The Critic is Not an Artist – Critical Stages/Scènes critiques
Artists have always had a complicated relationship with art criticism. “Do not be an art critic, but paint; therein lies salvation,” Paul Cézanne. They have to work out what relationships to establish with art, artists and others involved, as well as determine the legitimacy of such associations, blindly. Aisling O'Beirn, artist who also works at the Belfast School of Art, UU. of previous work on the relationship between the politics of place uncovering the tensions and is a former chairman of the county Irish Museums Association (). . education, research and criticism that owe a large part of our careers to Nikki.
Neither ideological structure provided much security for even the most accomplished artists.
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Moffett with Ken Noland and Clement Greenberg. It may be argued that art critics did deserve to be marginalized for having vastly overreached at a certain point in the s, when it seemed more culturally significant for a certain art critic such as Clement Greenberg to write about a work of art than for that work to have been made in the first place.
The Critic is Not an Artist
But imagine the frustration of the artist who believes herself to be liberated from the tyranny of the critic only to discover that the situation has changed: Furthermore, are we sure that this curatorial gain does not bring a correspondingly diminished status for the artist?
The nightmare scenario for artists is that the supervisors bypass the workers altogether and begin producing art themselves, or automate the process of art production to render artists redundant.
For owners of the culture factory—whether state or privately owned—it would be rather convenient if artists, who are a historically disobedient group, could be replaced with a disciplined contingent trained to obey authority, and production costs slashed through the elimination of a large part of the labor force.
In such a scenario the economic gain would be enormous, entailing the replacement of a group that holds the rights to their own production with one comprised of salaried employees. When I pointed out that people who are paid to go to a demonstration are not activists, but essentially hired bodies, the audience became visibly uncomfortable. But my point was less about money than why it is not enough these days to take on a challenging job, do it well, with real dedication and engagement, and take pride in that, without trying to upgrade its status by presenting it as activism, cultural production, or the production of art.
In fact, the debate with regard to the boundary between curatorial practice and artistic production is one that curators are engaging in among themselves, as Michelle White makes clear in a recent conversation with fellow curator Nato Thompson: I also think that the term cultural producer, aside from the particular conditions of our moment, is a healthier or more honest way to articulate the contemporary role of the curator.
It acknowledges the complexity of the collaboration that has to happen when something like an exhibition is organized or a project is carried out, which involves, as you said, a much more complex institutional web of financial as well as physical logistics from the relationship of collectors, patrons, boards of trustees to the possibilities of display space.
But at the same time, in working on site-specific projects or exhibitions with living artists where collaboration is essential to produce meaning, I have found myself questioning the boundaries of my involvement in the aesthetic and conceptual production.
So, I wonder, are there risks in assuming this more egalitarian position as producer? As an artist, how do you exactly say no to the curator who invited you to participate in a show, but seems to want to credit herself as a collaborator or co-author, when you risk not being invited the next time?
I really do not think that many artists feel that collaboration with a curator is essential to produce meaning. To my mind, this type of claim would be an extremely unwelcome and unwarranted intrusion, particularly if one keeps in mind that the figure claiming this share of authorship is not some underpaid art installer or intern researcher, but someone with the power to include, commission, or exclude artworks.
Similarly, it seems to me that we should also be very careful to avoid assigning any kind of meta-artistic capacity to curatorial practice.
If there is to be critical art, the role of the artist as a sovereign agent must be maintained. By sovereignty, I mean simply certain conditions of production in which artists are able to determine the direction of their work, its subject matter and form, and the methodologies they use—rather than having them dictated by institutions, critics, curators, academics, collectors, dealers, the public, and so forth.
While this may be taken for granted now, historically the possibility of artistic self-determination has been literally fought for and hard won from the Church, the aristocracy, public taste, and so on.
In my view, this sovereignty is at the very center of what we actually understand as art these days: Curators and institutions of art, whose authority is in part derived from representing public interests and being responsible to the public, are increasingly becoming private agents guided largely by self-interest. For this reason they have begun to assume the appearance of something with authorial characteristics, while still retaining a certain claim to objectivity in their evaluation of art and in their obligation to public address.
It has recently been pointed out to me that as artistic production becomes increasingly deskilled—and, by extension, less identifiable by publics as art when placed outside the exhibition environment—exhibitions themselves become the singular context through which art can be made visible as art.
This alone makes it easy to understand why so many now think that inclusion in an exhibition produces art, rather than artists themselves. But this is a completely wrong approach in my opinion: Artist as Curator On the other hand, there is quite a history of artists making use of certain aspects of curatorial and organizational work in their practice by assuming the role of curator.
At times this has been a response to the inadequacy of existing institutions, their hostility to artists, or their total absence—prompting the creation of many of the artist-run spaces of the s—or as a response to a particular emergency, as with ACT UP and Gran Fury. As Group Material, Martha Rosler, and other artists in the s demonstrated, curating can become a part of artistic practice just as any social form or activity can.
Martha Rosler, If you lived here The critic, no matter how accomplished her writing style, analyses. Her style is considered to be at its best when combining linguistic skill and originality with clarity of analysis. To demand the same clarity of analysis of an artist would be philistine in the extreme.
The 10 Essays That Changed Art Criticism Forever | Art for Sale | Artspace
Art is at its greatest when it achieves emotional, psychological or erotic effects which are, in essence, a mystery to us. It is as I have argued above not art, because it requires a clarity of analysis which it would be absurd and destructive to require of artistic works. Nor, however, is it journalism.
When a newspaper wants a journalist to report on the news associated with the arts, it employs an arts correspondent, a journalist who reports on the facts of the appointments of directors of national artistic companies, the vagaries of arts funding, social or political controversies over artworks etc.
This journalistic role is, and should remain, quite distinct from the role of the critic, which is to deal in the entirely non-factual realm of aesthetics. In a typically witty and insightful article, he writes: He is implicitly acknowledging the distinction between criticism which is founded, in large part, on analysis and art which is not.