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More Thoughts on Art Criticism


Tibi Tibi Neuspiel, Lincoln / Booth. Image: beautifuldecay.com

For those of you who are interested in the ‘what is art criticism’ debate, there’s recently been a lively discussion among my fellow Canadian bloggers, sparked by THIS post that VoCA wrote a few weeks ago.

Check out Gabby Moser’s blog HERE for her thoughts, Jennifer McMackon’s blog Simpleposie HERE, for another discussion, and Leah Sandals, who shares her thoughts on her great blog, Unedit My Heart, right HERE.

2 Responses to “More Thoughts on Art Criticism”

  1. Rhonda Olson says:

    Perhaps a bit late, but as another Canadian art blogger, I have taken interest in and inspiration from this discussion. I wanted to take a stab at answering your original question: Should VoCA be more critical?

    It largely depends on your reasons for publishing your blog. I think your mission statement “your cultural concierge” tells us much about your intentions. Your aim is to facilitate your reader’s experience in the primarily Canadian art world. In a hotel, a concierge does things like reserve guests good tables at the hotel recommended restaurants and make guests hair appointments with their preferred stylist.

    As a “cultural concierge” you are a recommender by choice and probably inclination. You might have readers who share your taste or even formulate their taste through you. Others like myself come to your blog because they are hungry for dialogue on Canadian art that is written in literate, accessible language. (And we do agree about Brendan Flannagan’s work lighting us up).

    Ask yourself why become critical if being critical doesn’t interest you? Although, I do personally recommend it. It’s interesting what you discover about your own tastes and the work when you endeavor to clearly explain why you don’t like something.

    Also, in our information society omission is criticism in and of itself. Surely being ignored by “the media” is more terrifying to any savvy artist than being despised. Attention is attention. It’s a sad day when being misunderstood stops being a badge of honor for an artist.

    “There is no accounting for taste,” is a well-known English idiom that essentially means that people are all different and that taste is subjective. That is what makes it all so damn interesting and worth while. What you offer, VoCA, is an informed and considered point of view and a space for dialogue which obviously the Canadian art world is craving by the conversation sparked here and a link to new resources that I am greatful for.

  2. Leah Sandals says:

    Hi Andrea,

    Thanks for the link.

    While I’m totally glad to see you posting your honest opinions on various exhibitions and artworks, I have to note that your call for “excellence in general,” posted on this blog earlier this month, is something I find troubling.

    The main troubling part relates to your articulation, “Toronto is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, with half its inhabitants now foreign-born. To a much greater degree than London or New York, the city’s immigrants are allowed to retain their cultural habits. Perhaps this cultural diversity makes Torontonians especially tolerant of other cultures and their habits. Perhaps, also, this tolerance has seeped into Toronto’s social fabric and municipal life so that acceptance of others has led to tolerance of all things,” by which you seem to mean “tolerance of non-excellent or substandard things.”

    The thing is, I don’t think diversity and tolerance need be placed of in opposition to excellence. In my mind, if there is anything that makes a community excellent, it is a diversity of opinion and production, a range of approaches and ideals which generates vitality and energy.

    (A lack of diversity of opinion and/or production is, after all, what we have long complained about in relation to the visual arts community, both on this blog and elsewhere, no?)

    Again, I’m all for you providing honest assessments of what you feel to be good and bad in specific works and shows, even in art scenes in general. And the idea of a design council for the city of Toronto, which you mentioned in that “excellence” piece, also seems pretty great.

    But when it comes to the idea that there is one uniform standard of excellence to aim for and conform to, well, I can’t really agree with that. And yet it does seem to lie at the foundation of your dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs.

    What do you think? Am I reading something wrong here? Please feel free to clarify.

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