International Conference Art criticism 2.0

Conference organized by the Věra Jirousová Award for Young and Established Art Critics and the Research Centre of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.
It has become an established fact that the rise of the social media has had a decisive impact on the production and dissemination of art imagery. While there has been a lot of talk over the last five years of art ‘after the internet’, that is, of art existing in the cultural milieu that takes online access as a matter of course, the effects of this condition on art criticism have been just as dramatic, if less discussed. The privileged places of art-critical exposure – catalogue essay, curatorial remarks, broadsheet review, glossy art magazine article, academic research paper, art-historical monograph, and their online versions – have been challenged by new means of accessing the art-critical discourse (‘joining the debate’): blog entry, tweet, youtube video, facebook status/comment. Our conference wants to investigate the recent configuration of forces and voices within art criticism.

01 Introduction

02 Slow Art Manifesto

The production and consumption of art has accelerated dramatically since the 1960s, resulting in an orgy of market, curatorial, and critical speculation. This manifesto addresses how critics might slow art down (or acknowledge its inherent lack of speed). Three assertions will be made: “Art is a Theory of Property,” “Accumulation must be Narrated,” and “Art Conserves Time.” In each case the exigencies of producing, consuming, theorizing and exchanging art at great speed are recognized as vehicles of art’s impoverishment. They may be countered, I will argue, through deliberate strategies of theorization, narration, and conservation.
David Joselit
Working as a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, during the 1980s, Joselit co-organized several exhibitions that helped to define the art of that decade, including Endgame: Reference and Simulation in Recent Painting and Sculpture (1986). He taught in the Department of Art History and Ph.D. Program in Visual Studies at University of California–Irvine from 1995 to 2003, and at Yale University from 2003 to 2013, where he served as Department Chair from 2006 to 2009. Joselit’s art criticism has spanned all visual media and recently has engaged extensively with contemporary painting. He is author of Infinite Regress: Marcel Duchamp 1910–1941 (MIT Press, 1998), American Art Since 1945 (Thames and Hudson, World of Art Series, 2003), Feedback: Television Against Democracy (MIT Press, 2007), and After Art (Princeton University Press, 2012), and he is a contributing author to the second edition of Art Since 1900 (Thames and Hudson, 2011). He is an editor of the journal OCTOBER and a frequent contributor to Artforum.

03 Made in spite of, defiantly enmeshed among, the Internet

The hope for criticism after the Internet is in Post Internet art’s failure. This was a failure to live up to claims of democracy, fluidity, and expanded participation as its critical practice. It was down, not only to its drift into the hierarchies and logics of contemporary art it once claimed to escape, but also to a deeper complicity with criticality’s inability to lead anywhere but to itself, or worse to that which it “rejects” (this is, following Suhail Malik, the mode of contemporary art). Certainly the particularities of the infrastructures, in which the movement was entangled, are key: but so is the notion of immateriality as not only symbolic, but semantic, and increasingly, structural and recoverable (as commodity, as cultural capital, or, oddly enough, as objects). As it was historicized as another category of contemporary art, Post Internet art was doomed to forget any critical beginnings. Here is one crux of the failure.
However, as I want to argue, viewed from a different perspective another picture emerges. While immateriality and the western liberal discourses it relied on were at the heart of this trajectory of Internet art, the proposition of the post human reading on Post Internet re-opens the possibility of an active and transformative praxis. It relocates at the conjunction of various material-states, materialist politics, and ethics; through an art made in spite of the logics of the Internet; and defiantly enmeshed among it—and proposes a discourse that rather than flattening the contradictions of art made among the Internet, posits one un-detachable from the predicaments that produce it. Memory and history can be one such thread, bringing together generations and collectivities, if not in a coalition, than for the reclamation of a territory, driven forward through a counter-praxis that commits to being and thinking otherwise. Something that a renewed criticism must also participate in.
Tom Clark is an independent Editor, Curator and Publisher. He is currently Editor at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, and between 2010 and 2015 was co-director / co-curator at Arcadia Missa Gallery and Editor in chief of Arcadia Missa Publications and the journal How to Sleep Faster. Tom Clark also writes and teaches on contemporary art, curating, and publishing. His writing, curating, and teaching focuses on and develops a discourse on art and curating produced after networks; art history of the narratives, forms, materiality and politics of affect, collectivity and history in intermedia and contemporary art practices; and questions of value, publics and collective politics in art and its organisation. His writing has appeared in Mute Magazine, and as catalogue texts for various exhibitions. Tom Clark was co-director of the video production research and production organisation ‘Video in Common’ where he remains on the editorial board. He is also an associate of MayDay Rooms archive institute in London, focusing on digital archives and archiving strategies, and was production manager at Mute Magazine. Curatorial projects and exhibitions include; MOT International Project Space, Central Saint Martins, the International Project Space in Birmingham, and SixtyEight in Copenhagen. Tom Clark is from Leicester, living and working in London and Utrecht, holds an MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths College London.

04 abc of image object: on the degree of abstraction of documentary art photographs on social media

The paper discusses the linguistic properties of the circulation of documentary art images in the social media. It will focus in particular on Venice Biennale images spread on Facebook and on blogging platforms (Wordpress, Tumblr) compared to social-media-specific art projects from the point of view of the morphology, semantics, and grammar of their dissemination and interpretation.
According to Foucault, what language arrives at at its own edge is not the positivity that contradicts it, but the void that will efface it. Digital conceptualism implies use of image as a unit of language as easily copyable and transferable as a letter written by hand or in a text processor. Information aesthetics of the Post Internet art condition combines characteristics of materiality of the new media art and conceptualism’s stress on ideology.
A unique time slice reflected in the decontextualized personal photos in the public eye can be validated through the semantic interpretation. The morphology of the image seemingly registering the art object mirrors it at one of the numerous possible angles. Thus the relation of the image to the object is as much a representation of an object as a combination of arbitrary sounds of a word describing it. The layout of the information upload schemes on Facebook suggests a certain grammar.
Natalia Fedorova is a new media poet, a digital literature scholar and a mediapoetry lab curator. In collaboration with a sonic artist Taras Mashtalir she founded a media poetry project Machine Libertine. Her audio and video poems appeared in TextSound, Rattapallax, LIT magazine, and Ill-Tempered Rubyist, räume für notizen

05 Where are my keys? The now of the critique in a plurality of voices

In the study of culture, one is embedded in contemporaneity. Yet the constant bombarding of information causes loss of measure and relevance, and amplifies the now. The increasing use of social media causes shifts in the artworld dynamics, and art criticism and knowledge production become progressively subject to quantifiable validation through visibility.
Market demands streamline institutional policies towards ‘relevant’, ‘cutting-edge’ research. The public programmes of museums increasingly rely on customer surveys and visitor quota; and the ‘scientification’ of the humanities prioritises quantifiable results, and public and social media profiles over speculative research and theory.
In this context, the art critic becomes she who, in the lecture theatre and the museum auditorium, makes the new known in a double paradox. On the one hand, she must preserve the new-ness of the discovery, something that invalidates the possibility of critical distance for its analysis. At the same time, she must denominate it in a site that professes to be distinct from fashion trends and to be producer of robust knowledge.
How can, then, the critical voice of criticism be recuperated from the marketable validation-by-numbers that has come to dominate institutional policies? Discourse analysis understands language as a social semiotic in operation. With this in mind, this paper suggests the idea of ‘interpretation in operation’ as a social, interdisciplinary way of writing about art. Accordingly, one must examine how art communicates across institutional, discursive, geo-political and social contexts; determine the meaning-making processes that enable social interaction and the interpretive frameworks, social conventions and power structures that condition them; and evaluate what is achieved by this act.
Eve Kalyva
Is an art critic and a writer. She has worked as a lecturer in Europe and Latin America, and collaborated with art institutes as curator, critic and artist in residence. Her PhD (Leeds, 2011) examined image/text juxtapositions in conceptual art, international artists’ networks across Europe, North and South America, and social semiotics. Her postdoctoral research (Buenos Aires, 2013) concentrated on the relation between art and politics in processes of democratisation and oppressive military regimes. Her research profile includes international fieldwork (UK, USA, Argentina, Chile, Brazil), and her publications span across art criticism and theory, philosophy, social semiotics, discourse analysis and visual culture studies. She is currently working on a book on conceptual art, and a creative art project based on her latest travels in Latin America. (Source: Academia EDU)

06 Artistic Research as a challenge for art criticism

In recent years, alternative forms of knowledge-based art production have had their impact on the arts. Since the first implementation of PhD programs in so-called „Artistic Research“, their ongoing institutionalization at universities and art academies worldwide confronts art criticism with a range of problems: How can we judge such practices, which kind of judgments should we apply, and how should we define the proper criteria for their critical evaluation?
Artistic research is based on the idea that the arts can and even should produce a specific knowledge that differs from scientific knowledge. Thus, research projects initiated by artists should derive from unique artistic methodologies that differ from scientific methodologies. Artistic research should not only invent new epistemologies, but also questions conventional aesthetic and epistemological qualities of the artwork. Thus, some of the questions that need to be adressed are: How can we judge or criticize artworks and artistic projects that define themselves as artistic research? What exactly should be considered as the object of critique: the material artwork, its epistemological content, or the artistic methodology that has lead to its production? Through which forms of aesthetic or theoretic judgments can this critique be articulated? And what is, finally, the role of the art critic being confronted with artistic practices that are already evaluated, reviewed, and valorized within the academic system from where they often originate?
Sebastian Mühl
Is an artist and researcher based in Leipzig and Offenbach am Main. He is working on a thesis about concepts of utopia in contemporary art. The project is an art theoretical research into modernolocical, participatory and art activist strategies since the early 1990s. His films and film-based visual art projects focus on the effects of the politico-aesthetic and the built utopias of modernity. Since 2013 Sebastian is a research assistent at Offenbach University of Art and Design, where the philosopher Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch supervises his thesis. In Spring 2015, he completed a „Meisterschüler“ programme supervised by Prof. Astrid Klein at Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts. He studied Fine Arts and Media Arts at HGB Leipzig where he graduated in 2012 (supervision by Prof. Astrid Klein, Dr. Ralf Hartmann and Prof. Dr. Beatrice von Bismarck). He studied at the University of Arts London and received a B.A. in Philosophy at HfPh München. Sebastian exhibited internationally, e.g. Museum of Fine Arts Leipzig, Kunstverein Tiergarten – Galerie Nord Berlin and CAC Passerelle Brest.

07 Tumbling down the rabbit hole: considerations about the use of social platforms to publish art criticism online

On the 12th of November 2013, Orit Gat published on Rhizome “Art Criticism in the Age of Yelp”. In her paper, Gat analysed some issues about the social platform and its potential use as an art criticism tool, taking Brian Droitcour’s work – and consequent, deontological problems – as a starting example. The Internet as a new place of dialogue, to inject some “new blood” to the “regular” art criticism world seems to be an inspiring idea. Being open to platform as Yelp, for a writer, could be valuable to remind one that art criticism should go beyond its own cult of “aristocracy of feeling” and connoisseurship, as stated by Dave Hickey in his essay “Simple Art” (Air Guitar, 1997). However, is the Internet a place of dialogue indeed? Is it actually a place where democracy can finally find its total and complete accomplishment? The case of “Jerry Saltz VS Facebook” and its consequent manipulation from the partisans of the freedom of expression seems to show a quite different scenario. Furthermore, if democracy is conceived as the power to the plurality of expression, how can we still have it into a structure regulated by corporations and based on the algorithmic predictive system? Aren’t then the “Facebook articles” only smokescreens? By taking Gat and Droitcour’s case studies as a starting point, this paper wants to explore the limits of the online art criticism and to boycott the propagandistic idea about the Internet being the ultimate land of freedom.
Elisa Rusca is a Berlin-based art historian, writer and independent curator. She received her M.A in History of Art and Archeology from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and for five years was assistant curator at the Collections of the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne (www.elysee.ch ). AICA Member since 2011, she actively collaborates with George, a Lausanne-based magazine about art, feminism, racial and gender issues. From 2010 to 2012, she additionally was editor for ch-arts, an internet-based platform for contemporary art in Switzerland. In 2013 she was asked to collaborate with the event “Geraçao Pixelada” and wrote the exhibition text Micro-macro: fotografia, pixel e filosofia. for the third edition of Floripa Na Foto, an international festival for photography in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil. She edited and published the book Oblio (2014). She is now collaborating with Nathalie Herschdorfer to the editing of the New Dictionary of Photography (Thames&Hudson, 2016). In Berlin, she curated As Everything Moves, Oblivion, Flashback, Future, Now., Uncanny Valley and Mise en Abyme.