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.
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.
SOURCES: A CONSTELLATION
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 firstname.lastname@example.org