Crisis breeds criticism

October 9, 2014

It’s interesting to note that the verbs associated with criticism in English can be both to critique, but also to criticize. In Spanish, there is only one verb associated with crítica, and that is criticar, which has mostly the negative connotations found in criticize. How to address this linguistic conundrum? Might this be part of the issue at stake?

As editor, teacher, writer and critic, I work to create a context where commitment, narrative and judgment are not dirty or antiquated words—but it may be that my context is but a small bubble floating in the vast ocean of market-driven unconsciousness. For criticism to survive, nevertheless, like anything else, it must take into account its context of production. All linguistic/translation considerations aside, I agree that art criticism, and the art critics who engage in it, have been rendered invisible (not dead!) in direct proportion to the visibleness and super-stardom of curators. Curators have taken the place of critics—or people (wrongly) expect them to do so. Curators are flown, wined and dined; but today a critic earns little more than a few dollars per column. Obviously students catch on, and it seems they would rather say they are curators than critics. This phenomenon also has to do with the market driven practices I mention, and criticism is further hindered or erased in other ways, too: it has been my experience that certain publications will not publish a review, for instance, if it deals with a marginal gallery or independent space, and will only rarely publish a review of a museum (i.e. all spaces that are not advertising galleries)—another way of making things invisible and criticism seem out of touch.

On a different contextual level, if we agree—as the crisis in Argentina, the war “on drugs” in Mexico and other crises and elsewhere have made it eminently clear more than once— that crisis breeds criticism, then we should put out feelers and find where this criticism is taking place. In my experience, it is not in the habitual or, to borrow Laurie’s term, antiquated ways: magazines, or even via text. Criticism in Mexico is taking place in discussions, and dialogue, during readings or screenings, or at communal drawing sessions in spaces that are less official, and therefore less easily tainted with words like antiquated or institutionalized. It is also to be read in fanzines and free publications. It is therefore less stable, yes, and perhaps not well-recorded (and less available internationally) but this does not mean it is dead or non-existent—it’s alive and well and eating tacos.