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Critic X and the Failure of International Art Criticism: a mini case study

The job of art criticism is to provide a reflection on contemporary art practice. Art criticism does not take place in a vacuum. It takes place in the social and cultural present from which we look, and look back, at objects that are already of the past, objects that we take to define our present culture. Art critics are essentially arbiters of “cultural memory in the present.”. Who's present do they reflect and what is their agenda? In an ever more "Connected Age" where artist's biographies are readily searchable on the internet, factual lapses should no longer be tolerated. What follows is a reflection on a recent lapse in critical accuracy published in a major art magazine.

Critic X writes a review of a New York group show featuring work by artist A. In the review, critic X tries to dismiss artist A's work by stating that it is a direct references to work by artist B. In the claim, critic X firstly makes an ahistorical claim since any attempt at tracing the history of work produced by artist A will show that artist A had been producing work in this manner for years prior to when artist B ever did.

There are a few things at play here. Critic X is imploding context and history in giving works done, given support and exposure in a western art center more prominence and importance. Artist B is comfortably insulated from any criticism since he has the weight of consensus on his side since he is better known in western art centers. Critic X exploits this imbalance in power relations in trying to diminish the value of the work produced by artist A. This is where the disunity in discourse happens.

The weight of history supports artist A who is robbed of the merits of originality. A rupture occurs at the moment in which Critic X implodes history and context in support of his claim which will be read as truth. In the mind of the reader, artist A is transformed into a copy of artist B.

This collapsing of history and context pushes the focus back to the center where power is still concentrated and it consequentially resists change and upholds the status quo.

p.s. all links to actual events have been removed to protect the guilty.


Contemporary Art

I am sure that this happened the way described (although I am unable to fill in A, B and X due to ignorance).

Can I just say that there is no contemporary art, because the contemporary moment is always already past and thus an ideological reconstruction from a present that wants to control the future. This thought appropriated from Peter Osborne might make it necessary to think about other ways to order what is given. Re-reading George Kubler at the moment I am thinking that his concept of 'systematic time' might offer such an alternative because it confuses 'historic time' and makes us look at constellations of forms i.e. multiples. 'Contemporary art' is a historic notion - as long as we think it is (quote) 'the job of art criticism is to provide a reflection on contemporary art practice' we will repeat an ideology.

Mustafa Maluka's post seems to accept this ideology. By pointing out errors regarding the historical order, he is criticising the critic but NOT the system of criticism that is used. Does he think that an historicising art criticism can work, or does he think that it by definition has to produce such errors? If it is the latter it would be important question his own assumption and drop the notion of 'contemporary art'.



I'm disappointed you didn't name names!