21 January 2008

Q&A with VV art critic Christian Viveros-Faune, part III

A MAN Q&A with Village Voice art critic Christian Viveros-Faune, continued from part one and from part two...

MAN: You're a managing director of a commercial art fair, Volta, and an organizer of another commercial art fair, Chicago's Next fair. At the same time you're a writer, a journalist, you're the art critic for the Village Voice. Why isn't that the most basic kind of conflict of interest?

Christian Viveros-Faune:
I think essentially, because, I believe you can wear a lot of hats in the art world, and one needs to because, among other things, critics can't survive on the money that they make from writing. Very few critics can. And, not only that, but I'm interested in curating, and I firmly believe that there is no interest in the art world without a conflict of interest.
Now, that may seem counterintuitive, and it is, but I would argue that the art world is counterintuitive in the extreme. In what other industry, for example, does one of the major magazines that chronicles both the creative and the business end of the art world establish an art fair of the same name. Obviously, I'm talking about Frieze.
And that's nothing. Examine, for second, the practice of writing catalog essays. You know and I know that there is no such thing as a negative catalog essay and the reason for that is obvious: one way critics make money is by writing promotional copy for galleries and, hopefully, artists they like or love. And then there's the business of curators and critics slinging their asses around to universities and institutions for speaking engagements.
Shall I go on? I mean, again, what I'm arguing for here is honesty all the way around. Like every other business (or form of writing or discipline for that matter) this is not a pristine business, no matter what the NY Times rules of engagement say. It is full of peaks and valleys. I'm honest about my climbing those peaks and going down into those valleys. Maybe that makes me stupid, I don't know. What I do know is it doesn't affect my ethics when I write. I'd rather not write about the market, because weirdly enough, it doesn't interest me much.


If this Space is For Rent, Who Will Move In?

From Modernist to Postmodernist Forms of Criticism -- Criticism as Art or Advertisement?
by Menachem Feuer
in 1000 Days of Theory: td034
Date Published: 2/22/2006
Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, Editors

Writing years in advance of television and the internet, Walter Benjamin's vision of the future places the new sensibility created by mechanical reproduction at the forefront of modernity. The most important aspect of this sensibility is the radical immediacy it lodges into the heart of modern life. Benjamin understood, quite clearly, that all aspects of life would be affected by this immediacy in a way quite similar to Karl Marx's vision of capitalism in terms of an ecological (read: total) change of society. The danger of such a change, as Benjamin and Marx understood it (both understood capitalism as creating social and cognitive changes), was the threat of homogenization and mindless consumerism. Indeed, Benjamin's colleague at the Frankfurt School, Theodor Adorno, believed the "culture industry" turned everyone into consumers and foreclosed the possibility of thought and heterogeneity.[2] Benjamin took a much different approach, instructive for us in our post 9/11 crisis culture wherein homogeneity is circulated by reducing the world to a Manichean struggle between democracy and terror. He argued that, rather than taking a position that merely reacts to the media, intellectuals should imitate it and use its strengths in the name of revolution and heterogeneity. For this reason, he argued that criticism should incorporate aspects of film and, strangely enough, the most open media expression of capitalism: the advertisement.


Writing, scholarship and the catalogue

"The typical work of modern scholarship is intended to be read like a catalogue. But when shall we actually write books like catalogues? If the deficient content were thus to determine the outward form, an excellent piece of writing would result, in which the value of opinions would be marked without their being thereby put on sale."
Walter Benjamin, 'Teaching Aid' in One-Way Street, Selected Writings, p. 457, OWS p. 63f