December 17, 2015

2016 Prediction: Art Critics Are Getting Together!

Last year I wrote a few predictions about 2015, of which I remember two. One was about how the boy’s club is going to breath its last. It was definitely breathing more shallow in 2015, wasn’t it? I also remember that I said that clubs and critics will be the next big thing. I was quite visionary on this one. I feel that art criticism and collaboration are getting more and more real. This collaboration can be on a mirco-level, with art critics quoting and referring to each other, acknowledging each other’s writing, communicating on Twitter, etc., or even more, by writing together, or featuring each other’s work. It was a lot of fun this year to research for the series on wordwide art bloggers, and feature guest bloggers like Sujin Jung in South-Korea, Claudio Cravero based in Saudia-Arabia, and Quinn Caroline Hannah in Canada, while writing letters about art writing with Chilean art critic Ignacio Szmulewicz. The collaboration is also going to extend more and more to other media, with art criticism being such a, as art poet and writer Fred Joiner calls it, “mixed media” writing. I tried to do so myself in 2015, doing literary curating at insitu and literary dining at Entretempo Kitchen Gallery, or teaching together with radio-maker and art writer Craig Schuftan about VLOGS and podcasts at Node Curatorial Center. With my online art criticism course for Node, we even published a notebook The Future Is...  Science Fiction in Art Writing and another one with blending genres is coming up soon. 

The new expansions I see in art writing, are:


What about visual art critical story telling? Museums are already on it (check out the Whitney Vlogs, or the Metropolitan Museum’s ones), but art magazines are still hesitating. How to express art criticism visually? Frieze started in 2015 to post art video’s and it wasn’t great. The best example of 2015 was Adrian Searl’s vlogging for the Venice Biennial. (of course, I’m too modest to nominate myself, vlogging while following Sleek editor Will Furtado on the Venice Biennial). I love the way Searl totally doesn’t fit into the expectations of the mainstream international art market and doesn't care, looking a little clumsy and not slick at all. At a certain moment he gets so close to the camera as if he's going to whisper the secrets of the art world in your ear. When interviewing artists, he manages to get a few words out of them that explain everything - and on top of it all, he manages to be critical - even more so than in his art reviews, where I sometimes wish he would be more bold. 

Photo in Mary Brown, "Art, Activism, and Artprize", The Rapedian

Blogging with Impact

It’s no secret that art blogging doesn’t make money, and unlike Garance Doré’s fashion blog it hardly draws crowds. Yet a few of them manage to attract a different kind of capital. ARTS.BLACK for instance, run by Taylor Renee Aldridge and Jessica Lynne is only one year old, and they are great in getting their message out in a way that also transcends the blog website. I've been following them on Facebook for just a few months, and saw they were featured at the  Chimurenga Library Pan African Space Station, and leading a critical discourse panel at the ArtPrize Hub, Taylor Renee Aldridge started with the following disclaimer: "ArtPrize is founded and publicly supported by the DeVos family, a family that has been publicly known to espouse and fund far right causes and conservative politics. While we are happy to share our work with you today through this platform we are in no way affiliated or in support of the DeVos family and the causes that they support. Being that the nature of this conversation is Art and Activism it would be inappropriate and contradictory of our practices to not address the implications around corporate philanthropist or their influence on cultural institutions. We do not desire to make this the focus of the discussion this evening however it is an issue that is quite relevant to the topic at hand."

Fred Joiner talking about poetry at TED Washington, 2012

The Spoken Word 

Can art criticism also be listened too? The poetry performances of art critic and curator Frank O'Hara's are legendary, and I love listening to Eileen Myles reading her art writing aloud. Fred Joiner, himself a poet and an art critic based in Bamako, told me about the MoMA 2015 poetry event, in which poets read their poems inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series. Fred Joiner himself does a great job. Listen to his great talk of 2012 about the collaborative process of poetry writing (I would like to expand his arguments to art writing itself). Fred Joiner writes poetry in response to art, like this one about Malian textile artist, Abdoulaye Konate’s 2008 Dance of Kayes, which was selected as the winning poem for a poetry contest as part of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art’s exhibition The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists.  

Mixed Interests

How about an art critic being also a cultural critic? One of the art bloggers I follow ardently is Miss Milly B based in Capetown. Let's say she is one of those rare writers who has an opinion that isn't afraid to  "raise the roof and discomfort people". She doesn't shy away from pop culture either and while talking about it, she doesn't sound shallow. She writes on various branches from fashion to music videos, and my favourite essay of hers lately is the one on cultural appropriation: "If I served on an imaginary court of cultural appropriation judgment, my sentence would not be a harsh one. It would be simple: Just Leave Us Alone Already. Stop studying us. Stop probing us. Stop touring our townships. Stop copying our hairstyles. Stop making millions from TV shows about us. Stop photographing us. Stop appropriating our languages, which you don’t speak, by naming your game lodges or fashion labels in them. Please, just leave us alone."

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