Do bloggers have the right to have opinions about art?
On March 28, as reported by Lisa Radon on Hyperallergic.com on March 29, Richard Flood, chief curator at the New Museum, said
I just found out about blogs three months ago…
The internet is still a ghetto.
[Does Flood really only research artists in person or via 35 mm slide?]
Blogs … are not communicating with each other. They have no idea. History means nothing to them. Truth means nothing to them. They have no mechanism in place for checking [facts].
Flood then called out New York Magazine critic Jerry Saltz, who wrote a response entitled, “How the New Museum Might Stop Annoying People” in which he advised Flood
Don’t hate the Internet.
A few days before that, on March 23, James Foumberg posted “The State of the (Visual) Art” on New City:
…information tailored to a digital audience promotes emotionally reactive and flippant responses, and somehow seems unserious. This is not, traditionally, how critics like to proceed.
As the Internet is all about audience,… the voice of the critic fades. For some types of art, … it’s an unwelcome flood of amateurs, hobbyists and Sunday critics. …the need for expertise, and good writing, will resurface….
Foumberg’s remarks strike me as rather tired re-hash of the blogger-vs-journalist debate. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend following how critics traditionally “like to proceed.” For example, I once read two reviews by Clement Greenberg in a writing course. In the first, he slams a painting by Piet Mondrian. In the follow-up, he decided that he liked it—a lot. He also recanted his initial observation about the color (something along the lines of mistaking yellow for lavender). This demonstrates two ideas. First, just because Greenberg, the critic of critics, published his ideas in print, it doesn’t mean that he enjoyed what Flood holds so dearly, “a mechanism in place for checking [facts].” Second, the appeal of tradition for its own sake is conservative, and its place in contemporary art ought not be so sacrosanct.
It’s also interesting that Foumberg appropriates the term Sunday painter in the service of maligning recreational critics. I hardly think sanctioned art critics will gain sympathy from the artist-bloggers who Foumberg sees as infringing on their turf, because just as any yahoo can open a WordPress account and call themselves an art critic (myself included), so too can amateurs set up online portfolios and call themselves artists. While I also chafe at being lumped together with hobbyists — it disregards the years of education, work and sacrifice I’ve invested into my practice — I wouldn’t make the mistakes of blaming the Internet and finding fault in other people’s right to share their hobbies online.
On March 26, Bad at Sports contributor Claudine Ise posted “Hot (okay maybe only lukewarm at the moment) Topic Alert: the Crisis in Art Criticism” in response to Foumberg and more chatter on another blog post about art criticism. She helpfully points out that
…ALL writers need editors. …writing for a publication that actually employs an editor … has become a luxury that only the luckiest of us is afforded from time to time….
From their inception blogs have always been about commentary derived from a personal standpoint…. It’s not really fair to criticize art bloggers for their lack of objectivity, or for not holding to certain journalistic or critical standards.
I stand with Ise’s points here. Most bloggers aren’t purporting to be journalists or vying to usurp seasoned art critics from their dwindling numbers of staff positions.
Readers of art blogs are fairly intelligent. We’ve got critical faculties of our own. We read, dissect and disagree with opinionated blogs and critical publishing alike.