If local writers turned their attention to local contemporary art, what might happen? What new conversations and connections could emerge? This is the subject of an experimental writing workshop I’ll lead this summer.
Write About Visual Art – Critical MAS
Description: This 4-part workshop welcomes writers of all styles: fiction, nonfiction, poets, songwriters, bloggers, academics, journalists, and other creatives. Participants will experiment with current forms of art writing that break free from traditional art criticism. We’ll learn from examples of established art writers and encourage each other to think and talk about contemporary art.
The written word has the ability to connect art to community, while expressing ideas of political and personal importance. As a final project, you’ll be invited to write about a work of art included in Eugene’s 2019 Visual Arts Week, featuring the Mayor’s Art Show and BRIDGE Exhibitions, with the opportunity to be published online.
Like many places outside of NYC and LA, Eugene, Oregon lacks any critical writing about visual art. Our cultural identity exists as calendar listings, exhibition summaries, photographs and rumor. Our artists and art organizations miss out on wider audiences cultivated through in-depth articles. The artist who is not written about does not exist, according to Wikipedia and the entire canon of art history.
The critical writing I hope to elicit with this workshop does not mean “to pass judgement or find fault.”
Critical writing = Transforming information, taking ideas forward, developing your own voice.
Descriptive writing = Presenting information, reporting ideas, setting the background.
I believe writers of all kinds are capable of applying their perceptions to the subject of art. We can start by ignoring a false notion of the art critic; the white guy elitist snob writing for other exclusionary types in order to confer status upon selected art stars. The writing styles of the big art market or theory-laden academic texts stand, perhaps, as illusory constraints that prevent writers from creating something better.
The public generally holds a cartoon vision of the art world, one that has nothing to do with actually being an artist in society today. What we need is communicative art writing that benefits artists, writers and community. This workshop is a start.
Writers of all backgrounds, identities and styles can bring their own approach to this project. We can combine descriptive, critical, and other forms of writing with the intention of telling stories about art and artists, deepening our connection to visual expression, discovering what we think while viewing and writing, and talking about what’s happening here and now with contemporary art and ideas.
I’ll approach this workshop as both an educator and an artist working in social practice. Wait. Maybe you don’t know what I mean when I say social practice art. That’s not your fault. How would know unless someone writes about it?
Definition: Social practice artists seek to affect their community in a real (not symbolic) way that enables social and/or political change. The medium focuses on human interaction, social discourse, and collaborations with individuals, groups and institutions.
I hope you’ll join us for this 4-night workshop. Even if you might miss a session, go ahead and sign up if you’d like to write for the final project. You’ll be asked to write about an artwork of your choice from Eugene’s Visual Art Week, Aug 2-9, including the Mayor’s Art Show, Aug 2-31. Your piece will be professionally edited and published online at the ECA site.
I encourage your courage. Let’s exert our imaginations and enjoy ourselves.
“Change happens when strong voices are allowed to mature in public, when people take stands without preset or puritanical agendas, aren’t afraid of giving up hierarchies, being wrong, and are honest and earnest.”
-Jerry Saltz, art critic
Check out episode #9 of Bottleracks and Fountains Podcast, where Courtney Stubbert, Agnese Cebere and I talk about art writing.