Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Enjoying: Latitude 53's Writer in Residence Program, and Taking on Art's PR Problem

A couple of (related) things I've enjoyed seeing of late:

1) Latitude 53's Writer in Residence Program

It's not often I see writer-in-residence programs at artist-run centres, but Edmonton's Latitude 53 has bravely entered the fray in the last few years with one, and I commend them for it. I find it even more impressive, in the Canadian ARC context, that they put their writers to work not on catalogue or brochure essays, but on blog posts that are widely accessible. I would love to see more programming like this from ARCs and other public galleries alike. Here's how they describe their program:

The writer in residence program is a new initiative from Latitude 53 that builds upon the mandate of Latitude 53 to provide a forum for dialogue about contemporary visual culture throughout communities. Situated as a six-month residency the writer engages Latitude 53 programming, the greater Edmonton-regional community and beyond through critical writing. The writer in residence will create a minimum of three writings a month on visual culture and may choose to coordinate, create, or incite critical dialogue about visual culture through other complementary programming activities as well.

Anyone else know of other programs like this in Canada? I'm often ignorant.

2) Latitude 53's New Writer-in-Residence Vows to Take on "Art's PR Problem"

In her first post for the latest L53 residency, artist and writer Anne Pasek has vowed to take on "art's PR problem." She has a few choice observations on this that resounded with me:

This crisis, as I see it, arises from several loci. Our art education has not caught up with the conceptual turns of contemporary art. Just as we would struggle miserably through the novels of Borges and Falkner were it not for the guidance of our teachers, the gestures of Yves Klein, Zhang Huan, or Frank Stella can seem pretty incomprehensible if we don’t have the pillars of philosophy, visual literacy, and history to fall back on. With the exception of a few innovative art education programs such as that of the Art Gallery of Alberta, I see this education as everywhere lacking.

Secondly, a lot of artists can’t write and don’t speak up. It may seem like a particularly cruel double-standard to expect artists to be both visually and literarily coherent, but all the bad artist’s statements out there really do art a disservice. While I understand the desire to avoid over-determining a viewer’s experience with didactics, I also see a profound cowardice in shrugging one’s shoulders and absolving oneself of responsibility for the interpretation of art once it enters the public sphere. More often than not this is laziness or poor form on the part of the artist and it does everyone a disservice when a viewer walks away feeling completely frustrated or confused. Please, artists, write good statements and speak eloquently about your art, or else you perpetuate the continual infantilization of artists in the world today.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the disconnect between art and the public also emerges from our lack of a coherent answer to the questions of What is art? and What can it do? This is where I really want to focus my residency for, as impossible as it is to answer these monolithic questions, they still beg a response in the form of continual and fluid speculation. When we have some expectations for the art we see- and when we as viewers are as engaged in the search for answers as the artists producing the work before us- then not only will we see some amazing things, we’ll also have a larger, more inclusive community. And that, I believe, it to everyone’s benefit.

Sure, Pasek's is a lofty goal, but having recently written about a meeting where the goal was proclaimed to make "Toronto the cultural capital of the world, not just the country" and where, in terms of this goal "failure is not an option,"my hyperbole-meter is wrecked at this moment in time.

My one (constructive) criticism at this point (and it is admittedly a matter of pot... kettle... black) would be to urge Latitude 53 writers to embed more links in their posts. If education on art is the issue, perhaps directing people to some helpful sources could, well, assist in alleviating a bit of that problem? Just sayin'.

(Image of mega-awesome keyboard in which one can only type the word "blog" (or perhaps, "glob") from


Anne said...

Thanks for the feedback- you raise a good point!

Leah Sandals said...

Thanks Anne! I look forward to reading more posts!

Leah Sandals said...

Hi again,

MC from the Ottawa Art Gallery forwarded me info about another blogging residency from Artengine and Vague Terrain - wanted to post since I definitely wasn't aware of it previously!