Thursday, January 6, 2011

Towards a Criticism of Art as It Exists in the World

Kyle Chayka, over at Hyperallergic, puts into words something I have been thinking about a lot over the past year, in terms of thinking about art and comics criticism.
The distinction Davis makes between art criticism and art news is that art news is essentially gossip about the art scene rather than serious engagement with art. Reporting on the latest “institutional scandals” and “celebrity art sightings,” Davis says, have swallowed more theoretical dialogues about aesthetics. Yet reporting on the art scene also fulfills a critical role: with an ever-larger art scene and art media have come greater levels of transparency which, while limited, have helped to clarify some of the kabuki dances of the art world that remained insider-only under the dominion of “theory-crit” whose absence Davis mourns. ("Ben Davis Sez Art Criticism Isn't Dead, Just Maimed," Kyle Chayka, Hyperallergic)
Criticism (and reviews) that look at the thing being reviewed as an autonomous object tends to be essentialist. Which is no crime, but for me it's boring. I hope this is reflected in this blog. The sociology and economics of art need to be constantly observed and addressed. I could say more about this, and will, but I wanted to throw that quote up there for now.  (Chayka was responding to this post.)

Addendum: By the way, I don't want to paint Ben Davis as a theory-mongering, self-absorbed critic who has crawled up his own ass. I sometimes feel that way about certain critics, but Davis, in his original piece, does recognize that the other side of the argument exist and has some validity. He writes:
"Theory-crit," however, always had an internal flaw, summed up by Walter Robinson, my former editor at Artnet (another pioneer in online art news, incidentally) who likes to point out that if you read the average Artforum review you wouldn't know that the objects in question ever existed in a real space, let alone were merchandise for sale. (Ben Davis, Total Eclipse of the Art, Artinfo)
That's just what I think, too!

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