Special Issue "Reconsidering the State(s) of Criticism"

A special issue of Arts (ISSN 2076-0752).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (14 August 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Stephen Moonie
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Lecturer in Art History, Department of Fine Art, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK
Interests: modernist painting; modernist criticism; post-war art in the U.S.

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Ten years ago, James Elkins and Michael Newman's The State of Criticism was published. Despite the richness of the discussion provided by its contributors over two roundtables—and in the collection's numerous postscripts—the most striking aspect of the anthology was the complete lack of consensus upon fundamental notions around criticism. Those included: its function; its proper object of attention; its relationship to art history; its own history (or lack of it); and the perennial problem of 'neutrality' and the critic's complicities.

One might conclude from this rancour and dissension that criticism is a lost cause: although like painting, its death has been announced on a number of occasions. Some commentators claim that criticism has been superseded by 'theory', by 'art-writing', or by 'critical art'; others claim that criticism is compromised by its parochialism, or by its relationship to the market. Others have noted that critical prestige has been usurped by curators and collectors.

This Special Issue proposes that confusion over the role of criticism is a problem worthy of much more careful consideration, and that claims made for its demise can no longer be taken for granted. The appearance of Elkins' and Newman's anthology coincided with the 2007–08 Financial Crisis. Since then, the global cultural and political climate has changed significantly, requiring that we reconsider the place of criticism anew. Notions of judgment, voice, and critical discrimination may be more, not less pertinent in an age of 'big data', artificial intelligence, the widespread proliferation of culture, and the contentious notion of 'post-truth'. In what ways might criticism be re-considered in the current context? What kind of knowledge does it provide?

The issue invites essays that include, but are not limited to, the issues sketched above. The issue welcomes contributions which proceed from particular moments, or acts of criticism which open out onto to the broader issues at stake.  

Dr. Stephen Moonie
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Arts is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • criticism
  • judgement
  • modernism
  • post-modernism
  • contemporary art

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Special Issue: ‘Reconsidering the State(s) of Criticism’
Arts 2021, 10(2), 38; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/arts10020038 - 18 Jun 2021
Viewed by 372
Abstract
The ‘crisis’ of criticism has recurred intermittently since the late 1960s, in which we encounter challenges to supposed authority—or, even, to its very credibility [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconsidering the State(s) of Criticism)

Research

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Article
Art as Critique under Neoliberalism: Negativity Undoing Economic Naturalism
Arts 2021, 10(1), 11; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/arts10010011 - 04 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 902
Abstract
This essay considers the possibilities of contemporary art as a viable medium of socio-political critique within a cultural terrain dominated by naturalised neoliberal economics. It begins by considering the centrality of negativity to the historical project of critical theory most forcefully pursued by [...] Read more.
This essay considers the possibilities of contemporary art as a viable medium of socio-political critique within a cultural terrain dominated by naturalised neoliberal economics. It begins by considering the centrality of negativity to the historical project of critical theory most forcefully pursued by Adorno as ‘negative dialectics.’ Subsequent varieties of postmodern critique fairly dispensed with dialectics variously favouring complexity and an overriding emphasis on textuality. With the birth of neoliberalism and its burgeoning emphasis on ‘the contemporary’, economic values begin to penetrate every aspect of contemporary life and experience, including art and culture. Contemporary capitalism dematerialised as financialisation now comprises a naturalised ambience that is both everywhere and nowhere. Capitalist ambience is echoed in contemporary art that suggests criticality and yet seems to side with the imagery, values and logics of the prevailing financial order. The naturalisation of the neoliberal order is further internalised by artists online. Exacerbated contemporary emphasis on the ‘self as entrepreneur’ coincides with the biopolitical transformation of the contemporary artist into an individual ‘enterprise unit’. This is particularly observable online on social media where an artist’s whole life is simultaneously the subject and object of art. Criticality in art does not disappear but becomes ‘self-annulling’: it acts as a conduit questioning the commodity-identity of art while pointing to phenomena and affects outside the art world. With the recent appearance of the COVID-19 virus, added to the unignorable impact of global climate change, ‘real nature’ assumes a critical role, undermining neoliberalism’s ideological naturalisation while laying-bare the extent of its structural contradictions. Art criticality is revivified by divesting from art contexts saturated with neoliberal imperatives. Criticality is negatively practiced as an ‘un-’ or ‘not-doing’, defining modes of exodus while, crucially, not abandoning art’s institutional definition altogether. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconsidering the State(s) of Criticism)
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Article
Political Art Criticism and the Need for Theory
Arts 2021, 10(1), 1; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/arts10010001 - 27 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1437
Abstract
Day-to-day art criticism and art theory are qualitatively distinct. Whereas the best art criticism entails a closeness to its objects which is attuned to particularity, art theory inherently makes generalized claims, whether these claims are extrapolated from the process of art criticism or [...] Read more.
Day-to-day art criticism and art theory are qualitatively distinct. Whereas the best art criticism entails a closeness to its objects which is attuned to particularity, art theory inherently makes generalized claims, whether these claims are extrapolated from the process of art criticism or not. However, this article argues that these dynamics are effectively reversed if we consider the disparity between the criticism of so-called political art and attempts over the last century to elaborate theory which accounts for the political in art qua art. Art theory has located the political force of art precisely in the way that its particularity opposes or resists the status quo. Art criticism, on the other hand, tends to treat artwork as a text to be interpreted whose particularity may as well dissolve when translated into discourse. Drawing from the work of Theodor W. Adorno, this article argues that political art theory calls for art criticism more attuned to experience if it is to elucidate art’s critical valence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconsidering the State(s) of Criticism)
Article
The Work of Art Criticism: Collaboration, Communication, Community
Arts 2020, 9(4), 101; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/arts9040101 - 29 Sep 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 906
Abstract
This essay aims to reconsider the practice of art criticism. The first part aims to clear away some misconceptions that reduce art criticism to a fundamentally negative discourse that asserts a theory/practice distinction. In the second part, the essay tries to think of [...] Read more.
This essay aims to reconsider the practice of art criticism. The first part aims to clear away some misconceptions that reduce art criticism to a fundamentally negative discourse that asserts a theory/practice distinction. In the second part, the essay tries to think of art criticism as collaborative writing alongside rather than about an artist. The third part, however, highlights some problems insofar as communication and collaboration have become imbricated within post-Fordist socioeconomic frameworks. In addition, the fourth part seeks to propose another direction by suggesting why art criticism and Kantian aesthetics may discover a renewed interest in one another through rethinking the sensus communis as an alternative to post-Fordist sociality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconsidering the State(s) of Criticism)
Article
Art Criticism and the State of Feminist Art Criticism
Arts 2020, 9(1), 28; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/arts9010028 - 25 Feb 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2363
Abstract
This essay is in four parts. The first offers a critique of James Elkins and Michael Newman’s book The State of Art Criticism (Routledge, 2008) for what it tells us about art criticism in academia and journalism and feminism; the second considers how [...] Read more.
This essay is in four parts. The first offers a critique of James Elkins and Michael Newman’s book The State of Art Criticism (Routledge, 2008) for what it tells us about art criticism in academia and journalism and feminism; the second considers how a gendered analysis measures the “state” of art and art criticism as a feminist intervention; and the third, how neo-liberal mis-readings of Linda Nochlin and Laura Mulvey in the art world represent feminism in ideas about “greatness” and the “gaze”, whilst avoiding feminist arguments about women artists or their work, particularly on “motherhood”. In the fourth part, against the limits of the first three, the state of feminist art criticism across the last fifty years is reconsidered by highlighting the plurality of feminisms in transnational, transgenerational and progressive alliances. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconsidering the State(s) of Criticism)
Article
Cultural Ecology and Cultural Critique
Arts 2019, 8(4), 166; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/arts8040166 - 17 Dec 2019
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2181
Abstract
In 2015, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) commissioned John Holden, visiting professor at City University, London, and associate at the think-tank Demos, to write a report on culture as part of its Cultural Value Project. The claim within the report was [...] Read more.
In 2015, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) commissioned John Holden, visiting professor at City University, London, and associate at the think-tank Demos, to write a report on culture as part of its Cultural Value Project. The claim within the report was to redirect culture away from economic prescriptions and to focus on ecological approaches to ‘value’. Holden considers the application and use of ecological tropes to re-situate culture as ‘non-hierarchical’ and as part of symbiotic social processes. By embracing metaphors of ‘emergence,’ ‘interdependence,’ ‘networks,’ and ‘convergence,’ he suggests we can “gain new understandings about how culture works, and these understandings in turn help with policy information and implementation”. This article addresses the role of ‘cultural critique’ in the live environments and ecologies of place-making. It will consider, with examples, how cultural production, cultural practices, and cultural forms generate mixed ecologies of relations between aesthetic, psychic, economic, political, and ethical materialisms. With reference to a body of situated knowledges, derived from place studies to eco-regionalisms, urban to art criticisms, we will consider ecological thinking as a new mode of cultural critique for initiating arts and cultural policy change. Primarily, the operant concept of ‘environing’ will be considered as the condition of possibility for the space of critique. This includes necessary and strategic actions, where mixed ecologies of cultural activity work against the disciplinary policing of space with new assemblages of distributed power Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconsidering the State(s) of Criticism)
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