Audio Arts was a British sound magazine published on audio cassettes, documenting contemporary artistic activity via artist or curator interviews, sound performances or sound art by artists. Since its inception by British artist William Furlong in 1973, Audio Arts has become one of the most comprehensive and coherently focused aural archive of artists’ voices and sound art in the world.
From 1973 to 2006, Audio Arts published 25 volumes of 4 issues of the Audio Arts Cassettes (later releasing LPs and CDs as well) alongside more than 60 supplements. Furlong conducted all interviews until 1996, when Jean Wainwright took the baton as interviewer. Each interview starts with I am here with..., stating artist's name and recording location.
Interviewees include: Andy Warhol, Anish Kapoor, Joseph Beuys, Gilbert & George, Yoko Ono, R. Buckminster Fuller, Hermann Nitsch, Mario Merz, Gerhard Richter and Nam June Paik. Some of the interviewees were themselves great defenders of the cassette medium, like Lawrence Weiner and Dieter Roth.
William Furlong belonged to the generation of British artists such as Gilbert & George, Bruce McLean and Richard Long, who were consciously moving from traditional art forms to conceptual art, performance, new media, cheap materials, in a dematerialized and process-oriented ethos.
Exploring new concepts of sculpture, Furlong developed the use of sound as a medium and has himself become synonymous with the use of audio in art.
Audio Arts sought to document contemporary artistic activity by recording artists’ voices, generally captured in close proximity to their work. It developed to comprise interviews with artists and curators, commentary by artists on their works, documentation of major international art events, collaborations with artists, sound performances and other sound works.
ART IS AND MUST BE AN EMPIRICAL REALITY CONCERNED WITH THE RELATIONSHIPS OF HUMAN BEINGS TO OBJECTS AND OBJECTS TO OBJECTS IN RELATION TO HUMAN BEINGS.
Audio Arts recognized the potential of the then relatively new audio-cassette technology, which enabled the production of the sound magazine at a low cost and allowed for relatively easy international distribution.
Audio Arts has no linear structure. It is a work which may be entered at any point. Wherever and whenever, it is now: real sound enters the ear, or words enter the eye and mind. It can be tracked through the chronology of its unfinished making, though such a procedure will find no progress, reveal no pattern but that of its artist-editor's purposeful and fortuitous peregrinations.
In this respect, it might be fairly said that Audio Arts exhibits the insatiable curiosity, the intelligent love of the particular-actual and the humane breadth of sympathy, of a great novel. It is in this respect that we invoke Bakhtin. The dialogical, or novelistic, imagination comprehends the utterance of the wise and the foolish, the successful and the unsuccessful; it feeds on the boring as well as the enthralling, is as fascinated by minor faits divers as by great events.
It acts on the insight of Walter Benjamin that `[the] chronicler who recites events without distinguishing between major and minor ones acts in accordance with the following truth: nothing that has happened should be regarded as lost to history.' It animated Baudelaire. It found its greatest creative vehicle in Joyce.
Audio Arts is a work whose primary medium is the sound of speech. Speech enters the ear and the mind as anarchic. Audio Arts defies order: considered as a whole (but as definitively unfinished) it presents opportunities for any number of abstractions and arbitrary orderings, all provisional. It is not apolitical. Its internal structures —artists and critics speaking, vox-pop voices, birdsong, traffic, music, abstracted fragments of anonymous utterance, sound artworks, etc. — conform to their own specific patterns.