Beginning this week, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) partners with Bay Area artist and writer Ross Simonini to launch a six-episode, arts and culture podcast called, Raw Material. The first fall season, titled “Otherworld,” documents artists who work with the unknown, such as rituals, haunting, and magic.
Podcasts are a great vehicle for listeners to hear artists present their own views in their own voices. You can listen to the Raw Material season trailer and first episode via the embed below. Episode one, titled “The Vessel,” discusses how artists are able to invoke spirits or messages from other-worldly beings in their work. Some artists put themselves into a trance, others mediate or perform telepathic communication. Visit iTunes to subscribe to the entire podcast series.
The new podcast was spearheaded by Erin Fleming, Associate Content Producer at SFMOMA, and Erica Gangsei, Head of Interpretive Media at SFMOMA. Host Ross Simonini is the longtime interviews editor at The Believer magazine and the executive producer at KCRW’s The Organist podcast. He is also a regular contributor to Interview magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Frieze, Kaleidoscope, and Art in America, where he currently conducts a monthly interviews column.
To preview the launch, we spoke to Erin Fleming, Associate Content Producer for SFMOMA and podcast host Ross Simonini to learn more about the development of the content and what listeners can expect to hear.
How did you get the idea to launch this new podcast series?
Erin: In 2005, SFMOMA was one of the very first museums to start a podcast-the museum has a long history of using technology as a tool to converse with our community about our passion for art. When the museum closed for renovation in 2013, we knew that when we opened the new museum in 2016, we also wanted to completely reimagine our podcast.
Raw Material isn’t a podcast about SFMOMA; it’sa podcast about some of the amazing stories and ideas from the art world-it’s really accessible for arts and culture enthusiasts of all persuasions.
Our idea with the new podcast is to provide a platform for artist voices, and to use the medium in a way that celebrates the diversity of expression via sound. It’s important to us as a museum that our podcast doesn’t lecture people; rather than a one-way monologue-Raw Material incorporates many voices and creates an open space for listeners to develop and explore their own ideas.
How did SFMOMA form the partnership with Ross Simonini?
Erin: SFMOMA put out a call for proposals to find a production partner to work with on our new podcast. Ross stood out not only because of his experience with producing The Organist podcast, but also because he is an artist in his own right. For this first season, we really wanted to work with someone interested in experimentation and expanding the idea of what an arts podcast could be.
How do you identify the artists you cover?
Ross: For us, the word “artist” goes beyond visual artists and includes composers, poets, philosophers, drummers, playwrights, and many others. We are interested in outsiders and insiders, the canonical and emerging artists, historical and speculative perspectives. In this first season, all the artists have relationships with the unknown, which can include esoteric practices, hauntings, mysticism, shamanism, extraterrestrial culture, and magick. Some of these relationships are direct–for artists who also work as intuitive practitioners–while other artists have an indirect interest in occult practices. Some artists are local to SF, but most are international. We want to depict a wide spectrum of art and the unknown.
How often will episodes be released?
Erin: We’ll be releasing a new episode every two weeks, on Mondays, through December 7.
“Otherworld” is Season 1. Do you have plans yet for the topic of Season 2?
Erin: Of course we do! But, like the phenomena we explore in this season, we’re keeping our ideas shrouded in mystery.