Sunday, October 15, 2006

everything you ever wanted to know...

Karl Zipser recently interviewed me for his thoughtful blog, Art and Perception. Topics include me as an art-writer, the state of the contemporary scene, and the relationship between internet globalization and local art cultures. Here are the results.

Labels: ,

9 Comments:

Anonymous Karl Zipser said...

I dont't mean to be pusy, Arthur, but I'm still hoping to hear about the conflicts of interest one might encounter between the role of artist and art-critic.

On one section of my blog I review Hanneke van Oosterhout's artwork. I felt it was important to state in the "About this site" page that she is my girlfriend, so that readers could evaluate potential conflicts for themselves. Thus, the issue of conflicts of interest is an important one to me, and probably others.

I would be interested to hear more about your experiences.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Nancy Geyer said...

If reviewing the artwork of someone you are sleeping with is not a conflict of interest, nothing is. The conflict is not "potential;" it is full blown. And I shouldn't have to go to the "About this site" page to find this out. It is another matter if you are informally discussing a girlfriend's work and state the relationship up front. But you use the word "review."

I too review art for the Ithaca Times; have been for three years. I moved to Ithaca at about the same time I started reviewing. Over time, as I personally got to know more and more artists in the community, I had to ask myself whether my relationships with any of these artists warranted taking a pass on reviewing their work. I erred on the side of avoiding any appearance of a conflict of interest. Unfortunately, because there were no other Ithaca Times art reviewers for a long time, some worthy shows went unreviewed. And so I lobbied to have someone else join the paper as a critic.

I'll illustrate this more clearly. I became good friends with the owners of a gallery that happens to be one of the consistently better galleries in the area. They are good curators --sadly lacking in this town -- and so there is the likelihood that any review I write will be more positive than negative. I might feel that my judgment won't be compromised by my friendship with these people, and I know for a fact that they are genuinely open to a real dialogue about the shows they put on. But what if I'm dining with them in a restaurant and we are seen by other curators and artists who have received far less flattering reviews? They will rightly become cynical.

In the above case, after discussing the matter with the chair of a university art department, an artist who also was at one time a national art critic, I decided that if there were no other reviewers I could review my friends' shows after all, though not their own work (they are both artists as well as gallery owners).
Not a perfect solution, perhaps, but a necessary compromise in a town with too few art reviewers.

Art criticism in a small town is often little more than boosterism. "Reviewers" -- not Arthur, who is blessedly opinionated, it should be said -- fall into this p.r. style of reporting, not knowing any better, apparently. And editors aren't equipped to enlighten them. This is another reason to be on guard against diluting criticism that, while admittedly subjective, should aim for impartiality.

Finally, it seems to me that too many blogs, even the best of them, are falling into the trap of I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine -- they become mutually self-promotional, as if the bloggers don't have to "earn" the right to be read. When I read a blog I'm looking for a thoughtful, informative, critical discourse without the distraction of all the networking that is going on. In this sense, blogs are not all that different from formal reviews.

8:33 PM  
Blogger arthur said...

Nancy,

Karl's comment above was originally posted in an ongoing discussion in response to the interview I mentioned. It makes a lot more sense in its origial context and shouldn't have been re-posted here. Probably you've already figured this out.

As for Karl's writing on his girlfriend, most of it can be found at www.zipser.nl/follow-the-painting/
I'm only now reading it, but it looks more like an informal diary than a critical review of finished work. It does seem as if the relationship could be made more explicit. Mentioning the fact every few posts would help.

As for blogs, the social networking aspect is pretty much inevitable. Blogs are more inherantly social than articles in an newspaper. There are a lot of quality blogs out there; social considerations do come into play in deciding which ones to pay attention to. That said, I hope I've been able to avoid the worst vulgarities.

Are you still doing pieces for the Times Nancy?

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Karl Zipser said...

Hi Nancy and Arthur,

I appreciate the feedback. I'm glad I posted the comment here, even it was out of context, Arthur.

I don't review Hanneke's work as a professional critic. That was a poor choice of words. I would say I present it and critique it. I want her to have success with her work, of course, but I find it important to be objective in presenting it. This has been helpful to both of us in understanding what she makes.

However, I think you are right that I should make my relationship even more clear than I do. To say it in each and every post might be tedious, but better to be too explicit than not clear enough. I'm only starting to get used to putting personal information online, but here is a case where it is misleading to leave it out (or even be a bit shy about it).

Nancy, I especially like this remark of yours:

'it seems to me that too many blogs, even the best of them, are falling into the trap of I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine -- they become mutually self-promotional, as if the bloggers don't have to "earn" the right to be read. When I read a blog I'm looking for a thoughtful, informative, critical discourse without the distraction of all the networking that is going on.'

We bloggers do have to "earn" the right to be read, this is an excellent way to put it.

3:41 PM  
Blogger arthur said...

Nancy,

I didn't mean to sound so critical about your last comment. It was basically well-taken. My main goal is indeed to provide "thoughtful, informative, critical discourse", although obviously I haven't been doing too well here.

However, it highly difficult to keep things pure in this regard. (Which isn't to say that no bloggers accomplish this.) In addition to the social networking aspect, blogs are structured like diaries. Most blogs are diaries essentially, which is of course fine.

The situtation with subject-based blogs is not wholly dissimilar. Because of the form's associations, and because of people's natural desire to want to communicate on a personal level, diaristic material does tend to creep in. It may or may not be relevant to the blog's putative focus.

6:36 PM  
Blogger arthur said...

Karl,

I'm glad you posted the comment too, although it caused me--and apparently Nancy as well--some confusion.

While I try to link to other blogs based primarily on quality and relevance, I see nothing inherantly wrong with promoting the writing of friends (online or otherwise) if it meets these criteria. Tying this back to our discussions of critical "conflicts of interest", I also see nothing inherantly wrong with promoting the artwork of friends in the guise of a critical review. In the latter case--and perhaps in the former too-it is important to make the relationships explicit.

If the "friendly" relationship involves the exchange of money, I would make an exception. Other exceptions no doubt exist as well.

To give a concrete example, I will soon be reviewing a Boston show of work my my former teacher Gerry Bergstein. I love his work, which is what attracted me both to his teaching and his exhibitions. I actually don't think he was a great instructor, for what that's worth. I intend to be as critical as possible and to make my former relationship clear. Will I be doing anything wrong? Hopefully not.

6:54 PM  
Blogger birgit said...

I love Hanneke's series 'follow the painting', because it helped me to learn about the making of art. The promotional aspect is separate issue

- Karl's mom

10:53 PM  
Anonymous David said...

If reviewing the artwork of someone you are sleeping with is not a conflict of interest, nothing is.

Did Clement Greenberg write any reviews of Helem Frankenthaler's work?

12:48 PM  
Blogger arthur said...

Yes, well rules are made to be broken some times.

3:51 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home