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A lot has been said and written about art in general and somewhat less about criticism in particular. Criticism and creation share a first letter and the same territory, though it’s a place that is a lot less comfortable than one might believe or want to find. A critical or creative voyage needs for its navigation a constant disarticulation or modification of the discourses that fills its sails.
And one thing that is indispensable for criticism and art is the continuous reconsideration of its legitimacy, the authority of its own discourse, to avoid falling into the void of a perverse mutation of this authority into an orthodoxy or power model. I agree in thinking that criticism, like contemporary art production, is always a condition to elaborate knowledge, an attitude closer to action than composure. That implicates our understanding of the past and capacity to construct a future.
In a discussion about criticism, curating and art, the lecturer Martí Peran presented an interesting reflection full of critical judgement and an aversion to the frivolity of culture and subsidiary nature of criticism converted into mere cultural journalism. In the first minutes of the video (more material available in the platform Arts Coming), Peran insists on dismantling the role of the critic and curator of exhibitions, the first having been converted into a commentator and the second an administrator at the service of the institutions. Criticism and curating have advanced in their professionalization, in the mercantile sense of the term, at the cost of evicting any depth from their efforts. An interesting reflection upon the conventional forms of criticism and how these have colonised other cultural contexts overwhelming them with a neoliberal rhetoric that creates duplicitous concepts such as ’pluralism’, ’transversality’ or ’interdisciplinary’. The critic offers us a new reading that supplants the disciplines inviting us to resist the tautology of art that refers to art.
In the same recording of his analysis, Martí Peran in the second part of the conversation broaches the structures and function of what we call contemporary art. Here the condition of the simulacra and spectacle of art is confronted with the need for art production to assume the historical conditions of the present and work towards creating places to negotiate with the real, without escapisms. The idea of art is expressed as a space and an action of a utopian spirit capable of not succumbing to particular conditions of the real, imposed as suitable conditions. “When art is recognised as art, it is rapidly neutralised as merchandise”, with this affirmation Peran points out that breaking away from the idea of art to become something ‘strange’ far from being a conflict is the true mission of art.
And to talk about art is not about defining languages or codes, so much as paying heed to places for action. In these times of absolute iniquity of institutional culture, prone to acts of vandalism and social terrorism, the words of Martí Peran are more indispensable than ever. There is a lot to be done and even more to abolish. We’ve all been caught with our pants down!
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)