By Lucas Spiro
I wanted the podcast to be both an honest reflection of what The Arts Fuse is, but also allow the voices that contribute to the magazine to find new ways of expressing their critiques in a new medium.
In 2018 The Arts Fuse took an important step toward expanding into new media by starting The Arts Fuse Podcast. For better or worse, I volunteered to head up the project and bring the world an audio version of the essential arts criticism that The Fuse is known for. The podcast is far from perfect and I continue to work on developing the format and style that both reflects the high-minded critiques that our readers depend on, while injecting some biting irreverence into the mix. This is something I happen to believe would draw in new listeners as well as those who, like me, might find discourse about the arts sterile — who don’t value the luxury of sitting around debating the phallocentric posturing of a particular playwright.
This is, in part, an issue with criticism. Everybody’s a critic is a cliché, but it’s true. So what do you need us for? To the dismay of my editor, I’m inclined to agree with you if you think you could do what we do. If you see a thing, say what you think about, and can defend it, then you’re a critic. Of course, some opinions are better than others, and you’d hope those win out, but the arena of opinions is not a level playing field. The death of journalism, of which criticism is only a branch, is also the opportunity to expose the traditional forms of media, the gatekeepers of the public record, as little more than mouthpieces of mega-corporations operated by a cynical bunch of sycophantic Ivy League twerps and a handful of decent reporters and journalists trying to do an honest day’s work in a dishonest business.
Now, the internet isn’t exactly the Gutenbergian revolution that it ought to be, but it is the site of a battle over who gets to say what is. To take that seriously means to think critically about not just what a publication like The Fuse says, but how it exists in the world—independent, unaffiliated with any influence apart from that of our critics, and the podcast is just another way to demonstrate that, and a rather democratic, intimate version of getting the magazine to more people.
We’re lucky to be near the Somerville Media Center, a public access station that lets us use professional equipment for free, has classes about production, and is devoted to preaching the gospel of free media. They’re a natural partner for us. They not only give us space, but time on Boston Free Radio to say whatever the hell we want. Every minute of every day community journalists, writers, radio hosts, musicians, television producers, and media junkies of every stripe can be found there, working on their latest projects and sharing ideas, talent, and advice. If you haven’t been a part of something like recently, I suggest you go out and look for it; it does wonders for the soul.
We managed to book at least one big name (podcast) star on our second episode. I don’t even think our first episode was posted yet when Matt Christman, one of the original founders and hosts of the cult podcast Chapo Trap House (not a small inspiration for me and my vision for our own show), agreed to talk about his new book, The Chapo Guide to Revolution: A Manifesto Against Logic, Facts and Reason, also reviewed by Erik Nikander for The Fuse. Recording that show provided me with the most challenging technical difficulties, but we had a substantive conversation and I was able to not only book a major guest, but also have one of the magazine’s critics on as well.
This was certainly part of my original vision. I wanted the podcast to be both an honest reflection of what The Arts Fuse is, but also allow the voices that contribute to the magazine to find new ways of expressing their critiques in a new medium. I’m afraid I haven’t been completely successful in pulling this off, but I’m working on it, and 2019 should see some more voices from across the magazine in every department. Even as I include more perspectives and cover more of what’s going on in the magazine, it’s important that the podcast has its own identity, its own texture. I believe the best of podcasting feels like a conversation among friends that the listener is a part of, and, if it’s a conversation among strangers, then it’s a conversation the listener wants to be a part of and feels welcome.I also appreciate well written hate mail, so don’t hesitate to send that along as well. Be forewarned, however, I will read it on airClick To Tweet
If you’ve been listening, you might have some questions or comments like: Why is Lucas such an annoying leftist? Why does he make me listen to bizarre songs from the 20s in between segments? What’s with Matt’s obsession with Criterion? What is Patreon and why does this show insist I check it out? Our inbox is always open for questions, comments, and criticism, especially from people who like the show and want to see it get better. I also appreciate well written hate mail, so don’t hesitate to send that along as well. Be forewarned, however, I will read it on air.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that this podcast is an experiment, one that I’ve sincerely enjoyed working on and bringing to you all. The Arts Fuse has been a significant voice in arts criticism for over a decade, and I’m grateful to all of you out there who have given me, and the magazine, the opportunity to share our coverage of the arts in a new and, hopefully, enlightening way. And, as I’ve been saying since episode one, I promise it will get better.
Lucas Spiro is a writer living outside Boston. He studied Irish literature at Trinity College Dublin and his fiction has appeared in the Watermark. Generally, he despairs. Occassionally, he is joyous.