Symposium: The subject of art criticism’s universalism

Installation documentation from Roxy Farhat’s Still Interested in This Image at Skånes Konstförening (2020), featuring the Make Again Again Again (2020).

Installation documentation from Roxy Farhat’s Still Interested in This Image at Skånes Konstförening (2020), featuring the Make Again Again Again (2020). Photo: Lena Bergendahl 

Through an archeology of the constitution of the critical subject we have tried to set an analysis of the historical development and present crisis of art criticism in motion, with a view to the possible abolition of the art critical subject as part of the new cycle of protests that have swept the world since 2010.

What seems clear to us is that the subject of art criticism acts in and beyond the context of art. Understanding this subject beyond its presumed ‘post-critical’ or ‘post-aesthetic’ faith, we interpret the practice of art criticism as part and parcel of a euro-modernist paradigm that seems capable of reinventing itself no matter what kind of crisis it confronts.

As part of this history, we investigate the opening that the crisis of this paradigm and its forms of subjectivity also enable. Can the universalist pretensions of aesthetic judgment be derailed in such a manner that it becomes possible to envision a universality not based on an initial political break between the subject of judgment and those it excludes (geopolitically or otherwise)? And what, then, would such universalism imply? We wish to examine the paradox that the critical subject seems essential for both critical discussion and also the abolition of the very performance of this form of subjectivity. What would it mean, instead of realizing the promise of the art critical subject, to abandon it? Is something like an abolition of art criticism possible, and what would it look like?

These are some of the questions we, the organizers of the seminar,* have been discussing for the last year, and this seminar is the second public iteration of this ongoing conversation. We have invited five brilliant thinkers, Marie Louise Krog, David Lloyd, Fumi Okiji, Kerstin Stakemeier and Marcello Tarì, who have in each their own way contributed to the critical analysis of the present misery and its possible overcoming. 

*Mikkel Bolt, James Day, Frida Sandström and Fredrik Svensk