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Criticism and Experience

This text is an essay, and as such, it is also an exercise in speculation. To speculate here means to take the following question seriously: why would an art magazine only publish photographs in black and white? Insofar as this question implies the possibility of critically interpreting a design decision, this essay can speak about graphic design—but in an oblique way. What is really at stake here concerns the relationship between art and writing—a relationship that begs to be viewed broadly, and in such a way that we might consider the means, media, and channels through which writing on art circulates, hence the possibility of taking the question seriously.

It is seldom that art writing becomes involved in a debate about its own means and media, as has always been common with art-making. And although I do not address the political implications of this scarcity here, I do believe that it is something that warrants further consideration. Art writing, especially in the context of the last few decades, with its determination to erase all vestiges of belletrism, has renounced its experimental condition, which resonates with the Spanish word ensayo (which means “essay,” but also “attempt”). In any case, this essay, or attempt, aims to suggest there to be more of a relationship between art and writing than simply what is implied by the conjunction “and” between the two words—in other words, a relationship surpassing that of a discipline and its object of study.

One can say that there is writing about art, above art, across art, after art, against art, along art, alongside art, amid art, among art, around art, as art, atop art, barring art, before art, behind art, below art, beneath art, beside art, besides art, between art, beyond art, by art, concerning art, despite art, except art, excluding art, failing art, following art, for art, from art, in art, including art, inside art, into art, like art, minus art, near art, next to art, notwithstanding art, of art, off art, on art, onto art, opposite art, out of art, outside art, over art, pace art, past art, per art, qua art, regarding art, since art, through art, throughout art, to art, towards art, under art, underneath art, unlike art, until art, upon art, versus art, via art, with art, within art and without art (and vice-versa). I assume that the act of writing allows one to understand things that can only be understood when written, just as there are things that can only be understood in the presence of art. The relationship between writing about art and experiencing art do not exclude each other. But at the same time, neither can be completely subsumed by the other. And both contaminate one another.

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