Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page


In Uncategorized on May 30, 2011 at 9:24 pm

My book BLACK GARDENS has just been published by Mark Cobley’s RED CEILINGS PRESS. It is available for online consumption and PDF download here. The full Red Ceilings Press catalogue of e-books is here.

BLACK GARDENS began with THE SHADOW OF A TRAIN exhibition/ project at the Totalkunst Gallery in Edinburgh, in June 2010, particularly a day I spent writing in the gallery as Mirja Koponen and Sara Sinclair worked on an installation.

My search for the black gardens was proving unsuccessful...

...failing to locate the public sculpture for which the black gardens were famous...

I decided not to project my writing, so whilst the artists work was public throughout the day, it was the act/image of myself writing that was public rather than the specifics of what I wrote.

I returned to this writing in April 2011. It was edited and new material was introduced. The aim is still a sense of “liveness” traceable to that original event, but this is constructed artificially through a layering of different moments.

... what I discovered was the dust jackets of books practicing yoga...

BLACK GARDENS also unfolded out of The Moth is Moth This Money Night Moth, my 2010 chapbook from The Knives Forks and Spoons Press, which evidenced a concern for page/ space and for the theatrical operation/ permutation/ extension of a deliberately limited vocabulary.

BLACK GARDENS sought to open those concerns to the daily, the diaristic, rhythms of talking and thought, detail and humor. I was interested in how such garrulousness might play with a minimalist focus on the material of  letter, syllable, word and page.

I wanted a minimal that wasn’t solely about order and contemplation, but which also saw the white of the page and its spare utterances as  a site struggling for any articulation, an inelegant falling apart/ out of form and content…

In the refinement of these concerns, BLACK GARDENS also emerged via the page as simultaneously written and spoken.

... and the black gardens to be found within a self conscious melancholy...


A constellation of texts read during the writing of this text, and/or whose reading was prompted by its completion: Rachel Lois Clapham, WORK, HARD, TRY: A (W)reading (Kaleid Editions, 2010). Online pdf here; James Davies, Plants (Reality Street Editions, 2011). See Colin Herd’s review here; Emmett Williams, A Valentine for Noël (Edition Hansjörg Mayer, Stuttgart 1973 – remaindered copies of this and other EW texts have been [May 2011] for sale in the basement of Koenig Books on Charing Cross Road).

Jonathan Williams, Jubilant Thicket: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon, 2005)is a vital source for where concrete meets garrulous. See also Craig Dworkin’s Eclipse project, particularly for its PDF’s of books by Aram Saroyan and Robert Grenier.


EVENT: ART CRITICISM NOW at The LAB, Dublin 26th May

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2011 at 9:50 am

Ciara Scanlan, The Product Service Company, The LAB, 2011


I’ve been working on a talk for the LAB Dublin’s Art Criticism Now event this Thursday. Its been a chance to think through the Lab’s own programme of commissioned writing; the broader debates and publications in the field, and the issues that have arisen in my own practice. 

I’ve also been trying to think through the implications of the various writing collectives that have informed my work of the last few years, such as Open Dialogues and Critical Writing Collective, who have recently embarked on their own research project in the field, and more broadly how to think through art criticism as part of artist-led culture rather than as the preserve of Frieze, Art Monthly, and certain supposedly hegemonic provincialities of the art market.  

A consideration of critical writing projects that orientate around a thematic or organisational identity – such as Emma Cocker’s Not Yet There or Lisa Robertson’s Office for Soft Architecture – have also been part of my project. I’ve also found the following statement by Nathalie Stephens as generative to the conditions and paradoxes of criticism as I am trying to unfold them:

my own need to very aggressively resist, or think through, what an essay is or might be and to find my own way to a text that isn’t one, that isn’t one that’s compliant with a particular form, right? That doesn’t interest me. I understand these forms viscerally. They’ve been inculcated right? But I don’t want that. So in a sense, the thing that’s internalized, the sense of having to be kicked out again, even though we can sort of agree that there’s no outside, but somehow there’s that tearing or rending that has to happen – or breach out of which might emerge this thing. That is this particular text.

SOURCE: Kate Eichorn and Heather Milne eds. Prismatic Publics: Innovative Canadian Women’s Poetry and Poetics (Coach House Books, 2009), 64-5.

 under construction 1


Ciara Scanlan, The Product Service Company, The LAB, 2011



I’ll post more info here after the event, and there will also be a book from the Lab including critical writings around their exhibition programme of the last few years.

For the moment, I offer below a brief constellation of recently read texts which have opened up possibilities and situations, wondering, as James Elkins does in the O’Brien/ Khonsary anthology, at what point we stop talking about “art criticism” and start talking about something else altogether.

from Manual of Marginal Places (2011). Images Sophie Mellor and Simon Poulter



 Emma Cocker and Sophie Mellor, Manual of Marginal Places (Close and Remote, 2011).

Tom Holert, Distributed Agency, Design’s Potentiality  (Civic City Cahier 3, Bedford Press, 2011).

John Kelsey, Rich Texts: Selected Writings for Art (Sternberg Press, 2010).

Chris Kraus, Where Art Belongs (Semoiotexte, 2011)

Emily Jacir and Susan Buck-Morss, 100 notes/100 Thoughts, no.4 (Documenta/ Hantje Cantz).

Melanie O’Brien & Jeff Khonsary,  Judgment and Contemporary Art Criticism (Fillip, 2010).

Jane Rendell, Site-Writing: The Architecture of Art Criticism  (I.B.Tauris, 2010).

Nathaniël (Nathalie Stephens), Absence Where As (Claude Cahun and the Unopened Book)  (Nightboat Books, 2009).

Here is the LAB’s description of the event: 

The LAB Gallery will host an event to explore, tease out and expose the current thinking around art criticism. Looking specifically at the contexts, language and forms of writing about art, reviews, as well as criticism itself, it seeks to clarify and elucidate how and whether criticism translates art works and what is lost or gained in this process. It would consider what elements critique makes visible, as well as asking how it might achieve this. What are the subtleties between review, descriptive text and criticism and how do the presentation and context (wall panels, book, newspaper, pamphlet, catalogue, online essay, etc.) of this kind of writing affect its nature and purpose.

London based writer David Berridge will give the keynote address for this seminar, which also explores what constitutes criticism, looking at alternative elements such as performance, interview, and exhibition. This is followed by an interview between critic and curator Caoimhin Mac Giolla Leith and performance artist Amanda Coogan, considering the merits of having work critiqued as well as the dangers of being reductive. Following this is a panel discussion chaired by Fiona Fullam, with panellists Niamh Dunphy of Paper Visual Art Journal, Cristín Leach of The Sunday Times, James Merrigan of +BILLION- and Jason Oakley from Visual Artists Ireland and VAN. This panel discussion aims to extend the thoughts, ideas and concepts put forward by the other speakers and look specifically at the current state of art criticism in Ireland today.

This event hopes to respond to the current debate around art criticism, its nature and purpose, as well as the function of the critic, which has been considered and probed so extensively of late in journals and online. While the critique of criticism has itself a long history, still there are questions and issues which recur and which merit further discussion and investigation. Art Criticism Now aims to contribute to that continuing conversation.

To book contact Sheena Barrett at