Symposium: The promise and compulsion of art criticism’s universalism

How can art criticism be, at one and the same time, particular and belong to all? Art criticism is a specific practice of delimiting and delineating boundaries. One the one hand critique, as judgment, is the proper domain of art criticism, while, on the other, the practice of judgment is operative in a host of other spheres in euro-modernity. In a period during which the boundaries of art tend to dissolve, it has become apparent that art criticism’s practice of delimiting and delineating boundaries, with its institutional lack of presupposed measures, is parallel to other border-drawing practices that constitute colonial, capitalist modernity.

This symposium is, in part, the result of an ongoing conversation about these border-drawing practices and their historical and contemporary articulations. During a series of meetings, we (Mikkel Bolt, Frida Sandström, Fredrik Svensk and James Day) have discussed the expanded function of art criticism within the current global political conjuncture, informed by an æsthetic-historical perspective. How are we to understand the relation of art criticism to a collapsing, yet dominant epistemology? What is the role of art criticism in maintaining and overthrowing the relations of power and desire that dominate the world today?

The point of departure for the symposium is that this specific practice of delineating and delimiting boundaries, exercised in aesthetic judgements, finds expression in a promise immanent to the apparatus of the nation state, which is imposed directly on all social subjects. It presumes, in other words, the critical subject’s ability to speak by way of this border-drawing practice, even when it comes to pinpointing the crisis inherent to criticism itself, and which criticism in contradictory ways also strives to articulate. Such articulation does not always – is perhaps unable to – express the fact that the imperative, or demand, of the critical border is put upon people under very different conditions. Where these conditions remain unarticulated, critique merely affirms racialized capitalist society and its myriad forms of domination. We thus ask: where, today, is this border reproduced as a promise and a requirement? Can the imperative of the art critical border be redrawn, such that it gestures towards aesthetic community?


13:00-13:30 Introduction Frida Sandström and James Day
13:30-14:00 Book presentation: Tools of Aesthetic Criticism in a Divided World (Där historien tar slut: Makt, monster och motstånd i en delad värld, 2020) Stefan Johnson
14:00-14:30 Response followed by a plenary discussion Mikkel Bolt
14:30-14:45 Break
14:45-15:15 Paper: The esthetic order of racial profiling in Sweden Leandro Schclarek Mulinari
15:00-15:30 Response followed by a plenary discussion Frida Sandström
15:45-16:00 Break
16:00-16:30 Paper: Perception and Abundance: Erich Unger and Paul Feyerabend on the Destitution of Sense Mårten Björk
16:30-17:00 Response followed by a plenary discussion James Day
17:00-17:15 Closing words by Fredrik Svensk

The symposium is hosted by the New Carlsberg Foundation research centre Art as Forum, and arranged by Frederik Svensk from Akademin Valand, PhD student Frida Sandström, postdoc James Day and professor Mikkel Bolt from the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, UCPH.