November 21, 2005

BOOK | Stelarc: The Monograph

The MIT publication on Stelarc has now been released. If not at your favorite bookstore, you would be able to order it from the MIT website or from Amazon.

Stelarc : The Monograph
(Electronic Culture: History, Theory, and Practice)
Marquard Smith (Editor)

PROJECT | Decade: Project at trAce

You are invited to make a contribution to ‘decade’an online writing project being launched to celebrate ten years of innovative digital activity at trAce Online Writing Centre, NTU. The completed project will take the shape of a writing 'quilt' of many different responses to technology and change. The introduction to the project notes: “In the last ten years there has been an explosion of new technology, especially related to computers and the internet, and for some of us it has changed forever the way we live and write. As the trAce Online Writing Centre reaches its tenth anniversary, we invite you to reflect on your own personal decade of living and writing with technology.”

You are invited to contribute a brief statement of a 100 words to the project about the technology you love, hate or anticipate; and the ways in which technology has changed your life.

Go to:

November 08, 2005

ISSUE | Sedition Laws

The Federal Government's recently proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill 'Sedition Clause' has the potential to adversely affect artists, arts workers and writers across Australia. Specifically, these laws could limit arts practitioners' freedom of expression, and public discussion should occur to examine all potential impacts. There have been a raft of articles about this issue, which has seen artists, film makers, writers and journalists instigating lobbying efforts.

As Tamara Winikoff, Executive Director of the arts advocacy body NAVA explains, "We are concerned that the new sedition laws inhibit artists' entitlement to exercise their human right to represent, discuss and critique ideas, through their artwork or other forms of public or private expression ... As with all Australian citizens, they should remain free to continue to challenge current orthodoxies - artistic or political."

"The Bill makes it an offence punishable by 7 years imprisonment if a person urges another to assist 'by any means whatever' an organisation or country engaged in armed hostilities against the Australia Defence Force," explains Simeon Beckett, President of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights. "This then would make artists and galleries which show their work vulnerable to being prosecuted for influencing the actions of others, whether this was intended or not."

Architects for Peace have initiated a petition

The Age reports that the sedition offences in the Government's sweeping anti-terrorism bill will be reviewed in the new year following sustained criticism that they could hit the media and even artistic expression.

The ABC interviews Robert Connolly, Chris Connolly, David Marr and David Mark about the impact of the laws.

Freedom of Expression Weblog

REPORTING | Literalism and the bleeding obvious ...

Thanks to Brisbane's Sunday Mail for another unfounded and misguided attack on an artist. Franz Ehmann, having committed the crime of receiving public funding to produce new and challenging work, is the target of another attack by this bastion of informed reporting. In a report headed, 'Yes, but is it art?' (SM 6 November 2005 p 23), journalist David Murray jockeys his obviously vast knowledge and expertise about art to lampoon Ehmann's new work currently exhibited at the Institute of Modern Art. He obviously knows much about art because he puts quote marks around the word when referring to Ehmann's work, which must indicate that in Murray's estimation it's not really art and is a waste of tax payers' money.

The inconguity of Ehmann's installation for Murray appears to be that the artist (a chef by trade and whose work often pivots around metaphors of food and nourishment) has recreated the last meals of death row inmates and left them to rot in the gallery space. Murray suffers the curse of literalism and a failure of visual literacy, seeing only rotting food rather than an event of symbolic import, perverse curiosity or current political poignancy. He also fails to see that Ehmann is an artist of national repute and international standing and that the creation of challenging work is essential to a dynamic civic or public culture as well as to the construction of a contemporary artspace like the IMA. Art like Ehmann's isn't intended to be easily digested and that's where it's value and significance lies.

Compare this antagonism with a report from the UK which profiles an innovative arts project hosted by Guardian Unlimited. Titled imagine art after, the project brings together 14 artists from across the globe, whose work will be displayed in a specially created online gallery. The curator, Breda Beban, is quoted as saying: "After going through experiences that many of the artists taking part have gone through, living in exile, it's difficult to imagine how art can take place. Yet one of the strongest themes of the project is how the process of making art becomes in itself a survival strategy, how imagining art is absolutely necessary to keep your sanity ... I really want to give everyone taking part a much broader sense of how contemporary art works. We have artists from Nigeria, Albania, Iraq, coming from very different traditions and working in very different styles. All of them have something fresh to add."

More information available at

November 03, 2005

LECTURE | Why write about art?

A paper presented by Lily Hibberd, editor of un magazine and artist, at the 2005 Hatched Symposium in Perth.

This paper has been written for specific purpose as symposiums are an opportunity for incentive and for change – but only useful if we go home and actually do something. By way of introduction, I’m a practicing artist and the founding editor of un Magazine. I am not influential, but merely an artist who has seen a need in the community and attempted to do something about it. I do feel however, that that it is important to be proactive in our local communities, and where we have skills or capacities to contribute, that we be willing to offer them to others. With un Magazine, I recognised a latent talent in the community that was not being given an outlet and as an organised and connected person I saw that I might be able to create more opportunities for my peers. As an artist myself, I am well acquainted with the significance of art writing – for the development of an effective, contexualised practice and peer recognition in the form of reviews.

Full text online at

CRITICISM | Melbourne International Arts Festival

Sub-standard criticism damages the Arts in Australia
by Gary Anderson
Source: Arts Hub Australia, November 02, 2005

The Melbourne International Arts Festival (MIAF) has passed, and just as the clock and our attention ticks over to summer time, there is a nagging, lingering irritation that needs attention. Now about a week after the last performance, the energy of artistic director Kristy Edmund’s boldly international and unexpectedly proselytizing program is slowly dissipating. Concurrently on web blogs and in conversations around the country the poor quality of critical reviews of the performances at this festival is receiving increasingly concerned attention.

REPORT | Art Criticism, ARC Biennial

by Linda Carroli

It was a pleasure this weekend to attend Brisbane's inaugural ARC Biennial organised by Queensland Artworkers. Nested among the three days of forums was a discussion about art criticism, sponsored by The Courier-Mail. Chaired by Michelle Helmrich and featuring words by Rex Butler, Ted Colless, Rosemary Sorensen and Tim Morrell, the panel spoke about the breadth of their critical approaches across scholarship, specialist media and the daily press. As each panellist attested, there are many different kinds of art writing. Art writing often seems to evoke unanswerable questions such as those posed by Helmrich when she asked, "What is art writing? What kind of art writing and media do we need? Are we being well served?".

As a theorist, Ted Colless, settling his comments on the promotion of Playstation in the 1990s and orders of cultural production, spoke of our present state as a culture of post-production, one in which we trade in flows of information about the future with much emphasis on empty lifestyle aesthetics. There is trade in not just speculation but speculation about speculation, while fabricating businesses on nothing all. For Colless, the challenge for critics is to go beyond into some kind of 'hyper-' existence - beyond their relationship to the earth, beyond the economics of desire, beyond meaning and value.

The relationship between artists and critics as well as art and criticism was Tim Morrell's focus. "Art criticism is not designed for the benefit of artists but for selling publications," he said. However, in talking around ideas of criticism, Morrell said that other kinds of art writing, such as catalogue essays, are quite a different proposition to criticism. The difference lies, primarily, in whose interests are being served. Catalogue essays are ordinarily commissioned by artists or galleries, often as part of didactic information, even marketing, of the artwork/artists. Interests in this form of writing are heavily vested. By contrast, criticism has a requirement of detachment and an obligation to readers. "Criticism can't collude with artists," said Morrell. "Yet, art criticism makes a difference to artists' lives ... Artists are an easy target." The nature, perhaps responsibility, of criticism is to constantly question and inquire, to be useful. However, there's also hope for art writing to aspire to be like art.

As the only journalist and editor on the panel, Rosemary Sorensen talked about the newspaper as the context for art writing and reporting. She also seemed to say that the future of the arts section of the paper is a tenuous arrangement. Partly, that's attributable to the business model of newspapers, based largely on advertising revenue, but also because there was not a great deal of tolerance within the newspaper environment for diverse styles of thinking and writing. Sorensen, of course, has been criticised for her derogatory commentaries about critical writing, such comments, she acknowledged, were "cheap".

Of all the writers on this panel, Sorensen was perhaps located most remotely from or external to the visual arts - the others are all embedded in the culture of the artworld as curators, critics, historians, academia and the like. A freelance arts journalist may have another perspective. She is embedded in a newspaper and its culture, not the artworld. So her comments seemed to resonate in rather a fractious way because, really, what Sorensen was talking about was not the way in which art is written about through its relationship to itself and its related disciplines or sites but of art writing's relationship to readers, a newspaper and the world writ large.

Sorensen also said that there needs to be a revitalisation of thinking and some attention paid to the kind of writing these new modes and intents might produce. Newspapers are, indeed, frustrating entities but also caught in the technological fray of rapid reinvention. For Sorensen, it could be a perfect time to adopt new styles of writing to somehow support and encourage those changes. The example she cites, after the book Barons to Bloggers, is in blogging of which there is a multitude of styles and contexts. This book, arising from the Alfred Deakin Lectures in Melbourne, addresses the issue of media power in an era of distributed and accessible media, particularly online.

In talking about a gap between academic writing and journalism, she also pointed to fallout from the uptake of French theory that resulted in intellectuals being absent from the pages of our newspapers. Sorensen isn't the first person to make such statements - apparently, the fallout from French theory (postmodernism, deconstruction, etc) has spread itself thin across the cultural terrain - but, if nothing else, it's really quite heartening to know that the Arts Editor of our metro daily is thinking about these intensities and issues. Another way of thinking about this theory is that, while perplexing and difficult, it is also intended to provide tools for critically thinking about and destablishing our political, media and cultural lives. Quite poetically, Sorensen also said that critical writing can, perhaps should, talk about everything. And the quandary journalists, like Sorensen, find themselves in is how to defend this difficult writing and how to shift media analysis, particularly in an environment where she, quite probably like many others, fight to keep those newspaper spaces open.

Finally, Rex Butler reveals one of the trade secrets of art writers when he says, "critics talk about themselves under the pretext of talking about others". For Butler art writing needs to create something that did not exist prior whether a new mystery, a problem or a secret. Because art writing arises from a dialogue with artwork/s, he says, the writing must be compelling and create a mystery equal to the work.

While many forums at ARC raised the pressing question of value of the arts, one of the issues that arises here is about the appropriate spaces and media in which to draw expertise in the arts into dialogue with audiences. The media seem to have love-hate relationships with experts, on the one hand demonising or ridiculing them and then on the other exhorting them. Expertise in the arts is often not taken seriously except in the burgeoning independent arts media. It sometimes seems that expert or informed arts opinion is too fluid and uncertain - perhaps irrational - to warrant serious attention. Art, it is repeatedly said, is a matter of personal taste and preference. However, while experts might provide much needed advocacy and commentary, in Australia our arts reporting and coverage is on the decline. Our arts, now, are under all manner of threat and disruption. We not only need our cultural experts - whether academic or critics or journalists - but we also need them to be heard and taken seriously.

November 01, 2005

FORUM | Everybody's A Critic, Or Are They?

States of Criticism, Credibility and Celebrity
November 3, 2005
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
540 W. 21st St. NY

With 9 million blogs, umpteen online message boards, thousands of shows on hundreds of cable channels, and an increased number of magazines on the newsstand, the number of outlets for expressing criticism has never been higher and the barriers to would-be critics have never been lower. Is this devaluing evaluation or does the shotgun approach result in better criticism? YOU be the Judge!

- Michael Atkinson, Village Voice Film Critic
- Emily Gordon, Critic of the New Yorker
- Jason Kottke, Author of and self-proclaimed dilettante critic
- Duncan Watts, Columbia University Sociology Professor

- Moderator Steven Heller, Senior Art Director of the New York Times Book Review, Graphic Designer and Author

BLOGS | Eyebeam reBlog

The Eyebeam reBlog is a community site focused on art, technology, and culture. The guest reBlogger is filtering feeds provided by artists, curators, bloggers, and news sites. With the touch of a button the reBlogger selects material to share with the Eyebeam community. reBlogs are useful to people or groups who want to maintain a weblog but prefer 'curating' content to writing original posts. Essentially it is a really useful tool to easily redistribute relevant content.

reBlog is a piece of software that was developed by Eyebeam R&D < production.php?page=randd> which facilitates the process of filtering and republishing relevant content from multiple RSS feeds. reBloggers can subscribe to their favorite online content feeds, preview the content, and select their favorite posts to republish.

Current reBlogger is Eyebeam's Executive Director Amanda McDonald Crowley.