Anthology Unfolding the Critical
On 28 February and 1 March 2003, Sarma curated a small international colloquium during the festival Amperdans, which was organized by arts centre Monty and work-place wp Zimmer in Antwerp (Belgium).
The issue of art criticism triggers a question of what the 'critical' element of this criticism actually implies. Does art criticism hold this 'critical' aspect on a lease, or does it share this capacity (and the task) with the creation of art and the curatorial compilation of a program? How is the 'critical' implemented in these practices? How to disentangle this cluster of concerns and criteria? And above all, in what way can it be applied in the artistic field at the present time?
Sarma's objective is to stimulate dance and performance criticism and this by means of both online and offline activities. It wants to enhance reflection on the particular genre by widening up its scope to art criticism in general and to critique in a broader sense of the word, including philosophical, ethical, political, cultural etc. aspects. When reflecting upon criticism, many authors are prone to address poetical matters of description and interpretation, even contextual matters. Still, the question of what the critical component consists of remains often open. What does 'being critical' actually hinge upon?
One could assume that the critical locates itself in an operation, since a critique is performed upon something, and this in myriad ways: analysing a discourse, dissecting an artistic structure, pointing to an ideological subtext, rendering visible the delusion of the media� In these concrete instances criticism is able to outline its target, to name its strategies, but what seems to escape is its very core: why is criticism critical? Always ready to claim its critical character, criticism seems to cover its ignorance with arrogance. Being critical happens to be the blind spot of criticism.
In the field of the arts there is a modernist tradition, exemplified by Clement Greenberg, that posits the activity of 'auto-critique' or 'self-criticism' as the motor of a progression towards a purified essence. This immanent criticism does not criticise from the outside, as the Enlightenment did, but from the inside, through the procedures themselves of that which is being criticised or by means of methods characteristic of the discipline itself. Nowadays we might unmask this folding upon oneself as 'narcissism'. With the crisis of modernity an explosive world seems not to call for a detached contemplation in art and its criticism anymore but for a reconfiguration of aesthetics that opens up to different ethical and political stances. What does 'self-criticism' mean in this light, when we leave a modernist praxis behind and are confronted with this heavily intrusive context?
The new millennium brought forth also a proliferation of disciplines and specialisations. More than ever, art lives by fostering crossovers, intermediality, remediation, transversality, etcetera. A similar dispersal and complexity marks the current embodiment of professional roles: the critic becomes dramaturg, the dramaturg curates events, the curator is an art philosopher, the art philosopher turns artist, etcetera. If every role has its attributes and particularities, what then happens in the spill-over of this role hopping? Does it allow us to understand better the blind spots of a praxis by assuming other ones? What distinguishes the critic from the curator from the artist? And above all: what does the critical respectively mean in these different practices?
Friday 28th February 2003, 3 pm. - lectures and debate
- Critical Reflections: In bed with Madonna - by art philospoher Thierry de Duve (B) Abstract: I am asked to give you my views on art criticism. This I cannot decently do by pretending to have a general theory of what art criticism is, or should be, for all art critics. I can only talk about myself and tell you how the love of art, together with a passion for theoretical understanding, are the two things that prompt me to write on art. Especially when it is theoretically inclined, art criticism is a strange intellectual endeavor, utterly subjective and yet striving after some "truth," and involving critical reflection throughout. Let me try to dissect before you what I do (or what I think I do - the risk of self-delusion is enormous) when I practice art criticism.
- Intoxications of the Critical - by dramaturg and performance theoretician Erwin Jans (B) Abstract: The 'critical' has become a highly ambiguous notion because the notion of culture has become highly ambiguous. This ambiguity has become one of the essential chracteristics of modern criticism and should be accepted as such. I see my own professional position as a dramaturg in a theatre company as partaking in this ambiguity: at the same time involved and not involved, close to artists but not being an artist, aware of an ideological context but not being able to do much about it, active and passive at the same time.
- Dance critic Pieter T'Jonck (B) responded and opened the debate. Due to technical problems, the recording of this part of the debate was lost.
Saturday 1st March 2003, 2 pm. - dialogues
Guided by the question of the 'critical', Sarma critics, artists and presenters at the festival entered into dialogue:
- Natasha Hassiotis (G) meets Alexander Baervoets (B): Unfolding the critical: Conversation between Natasha Hassiotis and Alexander Baervoets
- Tang Fu Kuen (Sg/GB) meets Arco Renz (D/B): Unfolding the Critical: Conversation between Tang Fu Kuen and Arco Renz
- Marit Strømmen (No) meets Hooman Sharifi (Ir/No): Unfolding the critical: conversation between Marit Strommen and Hooman Sharifi
- Helmut Ploebst (A) meets Barbara Van Lindt (B): Unfolding the critical: conversation between Helmut Ploebst and Barbara Van Lindt
The colloquium was conceived and chaired by Jeroen Peeters and Myriam Van Imschoot, with dramaturgical assistance of Sigrid Janssens.
Texts on the Critical
On the occasion of Unfolding the Critical, Sarma made a small reader that comprises essays about criticism as well as texts of several artists who partake in the discussions during the colloquium. After the event the reader will also function as proceedings and compile the lectures, discussions and dialogues. All this material can be accessed through the search form under the keyword 'criticism'.
The reader reflects a fanning out of perspectives and thus certainly does not convey a single view on art criticism. Journalistic accounts tend to regard the critical practice as a mediation between art and its public, while essayistic approaches seem to be more concerned with an autonomous position from which to carry out in-depth analyses. This range is further expanded by metacritical reflections that address poetical and contextual issues and open up the notion of critique itself, including philosophical, ethical, political, cultural etc. aspects.
In Sarma's database all these texts are presented as food for the digital reader: ready to make his or her own associations, dodge blind spots and construct one's own understanding of the 'critical'.
In 2006 Sarma collected a second anthology on criticism: Anthology Unfolding the Critical - bis
More on the Amperdans festival
Monty and wp Zimmer on the festival:"Amperdans is the crossroads where the artistic activities of two production houses meet: the Monty arts centre and the Zimmer work-place. In a four-day programme they present the fruits of the artistic labour that is carried on within our walls everyday. It all comes under the name dance and performance. The programme is based on our commitment to performers who want to enrich these disciplines with their own visions and stories. What they have in common is an artistic stopover in Antwerp where they are able to develop their work under the wing of Monty or wp Zimmer. Colleagues from abroad are invited so that they can also continue their work beyond the borders of their country."
The Amperdans festival presented teamworks and solo's by artists supported by Monty & wpZimmer: Alexander Baervoets, Claire Croizé, Etienne Guilloteau, David Hernandez, Edit Kaldor, Kinkaleri, Carlos Pez Gonzalez, Arco Renz, Hooman Shaarifi and Bomba Suicida.