Ben Davis’ new-ish ArtInfo column “Interventions” already sees some bang, this week addressing the fail-safe topic of the state of criticism. As Davis sees it, criticism’s not doing so great, now being eclipsed by news and scene coverage. Also, “there is the tremendous excitement generated by the art blogosphere, which draws its strength from attitude and outrage.”
This isn’t a particularly flattering picture of bloggers, or even news organizations. Moreover, it’s slightly tired. I feel like I’ve been reading about the problems of the 24 hour news cycle for fifteen years or more, and the problems are the same. Davis’s piece doesn’t bring much new to the table past what we already know: news is a large component of many blogs and websites — particularly the ones he’s worked for — and criticism isn’t doing that well.
The trouble has less to do with news per se than the reality of publishing: it’s a volume industry and professionals need more time than we’re given to produce good work. But there are some ups to these downs, so I don’t believe it’s been as eclipsed as Davis thinks — it’s just not where he’s looking. Some of the best criticism on this blog appears in the comments section, and it’s no different for other blogs or even Facebook pages like that of Jerry Saltz. Substantive commentary seems for the moment to be on the decline on Saltz’s page, but it might well return, particularly if Saltz moves to a fan page — the 5000 friend limit and subsequent pruning has hindered the development of his community. Web communities migrate quickly in both directions.
Footnote: The worst criticism (if you can even call it that) appears on twitter. 140 characters is not well suited for complex conversation.
Related: Kyle Chayka for Hyperallergic