Tag Archives: critique

The Crisis of Critique

George Orwell (1956). 1984. Harmondsworth: Penguin, p. 171.
George Orwell (1956). 1984. Harmondsworth: Penguin, p. 171.

Thanks to everyone who came along and contributed to an excellent discussion on Adam Curtis’ film Hypernormalisation. A very special thanks to Neil Lamont for facilitating! We watched a 13 minute excerpt of the film and the discussion revolved around consciousness and complicity. Neil handed out copies from George Orwell’s 1984 and read the passage on doublethink, comparing it to the concept of hypernormalisation, which Curtis borrows from Alexei Yurchak, a term he coined to describe the culture of resignation to the simulacrum of normality in 1980s Soviet Russia.

In February we’re joining Aris Nikolaidis to discuss The Fate of Representation, the Fate of Critique, chapter six in Jesse Cohn’s 2006 book Anarchism and the Crisis of Representation: Hermeneutics, Aesthetics, Politics. What would a radical anti-representational aesthetic look like today, beyond the binary opposition between autonomy and popular culture?

If you ever wanted to join the Critical Theory in Contemporary Art Practice course this is the time! We’re running the first independent [ART&CRITIQUE] course in April 2018 and we’re inviting submissions for a Fee-waiver Award. To apply please download the application form and return it by 5pm on Friday, 23 February 2018. For more information please follow the links below.

Enrico Baj [1972] The Funeral of the Anarchist Pinelli. Textured offset colour print, 75 x 68 cm. Edition 200.[SYMPOSIUM] BOOK CLUB
Cohn: Representation and Critique
Friday, 9 February 2018, 6:30pm-9pm
LARC, 62 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1ES
Facilitated by Aris Nikolaidis
Suggested donation £2, booking via Eventbrite

Patrick Mimran [2004] Billboard Project, New York. Photo Sophia Kosmaoglou.[ART&CRITIQUE] COURSE
Critical Theory in Contemporary Art Practice

19 April – 14 June 2018, 6:30-9pm + 5 May 2018, 2:30-5pm
Kupfer Arch 213, Ponsford Street, London E9 6JU
Tutor Sophia Kosmaoglou
£250 via Eventbrite or apply for the Fee-waiver Award

Announcements & Opportunities[OPPORTUNITIES & ANNOUNCEMENTS]
February 2018
The list of opportunities, open calls, deadlines, announcements & vacancies is updated regularly.
If you would like to post your listing for open calls, opportunities or vacancies on the list please send us the details.

George Orwell (1956). 1984. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, p. 171.
Enrico Baj [1972] The Funeral of the Anarchist Pinelli. Textured offset colour print, 75 x 68 cm. Edition 200.

ART&CRITIQUE (2015-2019)

ART&CRITIQUE (2015-2019)

ART&CRITIQUE was a peer-led alternative art education network dedicated to critical engagement with art practice, theory and research. It was founded in November 2015 and based at The Field and LARC. We employed collaborative, co-operative and collective models of pedagogy and organisation and fostered alternative models of art education in a series of public events. Continue reading ART&CRITIQUE (2015-2019)



The STUDIO CRIT was an opportunity for artists, curators, designers, film-makers and other producers to present their work to an audience of peers for discussion and feedback. These events were free and open to everyone. Please scroll down for the guidelines and event archive.
Continue reading STUDIO CRITIQUE



The art crawl was a series of tours organised by ART&CRITIQUE, on the last Saturday of the month we would head out to visit exhibitions and have a critical discussion on route. The itineraries were curated by members and contributors, supported with tools and guides available in the infosheet.

Mayfair to Fitzrovia: Joy, Dance, Magic – Three Artist Films

Saturday, 30 March 2019, 13:45 – 17:00
Meet 13:45 at Lévy Gorvy, 22 Old Bond St, Mayfair, London W1S 4PY
Curated by Eva Ruschkowski
Free, booking via Eventbrite

artcrawl#14Join us for a stroll from Mayfair to Fitzrovia to visit three galleries showing video works by Agnes Martin, Geta Brătescu and Rachel Rose. The Art & Critique Art Crawls are excursions that offer the opportunity to explore, articulate thoughts and critically discuss exhibitions in a group.

We will meet at 13:45 at Lévy Gorvy Gallery to begin our journey with Martin’s film ‘Gabriel’ (1976). We follow a fourteen-year-old boy, the protagonist of the film, on his leisurely meander through a rural landscape to take part in his innocent exploration of natural beauty. “[The movie] turned out to be about joy – the same thing my paintings are about” the artist states. By contrasting Martin’s film with her serene geometric experimentation on canvas which she mainly is known for, Lévy Gorvy allow a deeper insight into the artist’s work and, as the gallery proposes, to “linger in the pensive calm that Martin’s art, regardless of its medium, so exquisitely conveys.”

A similar juxtaposition of still and moving images will greet us at Hauser and Wirth, our second stop, which is showing a group of works Geta Brătescu made over the last decade. Richly informed by literature and mythology, Brătescu untiringly explores her fascination for drawing, composition and line. ‘When I draw, I can say that my hand dances’. Hauser and Wirth put her drawings and collages in conversation with two films ‘Linia (The Line)’ (2014) and ‘The Gesture, The Drawing’ (2018), which were created in collaboration with Ștefan Sava and give an intimate insight into Brătescu’s studio practice and creative thinking process.

We will round out our walk at Pilar Corrias with Rachel Rose’s atmospheric film set in 1500s rural England. ‘Wil-o-Wisp’ (2018) tells the story of Elspeth Blake, which was inspired by the fate of healers who practised in the time of the Enclosure Movement. Rose draws us in the realm of magic at the same time examining the drastic historical shift and its consequences caused by the privatisation of communal land.

13.45 FOCUS: Agnes Martin Lévy Gorvy, 22 Old Bond St, Mayfair, London W1S 4PY
15.00 Geta Brătescu Hauser & Wirth, 23 Savile Row, Mayfair, London W1S 2ET
16.00 Rachel Rose: Wil-o-Wisp Pilar Corrias, 54 Eastcastle St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 8EF

#13 Marylebone to South Kensington

Saturday, 30 September 2017, 13:45-17:00
Meet 13:45 at Lisson Gallery 27 Bell Street London NW15BY
Curated by Anca Baciu and Mandy Wong  

All welcome, booking not required

[ARTCRAWL] #13. Flyer by Many Wong.
[ARTCRAWL] #13. Flyer by Many Wong.

In September we’re meeting at Lisson Gallery to see an exhibition by Allora & Calzadilla and then walking through the park to the Serpentine Gallery to view an exhibition by Wade Guyton, ending the crawl with the LGBTQ Tour to explore gender and sexual identities in the Victoria & Albert Museum collection. Free, everyone welcome. No need to book, just join us at 2pm or along the way. Please see below for the itinerary and a map of the route.

13:45 Allora & Calzadilla: Foreign in a Domestic Sense Lisson Gallery 27 Bell Street London NW15BY
15:00 Wade Guyton: Das New Yorker Atelier, Abridged Serpentine Gallery Kensington Gardens London W2 3XA
16:00 LGBTQ Tour Victoria & Albert Museum Cromwell Road London SW72RL (meet at Grand Entrance)

#12 Visit to TOMA in Southend-on-Sea

23 July 2017, 12:20-18:00
Meet 12:20pm at Southend Central Station, Southend-on-Sea SS1 1AB
Curated by Emma Edmondson

All welcome, please book your place

The Other MA (TOMA)

In July we’ve been invited on an excursion to visit The Other MA (TOMA), a 12-month alternative art education model based at Metal Art School in Southend-on-Sea. Join us for a walking tour across the cultural landscape of Southend-on-Sea with the expert guidance of Emma Edmondson, founder and coordinator of TOMA. We will visit Focal Point Gallery and The Old Waterworks, Metal Culture – home of Metal Art School and TOMA – culminating the tour at TOMA artists’ studios. 

The suggested travel route to Southend Central is via the C2C line from London Fenchurch Street, Limehouse, West Ham or Barking. A C2C train service departs from Fenchurch Street at 11:04am and arrives 12:18pm at Southend Central. Please purchase your ticket to Southend Central as we will be hopping on and off the train all day. The ticket will allow you to do this.

NB. We will be doing much walking in between destinations! Please get in touch if you have access concerns.

12:20 Meet at Southend Central Station, Southend-on-Sea SS1 1AB
12:30 Have lunch in the Railway pub  (best vegan food in town)
13:30 Head to Focal Point Gallery to see Maximum Overdrive
15:00 Catch the train to Westcliff-on-Sea station, half hour walk and head to The Old Waterworks for Alison Loyd’s show
16:00 Catch the train from Westcliff station to Chalkwell Park to see the home of TOMA and Metal, Chalkwell Avenue, Southend on Sea SS0 8NB
17:00 Walk to TOMA artist Richard Baxter’s pottery studio (TBC)
18:00 Grab a drink in the multitude of pubs on the seafront and take in the Estuary views!

#11 Hampstead to Finsbury Park (via Mayfair)

Saturday, 24 June 2017, 14:00 -17:00
Starts 2pm at Freud Museum 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead London NW3 5SX
Curated by Sophia Kosmaoglou
Free, booking not required

[ARTCRAWL] #11In June we’re venturing on an ambitious tour of London and taking public transport to see exhibitions at the Freud Museum and Furtherfield – venues that are off the beaten path. On the way we will stop at Thomas Dane in Mayfair. Below is a map of the route and a schedule with links to further information on the exhibitions. We will take the Jubilee line from the Freud Museum to Thomas Dane, and the Victoria line from there to Finsbury Park.

Please note that entry to the Freud Museum is £8 for adults, free for children under 12, £6 for senior citizens, £4 for students, unemployed, National Trust Members & National Art Pass Members. More details here.

14:00 The Best Possible School: Anna Freud, Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham & the Hietzing School in 1920s Vienna. Freud Museum 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead London NW3 5SX
15:15 Paul Pfeiffer. Thomas Dane 11 Duke Street, St James’s London SW1Y 6BN
16:15 NEW WORLD ORDER. Furtherfield Gallery McKenzie Pavilion, Finsbury Park London N4 2NQ

#10 Mayfair to Fitzrovia

Saturday, 28 January 2017, 14:00 -17:00
Curated by Cristina Sousa Martínez
Free, booking not required


On Saturday 28 January we’re meeting 2pm at Sophia Contemporary to see the exhibition Recipe for a Poem by Azadeh Razaghdoost. Then we will head to Hamilton’s Cafe to listen to Transitivity of Implication by Daniel Toca at the Museum of Portable Sound, please bring your headphones! We will wrap up with a visit to Carroll / Fletcher for the group exhibition United We Stand. Below is the schedule with links to exhibition details and a map of the route.

14:00 Azadeh Razaghdoost Sophia Contemporary, 11 Grosvenor St, London W1K 4QB
15:00 Daniel Toca, Museum of Portable Sound Hamilton’s Café, 49 Maddox St, London W1S 2PQ
16:00 United We Stand Carroll / Fletcher, 56-57 Eastcastle St, London W1W 8EQ

#9 Hampstead to Camden Town (via Chalk farm)

Saturday 26 November 2016, 14:00 – 17:00
Curated by Katy Green
Free, booking not required

[ARTCRAWL] #9web

On Saturday, 26 November we’re meeting 2pm at Camden Arts Centre to see and exhibition of Bonnie Camplin‘s work. Then we will head to Zabludowicz Collection for the exhibition Basement Odyssey by Willem Weisman. Our final stop will be the group show Streams of Warm Impermanence with artists who work with Networked-Flesh at David Roberts Art Foundation. Please see below for the schedule and a map of the route.

14:00 Bonnie Camplin Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, London NW3 6DG
15:00 Willem Weisman Zabludowicz Collection, 176 Prince of Wales, Road London NW5 3PT
16:00 Streams of Warm Impermanence DRAF, Symes Mews, London NW1 7JE

#8 Camberwell to Peckham

Saturday 29 October 2016, 14:00-17:00
Free, booking not required


On Saturday 29 October we’re heading south and meeting 2pm at the South London Gallery to see The Source of Art is in the Life of a People by Roman Ondak, followed by a stop at Arcadia Missa to see Amalia Ulman’s solo Labour Dance, ending at South Kiosk to see And the Earth Screamed, Alive, a multi screen 16mm installation by Emma Charles. Please see below for the schedule with links to exhibition details and a map of the route. Everyone welcome.

Roman Ondak South London Gallery 65-67 Peckham Road London SE5 8UH
15:15 Amalia Ulman Arcadia Missa Unit 6 Bellenden Road Business Centre London SE15 4RF
16:15 Emma Charles  South Kiosk Unit B1.1 Bussey Building 133 Rye Lane SE15 3SN

#7 Mayfair to St James (via Soho)

Saturday 24 September 2016, 14:00-17:00
Free, booking not required


On Saturday 24 September we’re meeting at Timothy Taylor to see Shez Dawood’s solo, followed by Mike Kelley’s 1999 installation Framed and Frame at Hauser & Wirth and Uri Aran’s controversial show at Sadie Coles, ending with the Jannis Kounellis retrospective at White Cube. We’re spoiled for choice this month so we’ve crammed four exhibitions into this one. See below for the schedule with links to exhibition details and a map of the route.

Shezad Dawood: Kalimpong Timothy Taylor 15 Carlos Place London W1K 2EX
14:45 Mike Kelley: Framed and Frame Hauser & Wirth 23 Savile Row London W1S 2ET
15:30 Uri Aran: Two Things About Suffering Sadie Coles 62 Kingly Street London W1B 5QN
16:15 Jannis Kounellis White Cube 25 – 26 Mason’s Yard London SW1Y 6BU

#6 Mayfair to Fitzrovia

Saturday 30 July 2016, 14:00-17:00
Free, booking not required


On Saturday 30 July we’re meeting at at Simon Lee Gallery to see the work of Bas Jan Ader who disappeared at sea in 1975. We will then head north to see the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres curated by Julie Ault and Roni Horn at Hauser & Wirth. Our final stop will be at Carroll/Fletcher to see Abuse Standards Violations by Eva and Franco Mattes. Please see below for the schedule with links to exhibition details and a map of the route.

Bas Jan Ader Simon Lee Gallery 12 Berkeley Street London W1J 8DT
15:00 Felix Gonzalez-Torres Hauser & Wirth 23 Savile Row London W1S 2ET
16:15 Eva and Franco Mattes Carroll/Fletcher 56-57 Eastcastle St London W1W 8EQ

#5 Hackney to Shoreditch

Saturday 25 June 2016, 14:00-17:00
Curated by Dasha Loyko
Free, booking not required

[GALLERYCRAWL] #5 webflyer

On Saturday 25 June we will meet at The Residence Gallery to see Info Pura, a group exhibition on knowledge, information and experience. Next we will visit Salon des Refuses at SPACE to see the work of Dasha Loyko and other artists rejected from the Royal Academy summer exhibition. Last stop is Blood For Light by Nastivicious at Waterside Contemporary. Please see below for the schedule with links to exhibition details and a map of the route.

Info Pura Residence Gallery 229 Victoria Park Road London E9 7HD
15:00 Salon des Refuses SPACE 129-131 Mare Street London E8 3RH
16:15 Nastivicious Blood For Light Waterside Contemporary 2 Clunbury St N1 6TT

#4 Hackney to Shoreditch

Saturday 4 June 2016, 14:00-17:00
Curated by Penelope Kupfer
Free, booking not required

[GALLERYTOUR] #4 webflyer

On Saturday 4 June we will meet at Cambridge Heath Station and set off for Vilma Gold to see the work of Oliver Stone and Luther Price. Next we will make our way to Espacio Gallery for a group exhibition titled Organism, featuring the work of Penelope Kupfer among an illustrious list of artists. Last stop is Paulo Nimer‘s solo show at Maureen Paley. See below for the schedule and map of the route with links to exhibition details. Free, no need to book.

Cambridge Heath Station Hackney, London E2 9EG
14:15 Oliver Stone & Luther Price Vilma Gold 6 Minerva St, London E2 9EH
15:15 Organism Espacio Gallery 159 Bethnal Green Road London E2 7DG
16:15 Paulo Nimer Maureen Paley 21 Herald Street London E2 6JT

#3 Hyde Park to Shadwell

Saturday 14 May 2016, 14:00-18:00
Curated by Penelope Kupfer
Free, booking not required

[GALLERYTOUR] #3 webflyer

On Saturday, 14 May 2016 we will meet at the Serpentine Gallery at 2pm to view Hilma af Klimt: Painting the Unseen and then make our way to the Sackler Gallery to view of the exhibition by DAS INSTITUT. Then we will head to the Rum Factory near Shadwell DLR station to see the work of Richard Burger. See below for the schedule and map of the route with links to exhibition details. Free, no need to book, just join us at 2pm. Latecomers can join us along the way.

Serpentine Gallery Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA
14:15 Hilma af Klint Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA
15:00 DAS INSTITUT Serpentine Sackler Gallery, W Carriage Dr, London W2 2AR
16:00 Lancaster Gate Tube Station Central Line to Bank, then DLR to Shadwell
17:00 Open Studios 2016 Rum Factory, Bow Arts, Unit 4, Pennington Street, E1W 2BD

#2 Whitechapel to Liverpool Street

Saturday 30 April 2016, 14:00-17:00
Free, booking not required

[GALLERYTOUR] #2 web-flier

On Saturday, 30 April 2016 we will meet at the bookshop inside the Whitechapel Gallery at 2pm to view Harun Farocki‘s video installation Parallel I-IV and  the archival exhibition Imprint 93 with prints by young British artists of the 1990s. Then we will head to Raven Row near Liverpool Street to see the work of Channa Horwitz. Please see below for the schedule and a map of the route. Free event, no need to book. Latecomers can join us along the way.

Whitechapel Gallery 77-82 Whitechapel High St. London E1 7QX
14:15 Harun Farocki Parallel I-IV Whitechapel Gallery
15:00 Imprint 93 Whitechapel Gallery
16:00 Channa Horwitz Raven Row 56 Artillery Lane London E1 7LS

#1 Hoxton to Mile End

Saturday 19 March 2016, 14:00-17:00
Free, booking not required

[GALLERYTOUR] #1 web-flier

On Saturday, 19 March 2016 we will meet at Hoxton Rail Station at 2pm. From there we will walk to xero, kline & coma to see Under the Shade I Flourish by Chris Alton. Heading east we will stop at Cell Project Space to see Ian Ball ‘s Praseodymium Intracrine Signal Aggregate and and we will end the tour with Park McArthur‘s Poly at Chisenhale Gallery. Please see below for the schedule and a map of the route. Free event, no need to book, just join us at 2pm. Latecomers can join us along the way.

Hoxton Rail Station Geffrye Street, London E2 8EA
14:15 Chris Alton: Under the Shade I Flourish xero, kline & coma, 258 Hackney Road, London E2 7SJ
15:15 Iain Ball  Cell Project Space, 258 Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9DA
16:15 Park McArthur: Poly Chisenhale Gallery, 64 Chisenhale Road, London E3 5QZ

Badiou, Autonomy, Dissidents

On Friday, 14 October we’re reading the first chapter of Alain Badiou‘s Handbook of Inaesthetics with Badiou scholar Kerry W. Purcell at [SYMPOSIUM] book club. Note that this event is fully booked, please follow the link to join the waiting list and we will be in touch if there are cancellations. On Saturday, 15 October we’re discussing Autonomy & Critique with Dasha Loyko at the next Studio Crit, please follow the link to book your place. In October the Gallery Crawl is heading to south east London, for more details please read on.

Dissident Island Radio stickers.
Dissident Island Radio stickers.

Last month we saw  Mike Kelley‘s 1999 installation Framed and Frame at Hauser & Wirth, well worth  a visit to see this complex installation with a fascinating archive of preparatory drawings, photos and documents at. If you plan to visit Shez Dawood‘s show at Timothy Taylor don’t forget to book…

On the 2nd of September 2016 we were invited to a interview on alternative art education at Dissident Island Radio. Sophia and Johanna joined James from Squash Campaign, Andy from LDMG and the Dissident Island crew for a live broadcast at their LARC studio in Whitechapel. The podcast is available to listen to or download from Dissident Island or the Internet Archive.

Alain Badiou and Kerry W. Purcell have lunch in 2015.[SYMPOSIUM] BOOK CLUB
Badiou: Art & Philosophy
Friday, 14 October 2016, 6:00-8:30pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, London SE14 5HD
Chaired by Kerry W. Purcell
Free, waiting list only

Dasha Loyko [2016] Tips For Designing Your Dream Bathroom (maquette of central fragment).[ART&CRITIQUE] STUDIO CRIT
Dasha Loyko: Autonomy and Critique
Saturday, 15 October 2016
3:00pm – 5:00pm
The Field, 385 Queens Road, New Cross, London SE14 5HD
Free, please book your place

From Camberwell to Peckham
Saturday 29 October 2016, 2:00-5:00pm
Roman Ondak SLG Amalia Ulman Arcadia Missa Emma Charles South Kiosk
Please visit the website for the details & a map of the route
Free, booking not required

Alain Badiou and Kerry W. Purcell have lunch in 2015.

Dasha Loyko [2016] Tips For Designing Your Dream Bathroom (maquette of central fragment).

Reading and/or Looking

[SYMPOSIUM] #4 Barthes: The Death of the Author, flier.In February’s [SYMPOSIUM] we discussed Roland Barthes’ influential essay The Death of the Author (1977). Many thanks to everyone for their contributions to a very productive event. It was great to see everyone again and to welcome some new faces. A special thanks to Henrietta Ross for leading, chairing and summarising the discussion.

Henrietta got us off to a great start by suggesting three broad thematic approaches with the questions: What is an author? What is a text? and What is a reader? She also suggested that we address the question: What does the text mean? Adding that we might want to contest the terms of this question in light of Barthes’ own resistance to fixed meaning. And finally, she suggested that we might want to discuss the roles of the critic, of ideology and of literature.

We addressed all of these issues, maintaining some consistency with each term but also skipping back and forth between them. We questioned the difference between an author, a writer and a scriptor in Barthes’ terms, and came to the conclusion that beyond the “authority” of the Author, and the “performance” of the narrator, there was ambiguity around these terms. We also briefly alluded to the “author function”, which Barthes introduces in Authors and Writers (1960) and Foucault takes up in What is an Author? (1969). We adhered to a structuralist definition of a text as any cultural artefact that can be “read” and interpreted, we therefore discussed artworks as texts and stopped to ponder whether a scientific article could also be considered a text in this light, or whether Barthes was only referring to literary texts. We discussed Barthes’ premise that readers bring the text to life by reading it “here and now” as Johanna pointed out, thereby interpreting the text in a multitude and variety of different ways, and we were left with the vivid image of tiny reader-maggots feasting on the Author’s dead body. We didn’t address the question of how we construct meaning per se, and we might want to come back to this in the future. We also discussed the role of the maligned critic, who fixes or determines the meaning of a text authoritatively in public forums, referring to exhibition display texts as examples. We will have a chance to return to this subject when we discuss Brian Sewell’s review Tate Triennial 3 (2006), which will be led by Richard Lloyd-Jones in May.

[SYMPOSIUM] #4 Barthes: The Death of the Author, 12 February 2016 at The Field. Photo by Maria Christoforatou.
[SYMPOSIUM] #4 Barthes: The Death of the Author, 12 February 2016 at The Field. Photo by Maria Christoforatou.

We briefly addressed the question of ideology by considering the question of whether there is a need for a determinate meaning, and why, despite the influence and verity of Barthes’ premise that meaning is constructed subjectively and constantly shifting, there is nevertheless a general consensus on the meaning of texts? We posited peer pressure and the natural social tendency we have for consensus or sameness.

Henrietta summed up the discussion elegantly with a prescient observation on the topic of ideology, in her own words:

“…while I found the discussion of the role of the author in the production of texts such as works of art interesting, for me what is most engaging about Barthes’, and wider post-structuralist ideas, is their implications for ideologies. And the possibility of considering ideologies, alongside ‘image, music, [art]’ etc, as ‘texts’. In Mythologies Barthes discussed a wide range of activities: from drinking wine to wrestling, as cultural texts which have a role in creating ideologies. The ideas he discusses with regard to authorship in The death of the author suggest that the reader might not just be key to the understanding or the creation of meaning in writing (for example) but also ideologies. This suggests a concept of ideologies or hegemonies not as top-down, one-way or imposed narratives, but something that a wide variety of actors are involved and complicit in establishing and sustaining. While this might be a concept that is discussed or suggested by a variety of social theorists or philosophers I think the way in which Barthes and other post-structuralists come to this position through the consideration of linguistic theory and semiotics is interesting.” (Ross, 2016)

[SYMPOSIUM] #4 Barthes: The Death of the Author, 12 Feb 2016 at The Field. Photo by Maria Christoforatou.
[SYMPOSIUM] #4 Barthes: The Death of the Author, 12 Feb 2016 at The Field. Photo by Maria Christoforatou.

The jury is out on whether we would like to come back to the subject of ideology in the future. We could approach it via Louis Althusser’s “state apparatuses”, Antonio Gramsci’s “cultural hegemony” or a range of other approaches.

A feature by Dave Beech titled On Critique in the February 2016 issue of Art Monthly is relevant to the discussion we had about whether artworks can in fact be “read” and creates a link between Barthes and the texts by Marcel Duchamp and Brian Sewell that we will be discussing in April and May.

Beech begins by addressing his early critical writing and goes on to discuss the tension between looking at and reading about art. Beech shares the discomfort that many artists have with the idea of “reading” artworks, he sees it as a “misreading of CS Pierce or a misapplication of Ferdinand Saussure’s linguistics to non-linguistic material” (Beech, 2016, p. 7). I am similarly resistant to the idea that an artwork can be broken down to a code or a set of rules, like a language. Language is not merely a series of words that must be deciphered, language is governed by syntactical and grammatical rules. Although poets might play around with these rules, artists’ materials are not primarily linguistic. Artists may indeed think in linguistic terms about their work but they also think in terms of images, shapes, colours, pressures, textures, qualities, quantities, equivalences, oppositions and so on. All these values are governed by diverse and conflicting rules once we free them from narrowly aesthetic definitions. Do artists always think in narrowly aesthetic or art-historical categories? Do viewers approach art from narrowly aesthetic or art-historical perspectives? Artists, viewers and critics bring all kinds of other approaches and discourses into their engagement with art (personal experience, science, mysticism, critical theory, etc).

Wittgenstein claimed that we cannot conceive of something that we do not have the language to describe:

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” (Wittgenstein, 1922, p. 74)

This is true to an extent; the structure of our language (its ideology) limits the kinds of thoughts we can have – to come full circle to what Henrietta said about ideology. When Derrida refers to language as a structure that both makes possible and limits play (Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences, 1966), he is talking about language as ideology. The concept of ideology in Marxist thought articulates the relation between culture and political economy. Ideology is a naturalised framework of assumptions about the world that we internalise. In Althusser’s words, ideology does not constitute “the system of the real relations which govern the existence of individuals”, it constitutes the “imaginary relation of those individuals to the real relations in which they live” (Althusser, 1971, p. 165). For Althusser, ideological state apparatuses are the material manifestations of ideology in practices and institutions. Language is arguably the primary social institution, it makes possible but limits the freedom of the agents who use it.

But I disagree with Wittgenstein, on the basis that if we could express everything that we conceive, perceive and feel in words, then we would have no need for art. Wittgenstein’s assertion also suggests that we can think of nothing that someone else has not thought of and named already. But we evidently can and do have original and unique thoughts and we don’t use language for all of them (how we articulate them and whether we reject them out of habit are different questions, Arthur Koestler goes into this in The Act of Creation, 1964).

I am reluctant to admit that artworks follow rules but, apart from rare exceptions, they generally do and this has grave consequences for my argument against Wittgenstein above and my faith in the liberating power of art. Wittgenstein says that if we change the rules of a game, we change the game (Wittgenstein, 1968). When an artist breaks the rules, art is redefined in the process. But evidently that doesn’t happen very often, instead there’s a fashionable shift now and then in the general sameness that is paraded in galleries and museums all over the world, until the next novelty comes along to spread the sameness.

The other reason that Beech offers for taking issue with “reading” artworks involves what he calls a “process of prolonged looking”, which he finds “inadequate for the works that engaged [him] the most” (Beech, 2016, p. 7). He finds that thinking and reading about these artworks in their absence is a better way to understand them. This is the main crux of his argument and I thought it might be interesting to debate it because looking and observing is generally considered a cornerstone in visual arts education – even in art schools that shun the discipline of drawing – and what about photography and film-making? I reckon that thinking and reading about artworks in their absence is certainly a good way of learning new things and generating ideas of your own – which brings us back full circle to the death of the author. Beech uses artworks as an inspiration and starting point for his own writing – so maybe this article is about how to generate critique and not about how to look at art after all, something he admits in his introduction:

“When I began writing, reviewing exhibitions in London in the 1990s, I was immediately struck by the contrast between my initial impressions of an exhibition and what I came to say about the work. Not always, but often enough to cause concern, in the time it took me to write about art my response shifted from enjoyment to disapproval. The practice of writing turned me from a consumer into a judge.” (Beech, 2016, p. 5)


Althusser, Louis (1971). Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. In Lenin and Philosophy. New York: Monthly Review Press, pp. 128-194.

Barthes, Roland (1977). The Death of the Author. In Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath. London: Fontana, pp. 142-148.

Barthes, Roland (1993). Authors and Writers. In A Barthes Reader, Susan Sontag ed. New York: Vintage, pp. 185-193.

Beech, Dave (2016). On Critique. Art Monthly, February 2016, pp. 5-8.

Derrida, Jacques (2005/1996). Structure, sign and play in the discourse of the human sciences. In Writing and Difference. London: Routlege, pp. 353-354.

Foucault, Michel (1977). What is an Author? In Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, Donald F. Bouchard ed. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, pp. 113-138.

Koestler, Arthur (1975). The Act of Creation. London: Picador.

Ross, Henrietta (2016). Personal communication, 16 Feb 2016.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1922). Tractatus Logico Philosophicus. London: Kegan.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1968). Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell.

Food for Thought

First page of An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment by Immanuel Kant, Berlinische Monatsschrift. Dec 1784, pp. 481-494.
First page of An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment by Immanuel Kant, Berlinische Monatsschrift. Dec 1784, pp. 481-494.

We launched the [SYMPOSIUM] book club on 13 November 2015 with a discussion of Immanuel Kant’s 1784 essay An Answer to the Question What Is Enlightenment? We considered Kant’s early modernist utopian ideas, recognising that they are built into the fabric of our everyday lives; from the institution of free speech, the conventions of professional practice and public discussion, to the role of critique and the responsibilities of the individual in society. Using Kant’s criteria, we addressed the question: Do we live in an Enlightened society? Considering the wars, atrocities and escalating violence since 1784, we asked whether Enlightenment ideals have had a regressive effect on modern individuals and social structures, a question that Adorno and Horkheimer take up in Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944). We skirted a question regarding the consequences of Kant’s thesis for art education, and we might want to come back to this question later.

Also in our first meeting, we began a discussion about how the group will function and we made a number of decisions. We found a name for the club and we decided that we would meet on every second Friday of each month from 6pm – 8:30pm. We also selected the text for our next meeting.

Omar Joseph Nasser Khoury [2011] Silk Thread Martyrs. Ccollection of 22 garments, each unique. Embroidered, fabric, coloured and dyed by hand using natural materials (indigo, tea).
Omar Joseph Nasser Khoury [2011] Silk Thread Martyrs. Ccollection of 22 garments, each unique. Embroidered, fabric, coloured and dyed by hand using natural materials (indigo, tea).

[SYMPOSIUM] #2 took place on 11 December 2015 with Writing against Culture (1991) by feminist anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod. This discussion was led by designer Omar Joseph Nasser-Khoury who is currently studying for an MA in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths. Abu-Lughod couples feminism with post-colonialism to address the pitfalls of anthropological methods of research and analysis, which often construct generalised and over-simplified assumptions based on cultural difference. Abu-Lughod proposes strategies of “writing against culture” to counter ethnographic accounts which present culture as something that is static, discrete, homogeneous and coherent, ignoring the cross-over between societies, social and cultural change, subjectivity and everyday contradictions. Omar provided an introduction to the text and a context for us to think through these ideas by discussing his collaboration with a group of Palestinian refugee embroiderers at INAASH, Beirut. Despite (or because) of this grounding, the text proved quite challenging due to the sheer breadth, complexity and slipperiness of the concepts that Abu-Lughod extracts and skilfully connects. Once again we came to the conclusion that what we agree on in theory is very difficult to apply in practice, and that we have a long way to go before we can align intentions and outcomes – largely due to broader social, economic and political circumstances. In this case, it might be helpful to consider the recent surge of projects that privilege cooperative ways of working, alternative economies, and ethical sourcing of raw materials or energy (Transition Network, Remakery, Institute of Network Cultures). Socially-engaged or participatory projects initiated by artists and collectives such as Suzanne Lacy, Ellie Harrison, Wochenklausur and Assemble have also developed collaborative models for social change. Grant Kester’s Conversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially-Engaged Art (2005) provides a theoretical perspective on this together with a discussion of case studies. There are also various forms of institutional support and funding for these projects (Situations, Robin Hood Coop and Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund, which will generate funding for activist art through renewable energy).

Sherrie Levine [1980] Untitled (After Edward Weston). Gelatin silver print.
Sherrie Levine [1980] Untitled (After Edward Weston). Gelatin silver print.

Continuing with with similar themes, [SYMPOSIUM] #3 took place on 8 January 2016 with The Discourse of Others: Feminists and Postmodernism (1983) by Craig Owens. Owens explores the intersection of the feminist critique of patriarchy and the postmodernist critique of representation, in search for a way to conceive difference without opposition. His starting point is a definition of postmodernism as a crisis of the cultural hegemony of the west. For Owens postmodern cultural production is characterised by pluralism and indifference, with consequences for our sense of cultural identity. Owens considers the absence of discussions of sexual difference from postmodern texts alongside corresponding feminist and artistic critiques of representation. From the outset we encountered in practice what Craig Owens means by The Discourse of Others, as our situated identities informed our nuanced interpretations of the text. We read some passages closely, stopping to discuss definitions and examples of the various concepts that Owens weaves into his argument (postmodernsim, pluralism). We focused on his insistence that critics ought to address (sexual) difference, and we evaluated the dilemmas he sets up in the reading and interpretation of art. We examined the possibility that if we consider the artists’ (sexual, ethnic, class) identity as a defining element in our reading of the work, this may produce another kind of master discourse or essentialist reading of the work. We came to the conclusion that all these different perspectives can coexist simultaneously, sometimes giving way to others as subsequent experiences modify our viewpoint.

[BOOKCLUB] #4 Barthes: The Death of the Author Friday, 12 February 2016, 6:00-8:30pm.This sets us up for The Death of the Author (1977) by Roland Barthes at [SYMPOSIUM] #04 on 12 February 2016. Led by Henrietta Ross, this session will consider the reader, context, authority and authenticity, focusing on the essays’ influence on a contemporary understanding of cultural production and the role of the individual with in it. For more details please visit the [SYMPOSIUM] page.

There were no new proposals, which is a relief as we already have 7 pages of them and we ran out of time before we could discuss Studio Crits and Gallery Tours. We will address these topics and select texts for April-June at next month’s meeting.


Ratatouille and pasta with wine at the Field Kitchen, 20 Jan 2016. Photo by Maria Christoforatou.
Ratatouille and pasta with wine at the Field Kitchen, 20 Jan 2016. Photo by Maria Christoforatou.

In December 2015 and January 2016 we helped out at the Field Kitchen, a collaborative meal prepared every Wednesday evening at The Field. Richard cooked a delicious ratatouille with pasta. Highlights included Toby’s squash and apricot tagine with pomegranate seeds, Florence’s red veggie curry with rose shortcake for dessert, Dales’ fiery bean and sweet potato chili and Isobel’s subtle squash curry with aromatic rice.

If you’re free and hungry on a Wednesday evening pop into The Field for a home-cooked meal and good company. Food is served at 7:30pm, it’s pay what you can and the income goes towards expenses for the running and maintenance of the Field. If you would like to help out, setup is from 6pm and there’s always something to do until everything is cleared up at the end of the evening. You can also volunteer to cook by adding your name to the list on the wall.



The SYMPOSIUM book club was a monthly open-access reading group for artists, researchers and anyone interested in the intersections between art practice and critical theory. Everyone was welcome to propose a text and facilitate the reading group. Continue reading [SYMPOSIUM] BOOK CLUB

Critical Theory in Contemporary Art Practice

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Critical Theory in Contemporary Art Practice

This course maps the theories and discourses that inform the production and reception of contemporary art, providing a supportive environment to develop your practice and articulate your ideas on the production, exhibition and interpretation of art. Continue reading Critical Theory in Contemporary Art Practice