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Everybody’s talking…about why criticism matters

By Harriet Staff

Lemonhound interviews poet and prolific review-ster Thom Donovan on what it means to write criticism as part of a larger conversation around art and politics:

More and more, I wish to write criticism that participates in a conversation among my peers, which is to say, among the people whose work really excites me, and which I see as adding something to an ongoing conversation that I feel myself to be most a part of. If I haven’t gone the ‘negative’ route in terms of what criticism I’ve written (there have been so many calls to ‘negative criticism’ in recent years, as you know), it is probably because I am still too busy celebrating my peers and connecting the dots between different ideas which still really haven’t come into focus, or simply cohered.

Donovan writes eloquently on the generative possibilities of writing about a field of practice outside of one’s own expertise (for example, he writes extensively about dance and performance without being formally trained in the history or practice of either), and on the varieties of negativity:

Although ‘flaming’ reviews can be entertaining, I’m not exactly sure where they get us. This is an issue I have with many practitioners who use of the term ‘negative’ nowadays, since they are using it in the most pedestrian senses of the term. Whereas I prefer a negative criticism that literally approaches the object through its qualities of negation, or its refusal of certain cultural or socio-political imperatives. I find precedent for such a negative (or negational?) criticism in so many thinkers, writers, and artists that it would hard to enumerate them all, though the Frankfurt School is always a good place to start, as are artists like Robert Smithson, Mike Kelley, Hollis Frampton, and Martha Rosler, all of whom wrote criticism and essay as both a means towards and out of the making of particular works and projects.


Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.