In my application for the Superscript/Hyperallergic blog mentorship, I said something faintly melodramatic about having lived in an “Atlantic vacuum” and my yearning to attend Superscript to “[bridge] the gulf between Canadian and American art criticism.” Though the current climate of austerity in Canada means that Canadian critics must weather an economic landscape that is just as barren and precarious as it is for critics in the US, the mechanisms of our markets, museums, and money-allocation vary vastly. So since a comparison between the two would be counterproductive, I’d like to take this opportunity to flesh out my opening statement by outlining how my solitary consumption and production of criticism postured me as a wannabe-critic and what I hope to gain from attending Superscript through the mentorship.
I studied art history at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design on the idyllic east coast of Canada (with Montreal being the closest metropolis, at 1,242 km away). Its pedagogy still bears traces of the legacy of Garry Neill Kennedy, who transformed it into a Conceptual Art haven from 1967 onwards. At peak impressionability in my second year, at the New Museum’s Ungovernables Triennial, I saw the Iman Issa work that would decidedly spur the dilemma that fueled most of my undergrad research. There, I found myself caught between three disparate inclinations: my seduction by slick, sleek Minimalist aesthetics; developing anti-oppression politics; and fostering a distaste for textbook-identity-politics work laden with didacticism and tired, derivative tropes. I therefore delved into a research-oriented (i.e. writing-devoid) art history degree, isolating myself in a Brutalist university library to sweat over papers that no one would critique but my art history profs, often fueled by quad-espressos and whatever methylphenidate I could get my hands on.
By third year, I came to be increasingly frustrated with the absence of forums to share, discuss, and improve our writing. After much deliberation, some like-minded colleagues and I established a quarterly newsprint publication that we named CRITpaper. We envisioned it as an antidote to the lack of publishing opportunities for emerging Halifax-based writers and toiled to make it a site for apt critical reviews, essays, and interviews. We wanted to create a tangible document of what writers and artists were preoccupied with, and we wanted to make it structurally sustainable so that it could continue to fulfill a perceivable void in Canadian art criticism. Through soliciting and editing content for CRITpaper over the past three years with a small team of volunteers and support from the Khyber, a beloved local artist-run centre, it came to be a site for me to skirt around the performance anxiety I’d developed towards writing while remaining an articulation of my continual engagement with criticism as a discipline, even if through a medium that is renegotiating its parameters on an unremitting basis. (Past issues are here, but if you’re at #Superscript15 and you’d like to get your hands on a copy, please feel free to approach me for one.)
My art history education was totally at odds with what I learned in J-school, where I suddenly had to haul ass to keep up with a relentless deadline turnaround, and was called out for my cavalier employment of the International Art English that I’d gotten so accustomed to speaking and writing. A year after graduating, I still find myself in a liminal space;) where I’m struggling to reconcile the clashing principles I was shelled with in these two disciplines that ought to be a tad less contradictory.
I originally intended to attend Superscript to bask in discussions of what it means to be a digital-immigrant art critic in a digital age and to fan-girl over critics whose work I’ve admired from a distance for years. However, as a participant in the mentorship program, I’m thrilled for the opportunity to be more than a flâneur-scroller, to dive into the deep end of the pool to hybridize art history + journalism, to learn from you how you do it the way you do IRL.
The Superscript Blog Mentorship program, a partnership with Hyperallergic, is presented as part of