On the lack of independent art criticism

No doubt this lack of independent art writing is due to the lack of funding for this kind of cultural activity by the Australia Council and the South Australian state government. Presumably the market is too small to warrant funding, and the agenda or priority of the funding bodies is focused on audience development.

The inference is that there is a lack of critical writing or art criticism in Adelaide to create a document of record, build an archive and contribute to a broader critical dialogue at a local or regional level. This lack is an indication of contemporary art criticism being in a state of crisis that emerges from the isolation of art from its audience, the authoritative evaluating role of traditional criticism, and the privileging of specialised knowledge. 

The current situation therefore is one whereby artists and photographers make shows and engage in projects, and no one says much back or in response. The very limited means to tease out debate, articulate ideas and develop research results in few ways to disseminate and extend discussions beyond the gallery space.

Hence there is the acute sense of photographers working in a vacuum and in isolation with very little in the way that this lack of critical art writing in Adelaide will be addressed; or that any  dialogue-based projects and blogs would find institutional support to push against, or move beyond, the boundaries and conventions of traditional art criticism.

Copeville, Murray Mallee, South Australia

Funding options for art magazines are extremely limited and systemically sporadic, while larger institutions are less able to provide support than they had been in the 1980s–90s. An exception is the ANU’s support for Art Monthly. It would appear, that it is up to artists to experiment with activities that enable art’s public reception, incorporate critical dialogue or make writing and publishing a part of art photography practice.

My 2019 Mallee Routes book is an attempt to do this. After my two colleagues–Eric Algra and Gilbert Roe– vetoed the book being an art object within the Murray Bridge exhibition, it becomes a historical document in the form of an archive of time that references and contextualises my work in the exhibition. It is also a reference for any future critical writing about representing the Mallee landscape.

6 Responses

  • I don’t think the problem is local or regional. There is little to no coverage here in Melbourne too, in the main stream press anyway. The CCP has a digital publication sporadic at best and of course focused on photography. Paywalls that many national papers hide behind exacerbate the issue.

  • Melbourne has a long history of independent art critical writing.It currently has un Magazine as independent art critical writing.It has been going since 2004. West Space as an artist run initiative published Dialogue then Formation and Form: West Space 1993–2003, a 190-page hardcover book published in 2004 to document the first ten years of the organisation.

    Prior to this there was Agenda, LIKE and Artfan, which explored the role of text in relation to the exhibition of art. Melbourne has been a productive ground for experiments in dialogue, writing, and publishing.

    From memory the CCP published a number of their lectures on photography in the 1990s. I mentioned/referenced them in my essay in the Adelaide Art Photographers 1970–2000 book.

  • I’m in Adelaide, not even multi international awards in photography, paintings, digital created Art, begin of 2019 ranked 10 of 15 international Top Photographers was the local media important enough to mention it.
    Not even our local council in their newsletters.
    I thought getting in November 2019 a government award for my history Photography was the media worth a note.
    Not to mention that I see the “support” of artists with a disability and elderly artists as nothing as words.
    I’m 68, several sever disabilities don’t you think that there is any support, even a short note of my solo exhibitions (last 2 weeks in July with more than 150 works, September Artist of the Month solo exhibition, currently since 4th November to middle/end of January 2020) seems not to count in the media and art organisations anymore but a kids footprints on canvas and a fricken banana taped on a gallery wall gets media around the world.
    A kick in the butt for hardworking Artists, a lot selling just to get their Archibald Prize worthy works to prices which just cover their material expenses.
    I know what I’m talking about, I owned an Art Gallery and I did see it all. They had my support and when I sold works higher than they expected I shared this plus with them. At that time I never thought I would one day whinging myself about the media ignorance and state operated galleries do as our Gallery of SA, the curators answer what we have to do to get exhibition space was “get famous” but how without support of media and local press.

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