John Baldessari’s Choosing: Green Beans (1972) and Fable—A Sentence of Thirteen Parts (With Twelve Alternate Verbs) Ending in FABLE (1977), both read by Ed Henderson. Gareth Morris reads a special edition of Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1962) for the hearing impaired and elderly, yelling every word of the dry descriptions he gives at an especially deliberate pace.
ArtAudio has also launched a line of audio art books read by the artist-authors. Scoli Acosta has read As Above, So Below, a children’s book illustrated by Acosta and with text by Joseph Mosconi. Piero Golia has read his recent book Desert Interviews or How to Jump Off the Roof and Not Hit the Ground, narrating all aspects of the publication’s multiple interviews, accompanying images, colophon, titles, and all surrounding details. Excerpts of both have been made available here.
Reading by Piero Golia
Reading by Scoli Acosta
Multiple audio versions of a single book are possible; in fact a second edition of Golia’s Desert Interviews is planned with a new cast of actors. Particularly popular titles are rerecorded in severely abbreviated form for the imprint’s Cliffnotes series. (In the Rembrandt Cliffnotes, for example, Wagner’s description is reduced to its minimum: “An old man.”)
The next addition to ArtAudio’s catalogue will be a new recording of the not-yet-published collection of short critical essays by Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer and Jeff Hassay, Parallel & Simultaneous. In it, the authors’ reading of the texts will be supported by celebrity guest descriptions of all images. For detailed information about ArtAudio’s program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer and Jeff Hassay