20190822

Why Art Criticism Sucks Right Now (Spoiler Alert: It’s Racist): Some Context and Suggestions (2019) Torey Akers. An insightful meta-critique of art criticism. It’s focused on North America and its commercially driven art markets but many aspects of critique apply across different western art scenes. The text starts off by referencing recent blunders art medias have made (which I’d need to know a lot more about to understand), then it offers a miniature history of art criticism (at its best it was an attempt to expose cultural power structures for the public, motivated by the French revolution) and ends by providing a list of people to follow (spotted Jessica Lynne, whom I heard at Pioneer Works last fall). The text also drafts guidelines on how to make art criticism more diverse and ethical (better).

Akers urges artists to learn how to read criticism: “Artists I’ve covered often can’t tell the difference between a standard write-up (this person made something!) and a review (the thing this person made was fine, weird, spectacular, useless, etc.).”. My experience has been that in Finland artists are very sensitive to how they are written about and how their work is mediated. Perhaps due to a fear of being misunderstood they seldom provide texts or engage in dialogue which could be used as material for creative writing. As a writer I’m often left guessing what the art is, which leads to non-opinionated or even anti-opinionated texts that describe the artwork or the creative scene the work emerges from, instead of engaging with it. Artists feel scorned if I use a wrong tone. I’ve found that the safest way to write is to first draft texts into my blog, then to ask for feedback from the artists and if I get a positive response, only then continue with the text (this cumbersome procedure makes me almost an un-payed employee of the artist).

I think in many Finland artists view art writing and mediation only as marketing, not joined creative thinking.

The art world, corrupt and opaque as it is, needs diversity of voice to mount any believable attempt at contrition; improvement, if we’re being optimistic. Old-school gatekeeping has long proven the enemy of progress. […] The landscape privileges clumsy, Caucasian cowardice above all else, and whatever content manages to escape the tonal clutches of a press release is usually engineered specifically for viral ire, to say nothing of International Art English’s recklessly pestilential effect over the last decade.

Nearly a century ago, Walter Benjamin opined, “Criticism is a matter of correct distancing… It was at home in a world where perspectives and prospects counted, and where it was still possible to adopt a standpoint. Now things press too urgently on human society.”

There it is—collaboration with artists rather than short-sighted conspiracy against them, institutional critique in service of concerted efforts at transparency. That is the non-monologic model artists deserve. An absence of immediate relatability should not hamper any responsible writer from reflecting upon the merits of an art work, and it’s up to us to reverse the tides of obtuse equivocation to which we’ve grown accustomed. White writers (this one included!) can, should, and must take accountability for art criticism’s eye-watering suckage in 2019.

Place Language (2019) a collaborative sound-landscape project looking to catalogue depictive landscape terms across the globe.

The quiet hope of ‘Landmarks’ was to ‘re-wild’ even a little of our available language for landscape, to celebrate and disseminate the extraordinary ‘word-hoard’ of coinages that has flourished historically – but thinned recently – for seeing, naming, and knowing aspects of place and its more-than-human life – Robert Macfarlane

Ei läsnäoloa, kiitos! Ahdistuksesta, uupumuksesta ja kapitalismista [No presence, thanks! On anxiety, exhaustion and capitalism] (2019) Laura Hautsalo. A nice text which (among other things) exposes that mainstream media maintains a black-market for depression survival and burnout recovery stories. These black-markets feed the neoliberal narrative, that we can overcome structural injustices by freeing our minds. Hautsalo refers to Rosi Braidottis 2019 talk Necropolitics and ways of Dying (which I’m looking forward to listening). The text fits well with Kim Modigs lates Tarjoilija, festivaalissani on liikaa teoksia [Waiter, there are too many artworks in my festival]. Modig argues that some artists and festivals are producing artworks merely to appear busy and that this extensive programming makes enjoying art difficult. He also urges artists to join artists unions to combat precarisation.