22 February 2009


The Nordic Association for Architectural Research and the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art, NTNU, are looking forward to arranging an international conference on the subject ARCHITECTURAL RESEARCH AND ARCHITECTURAL CRITICISM in Trondheim, Norway 23-25 April 2009. Architecture is a cultural expression that to a great extent influences both public and private space. Thereby, in an important way, it creates possibilities and limitations to how people can live their lives. A critical discussion of the quality of architecture is vital to enable the creation of surroundings that give life the best possibilities to unfold and develop. Even if it already exists a public critique of architecture, this has not by far the scope that is necessary to reach this goal. The professional or academic foundations of architectural critique vary a lot as well. Consequently, one question that rises from the point of view of research in architecture, is whether research may contribute to create criticism with a more solid foundation. Consequently, the title and the topic of the conference is ARCHITECTURAL RESEARCH AND ARCHITECTURAL CRITICISM. We will not deal with architectural criticism as such, but with the relationship between research and criticism, in other words how research may contribute to criticism and what criticism may offer research. -- Conference e-mail: Conference url:

01 January 2009

At first sniff ...

Is it possible to review perfume as you would the arts? Novelist Hilary Mantel takes on some of the current bestsellers

Hilary Mantel
The Guardian, Thursday 1 January 2009

In any department store at this time of year there is a reliably comic sight - buyers trying to choose discounted perfumes by sniffing the necks of the spray bottles. Scent makes sense on skin, and only on skin. Why are we such fools about fragrance? Led on by lush advertising, seduced by editorial gush in magazines dependent on their advertisers, we abandon natural discrimination and distrust our own noses. Scents are not so much objects as performances, processes, but we lack a process for appraising them. Book critics can be savagely partisan, opera critics sniffy, and film critics make you choose to stay at home. Could you review a scent as you review these art forms? Yes, I would argue. One word, for example, would sum up Beckham Signature: illiterate. Mitsouko would need a volume of essays.

Where do they lurk, the perfume critics? There are scent blogs on the internet, often well-informed. But most bloggers write carelessly, and, in such a subjective matter, some precision is needed.


12 November 2008

Age of Anxiety

by Dan Fox
Published in frieze Issue 114 April 2008

Would the critic be more productive writing in the morning rather than at night? Is the critic happy working at home, or do they prefer libraries and quiet caf├ęs? Are the critic’s interpretative faculties sharpened by strong coffee, or is the glass of cheap red they are drinking easing them into a suitable frame of mind? Does the critic feel that putting Gustav Mahler on the stereo has set the right mood for their task? Perhaps Jay-Z is better? Would the critic prefer to be writing on a Mac rather than their temperamental old PC? To what extent does the missing letter ‘q’ on the PC’s keyboard affect the critic’s choice of words? Is the Internet a constant distraction for the critic? As the critic once again consults Wikipedia, does a small voice in their head chide them for losing touch with traditional research skills? How heavily does the anxiety of influence weigh on the critic?


22 October 2008

A five-star experience

Theatre critic Michael Billington explains why he stepped out of his comfort zone to try his hand at directing some of Harold Pinter's most challenging works.

"Colleagues have variously described me as mad, foolhardy or brave to step out of the critical comfort zone. But I don't quite see it like that. It seems to me absurd that people driven by a hunger for theatre should be confined to little boxes from which they can never escape. The roles of the director and critic overlap. In both cases, the prime task is to discern an author's intention and to interpret it as clearly as possible. The big difference is that the critic does it with words, whereas the director engages in a collaborative process with actors, designers, and lighting and sound experts. What we are all trying to do is get to the root of the text."

Article in The Guardian.

17 October 2008

Why I Blog

by Andrew Sullivan

For centuries, writers have experimented with forms that evoke the imperfection of thought, the inconstancy of human affairs, and the chastening passage of time. But as blogging evolves as a literary form, it is generating a new and quintessentially postmodern idiom that’s enabling writers to express themselves in ways that have never been seen or understood before. Its truths are provisional, and its ethos collective and messy. Yet the interaction it enables between writer and reader is unprecedented, visceral, and sometimes brutal. And make no mistake: it heralds a golden era for journalism.

Article here.

25 September 2008

The Personal and the Individual (Leonard Michaels)

Nothing should be easier than talking about ways in which I write about myself, but I find it isn’t easy at all. Indeed, I want to say before anything else that a great problem for me, in writing about myself, is how not to write merely about myself. I think the problem is very common among writers even if they are unaware of it. Basic elements of writing–diction, grammar, tone, imagery, the patterns of sound made by your sentences–will say a good deal about you (whether you are conscious of it or not) so that it is possible for you to be writing about yourself before you even know you are writing about yourself. Regardless of your subject, these basic elements, as well as countless and immeasurable qualities of mind, are at play in your writing and will make your presence felt to a reader as palpably as your handwriting. You virtually write your name, as it were, before you literally sign your name, every time you write.

Read more in Partisan Review 1/ 2001 VOLUME LXVIII NUMBER 1

Selected further reading (first meeting):

Encyclopaedia of the Essay, ed. Tracy Chevalier
Michel de Montaigne: ”On the art of conversation” (from The Complete Essays)
Leigh Hunt, "Getting Up on Cold Mornings" (1820)
Virginia Woolf: A Room of One’s Own (1929)
Theodor W. Adorno “The Essay as Form”, Notes to Literature, volume one. Trans. Sherry Weber Nicholsen. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991, 3-4.
E.B. White
”Once More to the Lake” (1941)
Annie Dillard, ”Living Like Weasels” (1974)
Roland Barthes, The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962-80, trans. Linda Coverdale, (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1991)

Nick Kaye, Site-Specific Art: Performance, Place and Documentation (London, Routledge, 2000)

David Foster Wallace, ”Consider the Lobster” (2004)