I used to be a bit of an art critic. I wrote for a few periodicals in upstate New York, for a number of international art periodicals, and for my own little art zine back in the early 1990s. My last stint was for a magazine called Atlantica, a really sweet and thick magazine that was had its roots in late 1990s Madrid. I wrote a number of pieces on many different artists, fancying myself as bit of an aesthete, a committed art enthusiast and a socially sensitive critic of “post-industrial visual production.” I wrote those works honestly but under the slanted gaze of someone who felt he knew something. A critic necessarily takes on this view because they’re being paid (in funds or fans) for supposed knowledge.
The unfortunate reality is that most critics, and especially those of the art kind, know far too little about visual production and its consumption, practices, markets, and audiences. Art critics, by and large, are glorified college-educated bouncers. They’re paid little to attract attention but they’re not actually part of the party.
I write this not as a confessional but because I recently read a really harsh, ad hominem review of my friend and colleague’s fantastic piece Neu-York by a “critic” that takes the entire piece to task for not making the artwork that she herself would have wanted to make. If you read between the many lines devoted to this harsh, very personal critique, it’s possible to feel the trembling envy that the writer holds while typing. Here’s a quote:
And yet she didn’t bother to do the first leetle bit of research on German (especially Nazi) and American street and place-naming conventions. She didn’t bother to use her damned imagination, either. Can you say “wasted effort”?
This trips all of my wires, seriously. Street renaming is my thing — it’s the systematic and massive renaming of streets in Berlin while I was living there in the nineties that first got all my geographic juices flowing. I spent a semester doing a project on it, and in 2001 I did a street renaming performance in San Francisco. To rename four streets I did decades of hours of research. And alternate history is seriously my thing.
Pathetic and sad. The writer, whose name is not even clearly articulated on the site (it could be Claire Light though clarity and light are not entirely integral to her blog posts), unwittingly fits herself into the self-absorbed, forlorn trope of “if you can’t do, criticize.” I found a little about the critic here.
Almost makes me want to make art again.