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dying, but everywhere

Post #395 • October 26, 2004, 7:12 AM • 7 Comments

James Elkins, What Happened to Art Criticism?:

Art criticism is in worldwide crisis. Its voice has become very weak, and it is dissolving into the background clutter of ephemeral cultural criticism. But its decay is not the ordinary last faint push of a practice that has run its course, because at the very same time, art criticism is also helathier than ever. Its business is booming: it attracts an enormous number of writers, and often benefits from high-quality color printing and worldwide distribution. In that sense art criticism is flourishing, but invisibly, out of sight of contemporary intellectual debates. So it's dying, but it's everywhere. It's ignored, and yet it has the market behind it.




October 26, 2004, 5:54 PM

The link Franklin put up for this goes to the Amazon site selling the book, which can be had pretty cheaply. it is worth while reading the rest of the exerpted comments Amazon gives us. I suspect the book itself is interesting enough.

Elkins thesis is that there is a ton of art writing but no one really takes it seriously. Not having read the book I can't say what his explication will be, but I assume that he will have to conclude at some point that the enormous increase in the popularity of art and the consequent fluff and hype and dumbing down of comment on it bears most of the functional responsibility.

I would hope that he might also speculate that any enterprise which consciously affects to operate without rules or "givens" or professional standards or an overriding sense of assumed values is naturally destined to be treated with disrespect and carelessness. When anyone can produce dreck or publish gibberish, and not only get away with it but be celebrated for it, the discipline is no longer a discipline, and it will get no respect.



October 26, 2004, 9:35 PM

See previous discussions of Elkins' essay at...

Iconoduel, Iconoduel

asymptote, **asymptote**

Sally McKay, **Sally McKay**


**Tom Moody**, Tom Moody, **Tom Moody**

Moody on Elkins' title:

"Asking that question is a bit like fussing over the drapes while a rhinoceros crashes about your living room (or whatever metaphor gets this across). Like it or not, artists keep making art; you can either describe it, using whatever tools and venues are available, until a theory becomes clear, or worry about less important 'writerly' concerns, like classifying different types of criticism and asking whether they're up to the job."

Honest Art Talk, **Honest Art Talk**

**Modern Kicks**

From the Floor

I would also commend to you, via a couple of the discussions above, Michael Brenson's essay, Resisting the Dangerous Journey: The Crisis in Journalistic Criticism.



October 26, 2004, 10:04 PM

Dan: Thanks for all the interestring stuff. Brenson starts out with a bang, but his essay needs serious liposuction to be readable, at least for someone like myself, who keeps muttering "so, what's the point?"



October 26, 2004, 11:58 PM

Correction, Oldpro: the dreck you refer to gets plenty of respect (or money and promotion, which is much more to the point) from the ubiquitous simians in the "scene." It all depends on the priorities of the "art persons" in question. A lot of scenesters are very much caught up in issues like image, fashion, status, profit, sociopolitical agendas and so forth, which may have little or nothing to do with art per se, except as a means to an ulterior end. They are very serious about those ends, and if they figure that art scenedom is the way to get them, they're going to take, or appear to take, any dreck necessary very seriously.


Jerome du Bois

October 27, 2004, 6:38 AM

Moody says, "Like it or not art, artists keep making art." Waow. As if artists were the cat's ass, the sought-after prize, the standard against which one must measure; and critics, artist/critics, and alert observers were what the cat drug in. From what I've seen for many years, dozens of artists need to get up to the intelligence, speed, acumen, interest, passion, and commitment of the latter group, and get their heads out of their fundamental apertures.


Jerome du Bois



October 27, 2004, 7:25 AM

simian: "of, relating to, or resembling monkeys or apes"

judging by the shit that falls from your keyboard, Jack, one would assume you're talking about child molesters, rapists, or murderers. nope - you're talking about artists whose work you don't like. Nice.

If you hate it so much, why do you spend so much time talking about it? I really wonder what's going on with you...



October 27, 2004, 5:01 PM

Alesh, I'm not sure it's worth responding, but you've misread me. My comment was not about artists but about the people or scenesters who buy and promote the dreck Oldpro mentioned. "Simians" referred to the thread "The Monkey Agendas" (10/21), which you may have missed, in which case I suggest you look over it. Finally, if my posts bother you, ignore them. You don't owe me any notice, just as I don't owe you, or anyone else, justification for my opinions.



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