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?

The colloquium

Friday 28th February 2003, 3 pm. - lectures and debate

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:

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.

Results 1-20 of 23, page 1 of 2

Author Title Publication Year
Marianne Van Kerkhoven De weg is deel van de bestemming Etcetera 1994
Erwin Jans Kritische Intoxicaties Etcetera 2002
Tang Fu Kuen, Arco Renz Unfolding the Critical: Conversation between Tang Fu Kuen and Arco Renz Sarma 2003
Hooman Sharifi Artistic objective Sarma 2003
Thierry De Duve Critical Reflections: In bed with Madonna Sarma 2003
Frank Vande Veire Cultuur, kunst, kritiek… De Witte Raaf 1994
Alexander Baervoets Dans als een volwaardige kunstvorm Sarma 1995
Fransien van der Putt Dansdiscours moddert voort TM 2003
Bart Verschaffel De zaak van de kunst De Witte Raaf 2002
Erwin Jans Interculturele en theatrale intoxicaties Verspeelde werkelijkheid 2002
Erwin Jans Intoxications of the Critical Sarma 2003
Rudi Laermans Kritiek als afscheid van de intellectueel De Witte Raaf 1998
Arco Renz Mirth: A story of Abstraction Sarma 2002
Rudi Laermans Neokritiek en staatsliberalisme De Witte Raaf 1997
Bart Verschaffel Over kunst, ontroering en kritiek De Witte Raaf 1996
Alexander Baervoets Sein und Schein (True or False) Sarma 1999
Alexander Baervoets Some reflections on time Sarma 1999
Alexander Baervoets The future of dance and its aesthetics: truth, beauty and goodness? Sarma 2002
Alexander Baervoets, Natasha Hassiotis Unfolding the critical: Conversation between Natasha Hassiotis and Alexander Baervoets Sarma 2003
Helmut Ploebst, Barbara Van Lindt Unfolding the critical: conversation between Helmut Ploebst and Barbara Van Lindt Sarma 2003

Results 1-20 of 23, page 1 of 2