Time for new strategies in art criticism

Locale: Auditorium (‘Hörsalen’), Göteborg Museum of Art
Date and time: Saturday 5 November 2005, 2 p.m.

Guest speakers:
Sara Arrhenius, curator for this year’s art biennial
Christian Chambert, president of the Swedish section of AICA
Marie Demker, professor in political science, Göteborg University
Ingrid Elam, head of Department of Art, Culture and Communication (K3), Malmö University

Discussion leader:
Sophie Allgårdh, art critic for the national daily, Svenska Dagbladet

The Swedish section of AICA in collaboration with the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art 2005

Admission charge 50 Swedish crowns, including the Biennial and the Museum

The discussion to be conducted in Swedish

Art criticism is said to be in a state of crisis both here at home and, for example, in the USA, the situation being due not least to the critics having lost their power. But doesn’t this conclusion rest on a misunderstanding of our intellectual commitment? Isn’t it all to the good that the critics have lost the power that we have a duty to review, and isn’t this debate just largely an indication of different generations staking differing relative positions?

Those not included in the flood of mailing lists bringing invitations to events in the art world suffer from an information problem. The critic determines what he or she finds interesting to write about. But who bears overall responsibility?

The risk is that the art critic becomes far too introvert, retreating to the security of his or her own genre. Once again there exists today experimental art with a social agenda. Does the scrutinizing cultural critic have greater influence in today’s society than he had in the years of revolt more than thirty years ago, back when he was an activist?

What contribution does the critic make, or does the art work always possess the prior right of expression? A work of fiction is delivered to your letterbox; a work of art has to be seen in situ. Does this make for a difference when it comes to description and evaluation?

An imbalance prevails in the art world with, on the one hand, gigantic sums in circulation, as an instance the dizzy figures reached at Art 36 Basel, and on the other some ignored, dilapidated public environment here in Sweden. Who is concerned to ensure that this range is reflected in the media?

How can the critic writing in online magazines and blogs influence criticism in the daily press, and is such influence desirable? And what does the alternative criticism look like, sought by many?

There ought to be an English language magazine published in Sweden with broad coverage of contemporary art and including essays of international interest and a lively debate on the arts.

Must the critic be nothing but the critic, or is it possible to combine several different roles without losing credibility?

We are fed daily with informed reports on newsworthy occurrences from around the world but who is in a position to depict the global art culture? What are the consequences for the nomadic art critic of the lack of available resources?

And – not least – what are the requirements for a top-rank critic, i.e. a writer who at minimal fee follows events and material from differing periods and continents: graffiti and other illegal forms of visual expression, dance and theatre-related performance, online art, graphic art, painting, sculpture, handicraft, design, photography, sound art, art film, video, architecturally inspired installations, interactive processes involving the general public and art literature?

Welcome to a wide-ranging discussion with the perspective focused on art criticism.

Sophie Allgårdh, Christian Chambert