Re: Should Bad At Sports Twitter Art Reviews?

March 13, 2009 · Print This Article

Remember the days of the email love letter? I do. They were lovely–you could secretly compose long screeds to your beloved while at work and pretend it was just business. I’ll bet a lot of you kids are nodding your heads right now and saying, well, yeah…but for me textual flirtation was all about instant messaging. Perish the thought, I say. A proper love letter should be lengthy, sometimes even ridiculously so, filling pages of loose-leaf paper, scrolls of screen, however long it takes to come even an iota closer to capturing in words that ineffable feeling that you’re shyly, determinedly, bursting to convey.

To me, writing about art is a lot like writing a love letter. I’m sure many of you are snorting with derision at that statement, but I don’t care; I really mean it. Why else would those of us who still bother to write about art keep doing it, if not for the sheer stupid pleasure of using exorbitant language to capture that which words can never adequately convey?

That’s why I’m kind of aghast at the rise of Twitter and Facebook as a growing forum for art criticism these days. Now, I totally get the social aspects and benefits of these applications, and to the way they provide increased and enriched  opportunities for argument and back-talk, along with a gossipy sort of zing to art discourse in general, I say right on. But I mourn the passage of long-form art criticism (can we please just call it art writing? The term ‘criticism’ always feels much too, well, critical to me). The blogosphere still allows people to write about an artwork or a show at some length, but even that is changing: some bloggers who’ve held their fingers to the wind for far longer than I are noting (in decidedly hopeful tones, I should add) the drastic streamlining of the blog form, or even, as Deanna Isaacs surmised a few weeks ago in the Reader, the death of text itself.

Art, like any object of affection, deserves extravagant prose devoted to it, damn the word count. Even work that may not be all that great is worthy of elaboration in my book. Do we really want Peter Schjeldahl and the museum curators to be the only ones given the space and opportunity to write about art at length? Personally, I think that would be a fucking shame.

That being said, I’m not against Twittering art reviews at Bad At Sports–I  think we should try it. I’m well aware that blogs are not the place to try and resuscitate long-form criticism, and I’m continually fascinated with the different ways people use words to grapple with art. The — what is it — 140 words? — that Twitter allows can provide a good exercise in summing up a work of art or an exhibition concisely and with, as the genre seems to require, just the right amount of deadpan irony. I myself possess none of the pith required to Twitter well, but I genuinely look forward to seeing what those who have a knack for it will do with this emerging form.

4 thoughts on “Re: Should Bad At Sports Twitter Art Reviews?”

  1. It’s only 140 characters and it poses quite a challenge, but an interesting one: to pare down an experience to a very short phrase…I’ve been fooling with it the last month or so and have found it worthwhile in a very circumscribed sort of way…

  2. Claudine says:

    Dmitry, so of course I had to hunt you down on Twitter after reading your comment. You are doing some interesting stuff with it, it feels more like snippets of poetry, street poetry or something. I’ll keep reading….

  3. Great post Claudine. I agree with most of your assertions, but I would like to disagree with two.

    I think the web can and is being used well as a location for good, long form criticism. There are several locations where the discussion is better than most glossies. See, e.g., John Haber’s site, among others. I think this can exist along with shorter blog stuff, — the longer pieces should be encouraged, not discouraged.

    Twitter seems to me a possibility, but it is often, in use, a complete kowtowing to soundbite culture, and we have seen enough of the effects of that over the last decade and more.

    Second, I am against the term ‘art writing.’ It sounds weird, as if it means “art that is writing” not “writing about art.” Yet, of course, ‘art writing’ is modeled on ‘art criticism.’

    Also, ‘criticism’ really means analysis and discussion, not only negative comments, although in ordinary “street” language it means simply the latter. So maybe you are right that a new word is needed— “art writing” sounds all wishy-washy to me too — as if it could be just any old pile of words about art, like the descriptive everything-is-okay crap one reads so often in the German-speaking world. “Analytic art writing”? I can’t really think of a better term.

  4. Claudine says:

    Hi Mark, thank you! Regarding Twitter, interestingly enough there were a couple of blog posts and essays written over the weekend that expand this discussion even further. First, Ben Davis’ blog post on Artnet magazine, The Twitter Aesthetic ( Sorry I don’t know how to do links in comments yet! But it’s a lengthy discussion of what Twitter is good at, especially in covering art fairs. And then today Edward Winkleman referenced Davis’ blog essay in his, Winkleman’s own blog and added further commentary on the issue ( I think I might post about these two things today as they help flesh out different angles of the Twitting issue.

    RE: art criticism vs. art writing. Yeah, ‘art writing’ does sound clunky & lame doesn’t it. Maybe my discomfort w/the term comes from my own personal issues with not knowing how to describe/situate/think about the writing that I’m doing now. Especially as it pertains to this blog/website. Eh, I suppose it doesn’t much matter what it’s called, the focus should be on how to do it well, how to make art criticism relevant and appropriate to this format without reducing it all to a snapshot. I’m going to go check out John Haber’s blog now….

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