Critics, Historians, Theorists
The importance of being able to speak and write well about your work cannot be underestimated. However, I would offer the more one is adamant about their creative process and being in the state of making work the more one needs the writer – translator. We, the makers, understand what we are doing and can and must articulate about it. We need to know our history in order to speak and write eloquently about what we are doing in the moment. But then – enter the critic – historian – theorist.
In the wake of an art world that is far too large, the good art writer is important. I know there are some of you makers reading this who think I have gone to the “dark side” – let’s face it, lots of studio folks dislike the critics, historians, theorists. How could art writers know anything? They do not make work – they don’t know, intimately, the creative process of a given artist. Beyond that is the fear that the maker will go unrecognized – well – look at old issues of ArtForum or Art in America – few of those makers are of relevance today.
Among the first things to consider is that there are some arts writers who have made work. More importantly, their role is to hold the big picture. Artists can do that too, many are extremely knowledgeable, they have to be – one cannot contribute to the discourse of the history of art without knowing that discourse. The way I see it, my job is as a maker – I want to be left alone in my studio to work, research – contemplate. Yes, I have to know what I’m doing, but it is not my role to position my work. That is the job of a critic or historian. It is rarely the role of the gallerists – they are sales people – there are some “greats” in the business who can be considered for their wisdom for placing work in a proper context, but they are few and far between.
There is something of great value in a critical process happening around and outside of me. I want to be in my space making work. – grappling with concepts, researching; commenting through visual means on ideas and histories. I do not want to be bothered with thinking about how or if i fit in. If I spend one moment on thoughts of how I fit in I will not be making genuine work.
This being said, there are arts writers who are more concerned with positioning themselves than those they are supposed to be responding to. People that make work need others to talk about, position and translate – dare I say even bestow a lineage upon the work. All of this is actually quite a responsibility if done well. When this era of “Oh! You’re an artist. Oh, and you and you and you too” passes – what will be left are makers and seers of the makers who have helped to translate the work.