I’m just about to head off to New York where I’ll be speaking about digital art criticism at the College Art Association’s annual conference on Saturday 16th February.
I’m in a session called ‘The Work of Art Criticism in the Age of E-zines and Blogging’ (2.30-5.00 on Saturday 16th (Beekman Parlor, 2nd Floor, Hilton ). It is chaired by Diana McClintock (Kennesaw State University) and Susan Todd-Raque, (independent curator) Here’s how they described the session:
Historically, critical writing that is intellectually stimulating and theoretically grounded in sources considered to possess quality and significance has been recognized as “good.” Today, however, “criticism” is found on e-zines and Facebook, and “critics” range from respected professionals to casual bloggers. Art criticism has become globally accessible. Has this widespread accessibility resulted in qualitative changes? This session welcomes papers that examine the endless proliferation of “criticism” and the multitude of “critical” sources now available on digital sites such e-zines, blogs, and social networks, and that investigate the changes that these new critical sites have compelled within critical writing itself. Who are today’s “authorities”? What questions should critics ask? Has the critical voice changed in this age of digital production? Do the old rules apply, and should they? How should the academic world help students navigate the universe of available sites and develop critical-thinking skills and valid critical methodologies?
And there’s the abstract for the paper I’m giving:
Make to Know: Towards Art Critical Transmedia Literacies.
My paper makes a case for a hands-on approach to gaining necessary art critical transmedia literacies. I begin by describing the emerging characteristics of several types of post-internet art contextualization. For example, through art-focused email-based discussion lists, blogging and micro-blogging, I discuss how art criticism has become more democratic, faster and highly participative. However, I argue that certain types of archive corroborate certain types of knowledge, and that the criteria by which we judge art belong more to the book than to the blog. At this point I describe my own practice – including the various incarnations of the Arts Future Book project – and show how a transmedia approach has helped me access the value of new media art and art criticism. I conclude that aligned with the Digital Humanities, art criticism must embrace the ‘makerly turn’ and thoroughly explore how meaning is created and transferred through new media.
There’ll be lots of live tweeting this year at CAA because there’s free wifi. I’m guessing the hashtag will be #caa2013?! And I’ll be launching a rather exciting and very Twitter-centric project into the conference Twitter stream so pay attention!
You know those magazine features where women reveal the contents of their make-up bags (and you realise it wasn’t genes, it was Givenchy)? Well, I’ve done the digital equivalent! That’s right, thanks to the lovely Tamsyn Gilbert of First 5 I’ve revealed the first five websites I visit every day. Of course Furtherfield is on the list, and I didn’t quite over-share on the jewellery blog front, but I have been honest. Here’s the big reveal…
I’m really interested in projects like First 5 so I’ve asked Tamsyn to write all about it for an upcoming series on PhD2Published about new forms of scholarship – can’t wait to hear more!
I’m beyond honoured that Three Pipe Problem’s Hasan Niyazi has featured me in a blog post about the burgeoning field of digital art history.
Niyazi has written a really great summary of many of the recent discussions that have arisen out of events like the recent Digital Art History Conference (organized by Jim Coddington at Institute of Fine Art, New York University), and the Kress Foundation report by Diane Zorich (which looked at the challenges of making art history digital). At the end of his extremely useful over-view, Niyazi has gathered together examples of three established digital art historians to further illustrate the type of work that is going on. In addition to my research on online approaches to art history, he discusses the work of Dr Nancy Proctor, Head of Mobile Initiatives at the Smithsonian Institute and manager of MuseumMobile, and Dr. Alexandra Korey, one of the web’s first professional arts and culture bloggers.
It has certainly been an exciting few months since I spoke on the first ever panel dedicated to the digital humanities at CAA 2012. Established figures like Lev Manovich have been attempting to float a #digitalarthistory hashtag and it has been great to see not just more discussion of the issues of digitizing art history but also to see more of these discussions actually happening digitally! And this is perhaps where my work differs significantly from that of other art historians working towards a digital discipline.
I am not concerned with digitizing art history so much as understanding what art contextual studies are and what they might become in light of digital technology. During the New York conference SmartHistory’s Beth Harris tweeted that Paul Jaskot (who was also on the CAA panel is doing great work with digital technologies in art history) had argued that we should ‘put the art history questions first, and then use digital tools to answer them, instead of other way around’. What I am interested in however is what questions we can ask now that we have digital tools and technologies – questions that we perhaps couldn’t ask before. This is because I believe that there are connections between the form and content of an archive and further, that art history is deeply attached to ideas that are formed mostly in co-operation with print.
So for example one of the features of online art contextualization that engages me is participation. I am concerned with the ways in which being able to participate more fully (for example: more easily accessing the images of artworks, writing a blog and having other public dialogues about art, and even – as part of art practices like Internet art – taking an active role in making and presenting artworks) changes not just the ways we work but also the ways in which meaning is made. Participation becomes an archival imperative and maybe even an aesthetic that drives culture and this is, for me, where digital art history gets most exciting!
Around this time last year I did something very silly. Inspired by NaNoWriMo I decided to try and bash out 50, 000 words of my academic book in one month, and I invited the international academic community to do it with me. I called the event AcBoWriMo (Academic Book Writing Month) and used PhD2Published and it’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to organize it all. I copped the odd bit of flack times for appearing to suggest that this target was A) possible B) likely to produce polished work and that C) academia should be fast and furious – three things I never meant to imply at all. But ultimately the event went really, really well.
The actual point was to bring a writing community together and share our ways of working. I did promote the idea of writing a lot and trying to do it quickly but only to snap us all out of our procrastinatory hazes and to provoke discussion about the difficulties of our writerly lifestyles. And boy did we build a great writing team. I was so lucky that over 100 people took part and generously shared their own processes and the highs and lows of trying to write up academic research. And recently, some people have even said that it was the bonkers idea of writing so much that compelled them to take part. I just wanted to get people working together and being open and honest about their practice. I set up PhD2Published entirely out of a desire to be free and open about academia and Ac(Bo)WriMo is no different.
And quite frankly it was an experiment – although one that went better than I could ever have hoped!
I was deeply touched to receive many public and private thank yous after the month-long event. So many people told me that having a support network helped them feel a lot less lonely and learning new techniques helped them form better (and happier) writing habits for the future. And I’m not too tough to admit that being thanked in Emily Kothe’s PhD thesis acknowledgements made me teary eyed (see image)! I remember only too well how tough it is to write a thesis and I was thrilled to know I’d been able to help Emily in some small way. (I wish I’d had a virtual team to help me through the last months of my own thesis, I’m sure I’d have eaten a lot less Nutella).
This year we’re about ALL aspects of academic writing, and encourage participants to set their own (wild) goals. As a result of that, and the strength of the AcWri community that built up after last year’s dedicated writing month, the event is now called AcWriMo – we’re dropping the ‘Bo’. And then it’s pretty much the same six rules:
1. Set yourself some crazy goals. Try and come up with some outcomes that would really push you beyond anything you ever thought possible. I always said 50,000 words is a bit of a nutty goal for academic writing in one month (it works out at something like 2,500 words a day and that’s just bonkers) but if you’re bonkers, go ahead and set that target. Otherwise, think about how much you are comfortably able to write a day and set yourself the task of regularly exceeding that amount. If you can manage 300 words a day then we want 400, if you can do 1000, then we want 1500 – something like that. Last year, a lot of people preferred setting themselves a time-based goal. They would try to write for so many hours a day or week and often used the Pomodoro technique to count units of productive time. If that’s your thing, go for it! How about sneaking in an extra Pomodoro a day? Or, look at all the writing tasks you’ve got to achieve over the next few months and decide to get a set amount of them done in November. In the US it’s job season, so how about you count your job-letter-writing-time. Or article drafts maybe?
2. Publicly declare your participation and goals. You can do this by adding to the comments of the original blog post, by tweeting using the hashtag #AcWriMo, by writing on our PhD2Published Facebook page, or by adding yourself to Jenn Lim’s AcWriMo Accountability Spreadsheet. Being accountable is key to this working for you as a way to push yourself, but if you want to silently take part, at least tell a friend who is likely to hold you to it.
3. Draft a strategy. This is essential if you’re going to make a success of this. Sitting down to write without preparation is the first step towards being struck down with writer’s block. We’ll be blogging and tweeting lots of ideas to help you, so before you start, work out a strategy for how you’ll tackle your set tasks. For example, establish how much you’ll need to write a day, and on which days you can definitely do this. Offload as much other work as you can, and get in some supplies (we recommend stocking up on decent coffee of course). Think about how you work best and adopt that approach from the start – this means planning everything from comfy clothes to reading sessions.
4. Discuss what you’re doing. OK so being on Twitter and Facebook with us all day isn’t acceptable – you’ve got work to do – but checking-in at certain times is imperative! We want to know how you’re getting on? What is working for you and what isn’t? We want you to tell us all if you need help with something but also to celebrate your successes with us too. And nothing is TMI when it’s AcWriMo because that’s the point: sharing!
5. Don’t slack off. As participant Bettina said of AcBoWriMo, you must ‘write like there’s no December!’ But guess what? If you work super hard now, there’s going to be more December to go round. Remember how December usually creeps up on you and suddenly its Christmas Eve and you’ve failed to buy gifts or take time out for yourself. Well, if you put the work in now, there’ll be so much December you won’t know what to do with it all!
6. Publicly declare your results – and please be honest! As a writing community, we’ll all benefit from sharing in your achievements, but it is also good to see what works and what doesn’t. And if you don’t make your targets, you’ll still be achieving the selfless goal of making the rest of us feel more normal – so it’s a community win/win really.
Keep your fingers and toes crossed for us all, it’s going to be a pretty full-on November with lots being blogged and tweeted about academic writing. For example, I’m excited to be featuring writing on PhD2Published by Wendy Laura Belcher, author of Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks, who finds obstacles to academic writing and shows you how to pole volt over or tunnel under them with aplomb!
Sitting in a dark room in the basement of the Neue Gallery in Kassel, Germany, I experienced a wave of not entirely unpleasant but utterly uncontrollable nausea. I was watching a video by the artist Wael Shawky called Cabaret Crusades (2011). Both magical and macabre, it is a marionette musical based on the 1983 book The Crusades through Arab Eyes by Lebanese author Amin Maalouf.
My experience was quite beyond words. Somehow I knew I was witnessing a work that was epic in a number of ways. I was sensing something so right and so wrong about the combination of elements and frankly I was lost in it. I was enthralled and lost to myself in the stories. I was lost in the faces of the puppets as they stabbed each other and burned. I was lost in the music and lost somehow to the connections between my thoughts and my body. And then it hit me, I was going to be sick!
I write about art, but sometimes there’s something so completely and utterly un-writable about my experiences of it. Sometimes what it does is so embodied and emotional that I know I’ll never do it justice with a simple explanation.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the concept of the art experience ever since – nor the number of other moments at Document 13 where I was overcome by art. So I decided to ask the Twitter-sphere about their own overwhelming art moments…Is there an artwork that nearly made you throw up? Or cry? Did it do something else to you? Did it change your life?
Here’s what was kindly shared with me:
Duke University has a really well-known and highly respected writing centre called the Thomson Writing Program. Every year they have a conference called Critical Ink, which draws together the best of student writing across a range of disciplines and engages student and faculty in paper and poster presentations, and discussions of all things writing and communication. And I’m beyond excited to say that I’m the keynote speaker for this year’s event! I can’t wait to head down there and meet the folks at Duke. I’m honored to have been invited to such a great event!
Following that, I’m going to the annual CAA conference where I’m looking forward to a crazy schedule – although I hope it won’t blow my mind quite as badly as last year (my first CAA experience) as I needed about a week to come down after that. This time I’ll be majorly starstruck because I’m speaking on a roundtable exploring the intersections of Art History and the Digital Humanities. Here’s the blurb:
This panel will take up such questions as “How might the traditions of Art History and Visual Studies enrich the Digital Humanities?”, “What role might networked modes of communication and analysis play in our discipline?”, and “How might our own scholarship be more visual?” Panelists will present their own digital projects and also offer advice on how to undertake similar work. There will be ample time for discussion as well.