I respond, fuzzy and confused, to the eleven statements below…
‘11 Statements Around Art Writing’ was co-authored by Maria Fusco, Michael Newman, Adrian Rifkin and Yve Lomax who comprised the teaching team at the now defunct MFA Art Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. It was published on the Frieze blog in October 2011, and ‘proposes a moment in contemporary production: writing as art practice’.
‘Art Writing emerges as a practice.’
Emerges… comes out? From where? From what? For what purpose? Comes into being? By what means? Is revealed? By whom? As a practice? As a category? Defined how & by whom? As individual production / creation? The loadedness of those terms…
‘Art Writing is a possible form of the liberty of the image.’
Form – Liberty – Image…
Liberty of the image? That the image has liberty? Image: as concept? As material (actual)? The form of the image?
A form of image?
A form of liberty?
‘Art Writing names an approach within contemporary culture that, in wanting new potentials, embraces writing as a problematization of the object of art, its dissemination and forms of exhibition.’
La la la la la (return to this) – no, but, how does this differ from the contextual essay, the catalogue essay, art criticism…
‘Art Writing does not take modalities of writing as given, rather it tends to, and experiments with, non-division between practice and theory, criticism and creativity.’
To take (or not) something as given, to take modalities as given, to take categories as given? Are the 11 statements (in part) an attempt to position Art Writing as category. Does it then become a paradox: a category that refutes other categories?
What is a category? How is a category? Why is a category? What is its purpose?
Categories of categories:
Foucault via Borges> the absurdity, impossibility, or fragility of categories. Categories rub shoulders at their peril.
Category bleed? Fuzzy categories?
Category as commodity? Exchange value not use value > Marx > Kapital. Practice becomes more easily marketable when categorised: Michael Hampton, in a very stern letter to Art Monthly states that: ‘art writing’ is beginning to look more and more like a branding device, a spurious Baconian idol of the market place, or a woolly hood to slip over unsuspecting eyes. Then slowly it dawns: the ‘art writing’ band wagon is a speculative academic project to restore the dethroned, deformed subject through writing.’
Category as protection / ritual / territory / social? ‘Dirt is matter out of place’ (Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger)
What does psychoanalysis have to say about categories? Are categories fetishes? Do they have a relationship to the ego? To the Mirror Phase? To l’ objet petit a? Would this mean that a category of art writing might be defined by the subject (author)? How will I cope with that!
I myself am a narcissist and category whore. My ego is monstrous, fragile, and insatiable. I submit myself and my work to multiple categorisation as it suits me, for the purposes of money and kudos. I allow my book Lectolalia (just £10 plus post and packaging – buy it here – go on, go on) to be bought for the Saison Poetry Library at the Royal [ℜ] Festival Hall, and myself to be invited to take part in Steven J Fowler’s Enemies project despite the fact that I am most definitely not a poet.
ℜ: This despite my vow (after seeing Prince Andrew escape prosecution in the USA, after the legislation exempting the Royal family from the Freedom of Information Act, after seeing the Kiefer retrospective at the Royal Academy) never to set foot in or do business with any place or institution prefixed Royal.
‘Art Writing sustains all forms of art criticism, including the experimental and the hybrid. The art work may be intensely engaged with, or it may be the starting point for fictional and poetic developments.’
Is the first sentence of the statement asserting an interdisciplinarity or an Indisciplinarity as described by Ranciere?. This is an important distinction.
Is the second sentence of the statement really just an articulation of a fancified ekphrasis? Or is there something more of interest in the notion of fictional developments.
Gilda Williams (2015) offers a sleight of contradictions in her article Write On. The statement that ‘waves of gifted art writers hyperbolically inventing literary hybrids, crossing plain-vanilla [♥] art-reviews with diary-writing, journalism, autobiography, fiction, research, gossip, manifestos and more’ might hint, more than hint, at an Art Writing that is not an extension of art criticism – but the piece opens thus: ‘Rejoice! The crisis in art criticism is over…’ placing Art Writing firmly within its arms. Then later, ‘no longer just offering reactive commentary… [but] …often constituting the artwork itself…’ followed by a focus on the possibilities for the artist’s statement, which returns the process of writing to that of ekphrasis, and the artist as over-thrower of critic, implying the use of writing as incursion into an external critical territory, rather than Art Writing as generated within a creative ‘making’ space.
♥ Vanilla is not plain, vanilla is an individual flavour derived from the vanilla pod and seeds. Black, oily, earthy, sweet, fragrant. How I ♥ vanilla. How I detest the equation of vanilla with plain.
‘Art Writing is in the situation of a fulcrum.’
Why? Is this a passive fulcrum, a static point surrounded by dynamism? Or is this an active fulcrum, provoking / catalysing movement? What is ‘the situation’ that a fulcrum is in?
‘Art Writing is an anthology of examples.’
I am disengaged. Is there a problem? Yes. The statements are ahistorical, apolitical, unsituated.
‘Art Writing is re-invented in each instance of Art Writing, determining its own criteria.’
‘Art Writing addresses material literary forms, which draw attention to the spatiality of writing and the physicality of its support, but the interests of Art Writing diverge from those of literature.’
Materiality – spatiality – physicality.
What are the interests of literature, that they could be diverged from (would wish to be diverged from) by the interests of Art Writing, and what is to be gained by the Art Writer (artist?) in this act of divergence.
Perhaps interests are desires, and thus all interests must be fantasies: see Barthes – The Preparation of the Novel
‘Art Writing involves relations between people, as discursive. In so far as it is art, Art Writing can engage public space no longer sustained by ground, including that of truth.’
I. AM. SO. TIRED>
Art Writing institutes such public space without truth, and sometimes disappears into it.
QUESTIONS TO SELF
How is this post relevant to my research?
What was I trying to find out?
Where does it direct my enquiry?
Track a history of the term art writing.
Look at the idea of ‘writing as performance’ Peggy Phelan?
Look at ‘category’ in relation to psychoanalysis.
Look at ‘category in relation to memory.
Explore Ranciere’s idea of the Indisciplinary.
Explore an art/work/text as meditative case study. Laure Provoust’s Artist Book?
Get away from the screen and into the studio.
Note to self – categories are important, in that i must structure & define my research, in that the screenplay is a document of problematised categories… and that problematised categories might be talked of in relation to the unconscious, to memoir & memory…
Bibliography / Further reading (please do suggest more…)
Barthes, Roland, The Preparation of the Novel: Lecture Courses and Seminars at the Collège de France (1978-1979 and 1979-1980) (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought & Cultural Criticism), trans. Kate Briggs, New York: Columbia University Press: 2011
Douglas, Mary, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (1966), London and New York: Rutledge Classics: 2002
Hampton, Michael, a letter to Art Monthly headed Art/Writing, (December – January 2004), No 352 p18
Millar, John D., Art|Write, Art Monthly (April 2014) No 375, p9
Millar, John D., Art/Writing, Art Monthly (September 2011) No 349, p11
Millar, John D., Conceptual Writing, Art Monthly (November 2012) No 361 p10
Rancière, Jaques, Thinking between disciplines: an aesthetics of knowledge, trans. Jon Roffe http://www.parrhesiajournal.org/parrhesia01/parrhesia01_ranciere.pdf
Rendell, Jane, a letter to Art Monthly headed Art Writing, Art Monthly (December – January 2004) No 272, p15
Williams, Gilda, Write On, Art Monthly (March 2015) No 384, p11