Ross Simonini began his podcast, Subject, Object, Verb, in 2020, with the desire to “express the sonic dimension of contemporary art, and an audio show seemed like the best format for doing that.”
Produced by ArtReview magazine, the show’s title is a kind of manifesto that joins the dots between artist, art, and the life driving them.
“Art is not created in a vacuum,” Simonini says. “The personality and the life of the artist are connected to the work. We live in an era where people want to understand those connections more than ever - the rise of social media, activism, the #MeToo movement, identity politics.
“Even if an artist wants to stay out of the work and hides in the woods, and completely rejects the capitalist system, their hermetic life is reflected in the work, and people will consider the artist’s refusal when they see the work. Think about Lee Lozano or David Hammons or Thomas Pynchon or JD Salinger - known as much for their work as their obscurity.
“This desire is in all of us. Who can consider the work of Van Gogh or Kahlo, James Baldwin or Joan Didion, Beethoven or Beyonce without thinking about the way they lived, the time in which that created the work, and how they presented themselves to the world? For me, the show is a way of reconciling all of it.”
Over its two series’ so far, Subject, Object, Verb has seen Simonini engage with sound in various ways, with the likes of Ariel Pink, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, and Flying Lotus featured alongside others more recognisably rooted in the art world. Given its investigations of sound, the aural tone of the podcast itself is key.
“For me, listening to a podcast is intimate experience. It’s a way of temporarily replacing the voice in your head. It's an honour to have that kind of close communication, so I try to create the voice I would like to hear.”
Like his interviewees, Simonini is something of a polymath.
“I like variety,” he says, “so I work in different forms: painting, music, essays, novels, dialogue, audio design, performances, and pedagogy. It feels right to keep trying new things. I try to break up these activities to be both inward facing, like art, and outward facing, like dialogues, to keep things balanced.”
With attitude in place, Subject, Object, Verb looks set to continue pulsing its way onwards. As Simonini puts it, “Into ears, into minds, into hands.”
The List, June 2022