Origin

As reported by the Chicago artists resource

Bad at Sports is a weekly podcast produced in Chicago that features artists talking about art and the community that makes, reviews and critiques it. Shows are usually posted each weekend and can be listened to on any computer with an internet connection and speakers or headphones. Past shows can be accessed via the Bad at Sports website. CAR associate Tom Burtonwood caught up with Duncan MacKenzie, artist and founding member of Bad at Sports to find out more…

Tom:
How did Bad at Sports get started?

Duncan:
The simple answer is… in a bar. Richard Holland and I were planning an exhibition at Michelle Grabner’s “Suburban” and started talking about the podcasts and audio books that we were listening to and…Bang. We got a case of beer, a bottle of Whiskey, a mixer, three mics, a laptop computer, and a curator from the Sioux City Art Center and made the first episode. A month later Amanda Browder came on to talk about the Career Day project and over the next six or eight episodes became a full member of the team.

Tom:
What questions do you get asked most frequently?

Duncan:
Top four…

i. Q- How did Bad at Sports get started?

ii. Q-Are you guys Art Critics Now? A-Nope. We are artists with beer, a microphone, and a desperate enthusiasm for art.

iii. Q-Do I need an ipod to listen? A-Nope. (see details below)

iv. Q-Who the f*&@ are you? A-We’re Bad at Sports.

Tom:
Bad at Sports clearly fills a void in arts media, but as an artist-run project Bad at Sports must operate within limits. What can artists/listeners do to support the project?

Duncan:
I don’t think that it’s clear that BAS fills a void in the Chicago Art media. I think that it is clear that there is a void left by the end of the New Art Examiner and uncertainty about Chicago as an Art Fair City, and that it is huge. There is also just a want for conversation and the need for a document of some kind about what is going on in Chicago. But BAS is just a small part of the solution. Other media projects like Lumpen, Art Letter, Shark Forum, and Art or Idiocy are also part of that solution.

The real question is hard to answer. Is a grass roots style media viable here? How do we insure that there are future media resources, or a consistent public media organization recording and documenting this scene? For us it is a complex question. We would like to see it grow but we can barely get everything together as it is. Money would help but how do we acquire that kind of support without becoming beholden to the person(s) writing the checks?

Tell people about the show, listen, post on the blog, and share in this conversation. Oh yeah and buy stuff from our Café Press site, Bake Sales, and donate to BAS through Paypal. Also does anyone have a terabyte hard drive they would like to donate to the show?

Tom:
Has BAS considered applying for grants and if so what success have you had with funding?

Duncan:
Why? Do you know something we should apply for?

We have not. We wanted to take a year and see what we could do, establish a track record, see if anyone was even interested in this new media and how the personalities would all get along.

Trust me we will let the world know when ever or if ever we manage to get a grant and really if you know of any…

Tom:
How do you select guests for the show?

Duncan:
It is always a strange process. Sometime we contact them, sometimes they contact us, sometimes they are recommended by a listener or former interviewee, and other times we are all at the right place at the right time and it just comes together.

Tom:
How do you select which galleries / shows to review?

Duncan:
We see as many shows as we possibly can each week with some weeks being more extreme then others. Generally we review as many things as we can and as long as it’s worth talking about we will do it. Usually we will not talk about something that we just want to call “totally worthless garbage” but will talk about something negatively if it can sustain the conversation and is somehow getting at something of real value.

Tom:
How have you developed your pool of contributors from outside Chicago?

Duncan:
Most of them have contacted us and said, “This is an awesome thing you’re doing and I would love to be involved.” We then say, “Have you got a recording device? Don’t record for more then ten minutes. Don’t do the production yourself. Send it to us as an MP3. If it’s usable we will use it. (If not we usually have helped them figure out how to do it and make it usable for us.) We won’t edit for content but we will edit for time.” Now we have a bunch of good consistent people who we like and trust to do interesting things and welcome other contributors but email us before you run around recording and assuming we will post it.

Tom:
What is Libsyn?

Duncan:
Libsyn is the web host for our shows and RSS feed. They provide our system of distribution and the blog.

Tom:
Do you need an ipod to listen to the show?

Duncan:
Nope. You need an Internet connection and speakers. Just click the “Play” link on the blog or our home page.

Tom:
What software / hardware do you use to make Bad at Sports?

Duncan:
Hardware- (A combination of the following) A TASCAM DAT Tape Recorder, 2-4 Shure SM58/57 Microphones, A Nuros Digital audio recorder, a Spirit Portfolio mixer, and an M-Box.

Software- (A combination of the following) ACID, Sound Forge, Audacity, and Pro Tools.

Tom:
How long does it take to put a 1-hour show together from getting the tape to uploading and firing the email blasts?

Duncan:
There are four principle members of Bad at Sports and at least ten contributors.

It is hard to say how much time the contributors spend but Richard,
Amanda, Kathryn Born and I spend somewhere between 5 to 30 hours each week managing Bad-at-Sports-related things. Whether that is editing, scheduling, blogging, writing, seeing shows, making phone calls, traveling between shows/interviews/functions, and dealing with the email blast. It is a lot of work. A single show might come together over the course of four days or it may take months to schedule something. There is one artist/writer we have been working on scheduling for 7 months and won’t get on the “air” until September (if we are lucky).

Tom:
How are the artists who make BAS each week able to get their own work done and work their real jobs?

Duncan:
I think that we all work it out differently but everyone does whatever pays their rent first and the show second. Life and our personal practices have been taking a back seat lately.

Most of Richard’s work and my own personal practice has been subsumed by BAS.

Richard has cancelled a few shows; I’ve moved to working collaboratively with other contributors to the show (with Brian Andrews and Christian Kuras I have actually managed to realize projects) and radically changed the time frame in which I create works. Amanda is doing a much better job of finding balance and has some great and important shows lined up. But for all of us we put what feeds us and pays our student loans first.

Tom:
When was the last time you took a vacation?

Duncan:
Does Christmas with the in-laws count?

Richard will never vacation ever again.

Because there are a few of us we can backstop each other and make sure that no matter what we get a show out on Sunday or Monday at the latest.

Tom:
Why is Chicago a good city to be an artist?

Duncan:
Because there is an incredibly healthy, vibrant, smart, diverse, and non-competitive independent gallery scene here! It is like an undiscovered gem. It’s large enough that it has plenty of art schools producing world-class artists taught by truly brilliant professors, while being small enough that you can try almost anything and the community will support the endeavor.