22 March 2016, 6pm
In his recent book Bad New Days, influential art writer Hal Foster reiterates his melancholic characterisation of contemporary art as ‘post-critical’. He laments that "today 'criticality' is frequently dismissed as rigid, rote, passé, or all of the above." Despite Foster’s assertion, the word ‘critical’, alongside its siblings ‘critique’, ‘criticism’ and ‘criticality’, abounds in art-historical and art-theoretical writing, particularly in the contexts of a renewed interest in the legacies of Institutional Critique.
Likewise, ‘criticality’ is widely cited in institutional contexts. Art students will regularly receive teaching in ‘critical and contextual studies’. Simultaneously, the practice of art criticism is widely observed to have waned in recent years, the role of the critic having been usurped by the figure of the curator. This complex contextual backdrop demands that we seriously consider the term ‘critical’ and its significance to the field of contemporary art. This task is doubly urgent given the widespread suspicion that the word means less than it might initially seem; that it is simply a badge of honour, or a guarantee of political rigour.
This event looked at the word, its history and its contemporary usage in order to establish just what it means for an artistic, curatorial or writing practice to be ‘critical’.
KEYWORDS: A (Polemical) Vocabulary of Contemporary Art is a project led by Victoria Horne and Harry Weeks. Supported by:
This is an archived programme entry.