Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Writing the Contemporary: Art History and Art Criticism...

I went to a panel discussion presented by CUNY and The Graduate Center's Center for the Humanities entitled Writing the Contemporary: Art History and Art Criticism.

Here is the press release:

Academics and art critics discuss the relationship between art history and art criticism, working inside and outside the academy, and the various problems of writing contemporary history. Moderated by Katy Siegel, Associate Professor of Art History at Hunter College, with Johanna Burton, contributor to Grand Street, Artforum and author of Cindy Sherman; Branden Joseph, Associate Professor, Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University; Scott Rothkopf, senior editor of Artforum, and Lawrence Weschler, former staff writer for The New Yorker and author of, among other books, Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences. Co-sponsored by The PhD Program in Art History.

It was an interesting panel discussion, though I couldn't stay awake for the life of me when Lawrence Weschler spoke. I don't know what it was. Perhaps the tone of his voice or his pauses, but I found my head doing that flip-flop thing it does when I get tired and I'm sitting up.

I did have some questions that were not addressed during the discussion. The point was made that they all had extensive training in writing and history and that they all had spent years refining their ideas within the academy. My question to that was, do they feel more connected to the pulse of the art world and seeing the work, or do they feel separated from the art-viewing public? From what they were saying, it almost gave the impression that they existed outside of the contemporary gamut. If they do indeed think of themselves outside of the context which the work is being made, will they really get what they are looking at? Or will they pre-prescribe and attach their own history and associations to the work?

My other question is a simple one. How do they pay their bills? They spoke about ethics in writing and criticism and they spoke about how the market doesn't really exist and how the market is a somewhat dirty thing, but how do they pay their bills? I think that the practical questions are sometimes the most revealing. I'm going to email each of them and ask them and post their responses, if they do in fact respond.

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