The Practice of Criticism

Thursday, June 1 + Friday, June 2, 2023

Contributors: Taslima Ahmed, Judith Barry, Catherine Chevalier, Jay Chung, Anke Dyes, Manuel Gnam, Alex Kitnick, Valérie Knoll, Ken Okiishi, Kristian Vistrup Madsen, Jakob Schillinger, Megan Francis Sullivan, and Tanja Widmann

Moderation: Antonia Birnbaum, Amanda Holmes, and Christian Egger

How do art and criticism actually relate to each other? Whereas the classical understanding of art criticism still envisaged a separate sphere of art that was to be evaluated and criticized, the boundaries between the spheres of art and criticism seem to be largely blurring today. In particular, art has become just as critical as criticism, and criticism has strayed from its referentiality to art, resulting in a situation where criticism revolves more and more around itself, while aligning itself with art precisely in this respect. One can welcome or lament this situation of structural “indistinguishability,” but one can also make it the starting point of a specific reflection in which their difference is preserved and the ways in which they are related can be addressed. From this perspective, it is not the merging of the realms of art and criticism, but the exchange between them that can be grasped as the actual productive moment of contemporary art.

The problem of this exchange, however, is that it can no longer be related to a common horizon of a canonical safeguarding of values, in the sense of a functioning “art world” or “bourgeois public sphere.” The lack of systemic integration of the various institutional, discursive, media, or market conditions, invoked by every articulation of art and criticism, is constitutive for the symbolic space of contemporary art. Perhaps the high degree of autonomization of the individual spheres of value—and thus the impossibility of a common canon—even forms the actual ground for the longing for the fusion of the categories of art and criticism. This impulse of the imaginary, which scatters differences, can only be countered by a focus on the exchange relations in which the practice of criticism—as criticism and as art—is crucial. Such a practice of criticism presupposes both reflection on its own specific conditions and an understanding of the particular interplay between value claim and value contestation: art and criticism undermine each other, whereby criticism requires an art that can only be critical to a certain extent, but which nevertheless presupposes and selectively suspends criticism. Moreover, beyond any empirical assertion of practical criticism and critical practice as art or as criticism, it points to the necessity of conceptualizing one’s own horizon of significance.

Accordingly, the conference asks on the one hand art critics about their own decisive art experience, which led them to work as art critics, and on the other hand artists about their understanding of the practice of criticism in general that underlies the impulse for their own (art) critical activity. Within this field of reference situated between different media, the practice of criticism is to become recognizable not so much as a universally applicable and always already legitimate method, but rather as a historically specific attitude or positioning in which the contingency of one’s own conditionality is accepted and transformed into the social-symbolic space of contemporary art. Here, the lack of a given canonical meaning corresponds to the importance of an engaged practice of judgment, in which one’s own indeterminacy can appear as a condition for the possibility of a symbolic opening onto a beyond of art and criticism.

The conference is based on a cooperation of the Art Theory department and the Painting department and kindly supported by Stadt Wien Kultur.

Concept and organization: Helmut Draxler and Hannes Loichinger

Presentations and discussions will be held in English.

Die Praxis der Kritik 2

Thursday, June 1, 2023 / Seminar room 07 (OKPF, 1. OG)

2:00 pm
Introduction by Helmut Draxler and Hannes Loichinger

2:30 pm
Lecture by Alex Kitnick

3:30 pm

4:00 pm
Panel The Art of Criticism with Jay Chung, Ken Okiishi, and Tanja Widmann; Moderation: Amanda Holmes

6:00 pm

6:30 pm
Lecture by Judith Barry

Friday, June 2, 2023 / Lecture hall 1 (OKPF, EG)

11:00 am
Panel The Criticism of Art with Catherine Chevalier, Kristian Vistrup Madsen, Jakob Schillinger; Moderation: Antonia Birnbaum

1:00 pm

2:00 pm
Lecture by Valérie Knoll

3:00 pm
Panel The Media of Criticism with Taslima Ahmed / Manuel Gnam, Anke Dyes, Megan Francis Sullivan; Moderation: Christian Egger