Seminar

9 November 2007

Shaping Public Discourse: Daily Art Criticism

One could say that art criticism has traditionally played a crucial role in the public sphere; in judging artistic production as a stand-in for “the public,” the critic applied, modified, and at times challenged widely held beliefs about the function of art. In the last few decades, however, this function has been redefined, positioning the art critic as a mediator or translator between complex works of art and a puzzled public. The role of art criticism has not only been challenged by developments in the realms of mass media and art; criticism that appears in print media (such as newspapers) suffers under pressure due to new (digital) media and decreasing profits. Papers feel obliged to change their content as well as their visual identities, privileging shorter news snippets or human-interest interviews over sustained analysis. Meanwhile in art, research-based, collaborative, and discursive practices have emerged that call for a different sort of critical engagement than the critic passing judgment on works in the name of the public and/or explaining the work to his/her readers. Such practices, including the present project, intend to create a different sort of publicness, and engage—considering art’s own specific but communicative language—in debates about society and politics. Yet the need for the “daily” presence of art writing in the mainstream press should not be overlooked. Active and influential writers for different dailies in and out of the Netherlands are invited to confront the limits of this situation through their own practice and experience, as well as to consider how a shift in the current state of affairs might be possible.

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