Mumbled critique and soft focus exhibitions, cosily paired with ambivalent ambient attention - that’s what you’re aiming for yeh? Just swipes/likes/favs - #powpowpow. The provincials have become the trendsetters as a container for critical anxiety, entangled in their web of socio-repercussion and online back patting. What is expressed is not what is felt, what is felt is drafted but not published, what is published is a regurgitation of gallery PR wrapped with *current thought/trending topics* // softly scattered description and some meek (positive, always positive, ofc positive) opinion (?). - in short writers writing for an audience. Driving this is the kind of platforms which drip feed stabilised content, clawing at a desire to extrapolate their audience whilst instigating a kind of abbreviated critical production. The lack of overbearing cultural production/saturation in the provincials provides a foundation for embedded models to hold ground.
Audiences’ can feel too attached to their socio-art-intertwinned-fuckery. Knowledge base, social media voyeuring, art-sex history bullshit or drunken ramshackle gatherings in post-PV hazes begin to void opinion, or at least shake it out of the system. Because the system is diluted and those driving new ingredients into the mix can become easily referenced entities. Bubbling to the surface then is normalised content, where the artwork/curation really separates the product, not the *voice*. Your current thought is just someone else dumb thought regurgitated. Your art criticism is just lack lustre description wrapped in a cushion of vapid self progression. Where writing about your girlfriend’s show is progression for no-one. Where reviewing you mate’s curatorial output leaves the field too insular. Lovely and cutez ’n’ all that..but insular. I’m digressing, apparently, but realistically who gains owt from a *review* which lays out the objects in a given space in some textual format with lame linguistic gymnastics, a socially connected reviewer and a bit of back-patting towards the curator(s) - descriptive, ∴ restrictive. Stop spewing the PR back into the system, stop writing what you think an *audience* wants to read. Who the fuck is your audience anyway, just your Facebook likes, semi-interested twitter followers (a smattering of bots) and that lacklustre PV audience who’re actually just wanting a pre-drink. An audience is passive, *likers* without care nor resistance, why not play to individuals, the active, people whom may just deliver a reactive feedback loop, and begin to create some sort of *zones of resistance*. If you write for *someone* instead of *everyone* then the directness of a voice naturally starts to have a passion, and negates any sense of trying to please every fucker in the room like some tragic karaoke set.
Casual || Direct || \not convoluted nor jargon-full dancing || where dissemination is not under the influence of cultural intimidation, where writing is not white noise or basically silence
Positive reviews transgress interest or at least any wider agitation since they become accepted/acceptable fodder for the readers, rarely to be taken further/anywhere. “Those that are negative I think are often highly considered not just by the readers (as being polemic content) but by the writers who could as easily sweep aside writing about show X or project Y. Negative reviews have certain benefits; they allow a writer to engage with art in a way that isn’t only cheerleading. Is it really possible to develop a coherent, lasting voice when all one writes is positive reviews?“ Orit Gat http://www.oritgat.com/Art-Criticism-in-the-Age-of-Yelp. And I think the above sentiment can often become lost in critique within the closed circuits of the arts beyond London. Negativity can become a crux if tossed out time and again, both critically, culturally and socially. But it’s power is may be within the potential to deconstruct the ‘whys’ of an attack, since negativity can sit within holes of instability if not cushioned and armoured, and by attempting to break down the inconsistencies, inaccuracies, intolerability, the dull, boring, bad, lax, theory-burdened, aesthetically-crippled…you get the point…it forces a good writer into a corner of hard consideration, away from the click-bait quotes and towards a towards a developed set of tools that can weave a coherent negative position.
Beyond this the symptom often crippling art writing can often be as much its platform or avenues of dissemination as the content. Often there’s a kind of game of playing to the brand, not letting the side down within a well curated/controlled system. And these systems play to that role, they adapt certain leanings, voices, languages which they become known by, and in turn grow an audience who feel safe in their borders, who seek their content with a kind of ‘a posteriori’ foundation. And so develops a cyclical system of controlled, underwhelming, partially satisfying content, kind of snacky, rarely with the kind of voluptuous, heavy, polemic meal you’d expected…then again all we expect is snacks, and feel satisfied if they fill a hole for more than a few hours, tapas that sits lonesome in the bar of your critical archive gathering dust, chorizo aged from boredom, you get what I’m saying. “For me, writing criticism is not about producing critical discourse. It’s more about thinking through what is wrong with the art world as it is,” explains writer Brian Droitcour
So maybe we consider sidelined models. From yelp as a direct and immediate criticism, not contrived with linguistic backflips and one-upping other critics is your slick, polished, highly gymnastic reviews. Opposing value creation and propping up content on a solitary and independent island [some people can feel in the lower rungs of (provincial) criticism (where literary discourse can often be scarce in favour of providing actual projects) that critique is by it’s existence is important :\ ] And equally that you can get more base [base but not unimportant/exciting] ideas/values from friends peers unrelated to art spheres since they have no artistic/critical backbone to uphold, and their social mobility won’t be altered with words on objects/ideas/digital products. AQNB hit a mark by removing the author as an important signifier in the artillery, sort of drone-like; just firing shots and seeing what sticks, the human tucked away deep in some curtained corner of a one-bed flat satisfied to watch his constructions thrown out in the open without themselves shackled to the finale. The removal of the author could progress a greater shift towards real thought, and not social media engaged thought, yet would still require systems/platforms of trust (i/e the antithesis of *anon* comments sections). ’Slight’ or other anon geolocated forums // commenting platforms could also make leeway on removing the soul from the asshole, the errrrr from the liker, the ?? from \ʕ(^◡^ )ʔﾉ , sidestepping the whole “Hey I wrote a cutez article on ********* at ********** gallery, hope you like it :)“ :| *yawn*
Maybe the potential now is to instigate discourse beyond directed critique from directed individuals, safely wrapped in institutional layers which, through no fault of their own, have built an armour around the “writer”. Where discourse is diluted and discussion is sidelined. Because all we begin to see is the speed of release, the well presented and contextualised product, the click-bait sidebars + footer content to suck you around their matrix, more text, more content, more snappy, #longreads, gallery after gallery of PV openings or advertisement/listing which all slip into the same neat pile, soft focusing on individual stuff. Because stuff is so saturate in the complexities of even a single outlet that a rhizomatic and matrix-like output allows a negation of the product, it becomes a mode of accepting and moving on, clicking on, dripping on through the layers until your battery runs dry or your eyes have lost focus on the prize somewhere between the #Baudrillard inspired prose and a listicle on ’67 great new exhibtions in X/Y/Z’.
There is also an ingrained immobility in the lack of willingness from the providers of visual culture to resist challenging the field. Obviously outward attack can diminish inward engagement, where the provincial audiences can hold allegiances akin to football supporters, historic, socially decided alliances that are developed time and again like a repeat prescription, the kind of drug which eventually nullifies opinion and can seemingly be only there to celebrate. It seems that the drought of critique cultural providers create maybe allows the landscape to uphold a low hum of whispered discourse, since if the creators have a diminished opinions then what is the use in agitating the hedge to see what flies out.
*falling leaves but no sparrows ε(*´･∀･｀)зﾞ*
So in considering this we could maybe look to trend forecasters K-HOLE who infrequently publish PDF reports “to make sense of the strategies that are being enacted around us” ( http://khole.net/press/K-HOLE%20Mousse.pdf ). The system in its whole slows down the presentation of content, contains it within a set of barriers and allows them to hold strategic control over your reading, authorising thought yet without trying to melt between the lines of other content. Contained + thus sustained ideas. Lessened distraction, focused and stratified discourse alongside and overarching design which can be affective towards the content, forceful, pointing, ecstatic, lethargic, driving the whole, collating the whole; not confusing the whole. And thus they become providers for an audience which appreciate critique further than base text products, 500 worded clouds of adjectives and air, and allows a situation for it to flourish.
There’s a continuation to build totems out of what culture is perceived as, what culture has been, old models in new shoes, without anyone attempting to knock them down or scrape back their surface(s), the taller, glassier, awe-inspiring the structure the less your voice echoes in their hollow atriums and even hollower shows. If it’s big then we’re supposed to be thankful, if it’s small we’re supposed to clap at an independent spirit thriving, if we don’t like it we’re supposed to bite our tongue because “at least they’re trying”, well yeh, but try harder, and take a kicking once in a while, every while, until your skin becomes like leather, not moisturised by successions of critical massage oils. Kk. Everyone has agency is shaping culture: producers, viewers, writers, disseminators, likers, cultural drivers or back-pedallers, yet the specific social and geographic conditions beyond London can create scenarios which don’t work in favour of the proliferated modes of cultural shaping, and therefore what’s needed is a rigorous and deep excavation of those current models, which should seek to harbour criticism in a *provincial* ethos, providing writers with the armour to uphold their views and create the structures for dialogue which can be of value to everyone, whether considering attack or adoration. Just because the models are not in existence doesn’t mean we should uphold the ritualistic gratification of current content. Just because your socially entwined in cultural circles doesn’t mean you can’t uphold the jabbing opinion wildly prodding to be let out. Just because the systems don’t exist doesn’t mean we can’t attempt to create them, demolish them and then create them some more. Eventually, organically the armour will situate itself around progression once it’s become bored of propping up institutions and ecologies that favour their safe haven critique and a diminished responsibility for permanent reevaluation.
BE INCONSISTENT // BE BRUTAL // BE HONEST