Saturday, October 31, 2009

Criticizing the Critics: Three takes on Searle

Apparently the audience for Guardian critic Adrian Searle's Toronto lecture last Sunday was a packed one. I unfortunately couldn't make it, though I did see Searle on an Art Publishing for the Digital Age panel on the Saturday. (Problem with anything containing the words "digital age" -- it seems to be an excuse for everyone to bring up their general complaints with the Interweb. But it was good to see the different approaches of Searle (literary, slightly cantankerous, no-blogging) and Vidokle (interested in high crit, free access, having readers in Islamabad).)

Anyway, I just wanted to point out three takes on Searle that I found informative, given my absence at the lecture:

1) Terence Dick's latest blog post at Akimbo.
An excerpt:

Searle ticked off some people by repeatedly referring to the AGO (the gallery he visited earlier that day) as the National Gallery. He then stuck his foot in his mouth again, talking about the Ydessa “Hernandez” Gallery with Ms. Hendeles sitting in the audience before him. He made up for this faux pas by gushing over her curatorial acumen and favouring her lack of instruction through wall panels and explanatory texts over the far too obvious strategies of the “National Gallery” (aka the AGO).

2) Bryne McLaughlin's Q&A with Searle at (which I know about because I help edit there). An excerpt:

BM: As we have here with the Sobey Art Award, which was just given out last week to David Altmejd.

AS: A set designer really, isn’t he. I mean he’s all right, but where would he be without silicone glue?

BM: Perhaps, but his exhibition at the 2007 Venice Biennale did bring significant international attention to a young Canadian artist, which can be a rare thing.

AS: Janet Cardiff got it, didn’t she? And Rodney Graham’s Vexation Island was one of the big hits of that particular biennale.

BM: And Mark Lewis this year…

AS: I’m not the biggest fan. It’s all a bit rhetorical isn’t it? And you know what, I can’t remember a single thing about his show. I can’t remember anything, really, although I spent half an hour in there. Whereas the Czech and Slovak pavilion, which was literally nothing, I remember intensely. Isn’t that strange, but it’s the way it goes.

3) Stephanie Vegh's summation of the lecture (accompanied by her misgivings about TIAF) is briefer. A tidbit:

In addressing a theme only briefly discussed during a preceding forum on Art Publishing in the Digital Age, Searle expressed a certain regret over the realities of art-writing in a deadline driven culture, particularly one exasperated by the immediacy of the internet. This generates a criticism of first impressions, which leaves little time for the transformations of opinion and impact that come from reflecting on an exhibition; a second thought may prove more fruitful, more correct than the first.

Any other opinions on the lecture knocking around out there?

Image of Searle lecturing in Toronto from


Anonymous said...

I also say the lecture of Digital Publishing. I thought Searle made a few interesting (and valid) comments on how the voice of the writer is being lost through some digital media - but on the whole I found the lecture to be a little empty.

A lot of questions were asked about what's happening to writing in the digital age -but I feel like the panelists didn't offer a lot of answers, or even opinions on what can be done to correct it. Overall, I found Searle to be witty but more sarcastic than informative.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for your comment. I hear you on the panel disappointment in terms of answers. It was more an opportunity, it seems, for each person on the panel to put forth what they like/don't like about Internet publishing. Searle did seem pretty dismissive of it overall. I can see what I suspect was his point about the need for print in terms of deep reading and reflection (and also proper payment for writers!) but I was I guess a bit surprised at the tone. Maybe the organizers were hoping fore more too? Ah well.

planforamiracle said...

Thanks for this post— I missed the talk too, but contacted the Power Plant, and I believe they archive their talks on video. If you email them you can probably watch it; that's what I'm planning to do.

Although your roundup makes a feel a little more skeptical about it than I would have, this is probably a good thing!