Friday, January 02, 2009

OtC New Years Resolutions

I have been thinking a lot about the blog and what I would like it to be and where I think it needs to go in the coming year. I can honestly say, that I do feel that it has lost its way some in the past 6 months but it is a new year and I resolve to bring back a bit of that spark that made me want to start writing it in the first place. My original goal for the blog was to create a living, breathing, local arts blog, focused on contemporary "emergent art" (this is my new adjective to replace the ever controversial "cutting edge" that we have debated over time and again on the blog), a blog that allowed for an open critical dialog about the local art and art community. For the most part I think this still holds true but it depends on all of us to make it the sort of entity I believe we all desire. I wish you all a Happy New Year and I hope to see and hear from you all more in the coming months.

Scott's On the Cusp related New Years Resolutions

Resolution #1: I will write at least one exhibition review per month

Resolution #2: I will conduct and post at least one interview or artist studio visit per month

Resolution #3: I will attempt to inspire others to help contribute posts, reviews, etc. to On the Cusp on a regular basis (volunteers welcome, email me at

What are your arts related resolutions for 2009?

12 Responses to “OtC New Years Resolutions”

Richard McCoy said...
January 2, 2009 at 10:31 AM

Happy New Year, OTC.

I'm glad to hear that emerging art is the new cutting edge art.

The Urbanophile said...
January 2, 2009 at 11:25 AM

One thing I'd suggest is not to be afraid to stir up trouble. As with many smaller cities, there is about zero tradition of informed criticism in Indianapolis. Nothing, and I mean nothing has generated such incredible negative feedback on my own blog as any hint of criticism of the arts in Indianapolis. It is very clear that artists and arts organizations here are used to incredibly fawning coverage. While I'm all for being supportive, until there is a robust tradition of self-criticism in this community, the city is not really going to move forward or reach its potential. That applies as much to local contemporary artists as it does to the big corporate architecture projects downtown. I think there's a huge gap that needs to be filled in terms of people who are supportive of various local scenes, but haven't drunk the booster club society kool-aid and can provide informed commentary, good and bad, about what is going on.

Scott said...
January 2, 2009 at 3:35 PM

Urbanophile, I can not agree more. I hope to be true to my actual opinions and I hope differing opinions can have an intelectual debate here.

As you know, we keep having this debate what is it to be "contemporary"? What does "contemporary" mean when in the context of art and artists? Somehow the term "cutting edge" always comes into play which adds to the confusion.

For Christmas, I received the book Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton. In one of the chapters in which she is discussing the Rubell family, she writes: "...the family is particularly passionate about 'emergent' art, a term that is indicative of changing times. In the 1980s, when people started to feel uncomfortable with the word avant-garde, they adopted the euphemism cutting-edge. Now with emergent art, anticipation of market potential replaces vanguard experiment. And a model in which individuals surface haphazardly overthrows a linear history in which leaders advance movements."

While I understand the use of emergent will still be confusing to many, and our coverage on the blog may certainly blur the line even more, I felt it was still a clearer term. Happy New Years.

Jeffrey C said...
January 2, 2009 at 9:00 PM

I'll have to think some more about Urbanophile's assertions. A part of me agrees, but another part thinks the strong reaction received to his more critical posts (much of which I've read) isn't about expecting fawning coverage. I think it might be people feeling it's tough enough to get good traction for the arts in Indy and here locals are piling on the criticism. It doesn't mean the criticism isn't valid or that it isn't needed, but it might suggest a way to have critical conversations and feedback loops a bit differently, so that they advance the art and not evoke pure defensiveness.

Scott said...
January 3, 2009 at 4:07 PM

Hi Jeffrey C,
This is the situation Indy seems to be in and will continue to be in for quite some time. I have thought over this issue, as it pertains to OtC for some time now. How do you balance being supportive and at the same time critical. My personal philosophy (currently) is one of tough love. We all want to support the arts and we do so in many different ways. Some do so by attending events and exhibitions, while others organize these sort of activities, some write about the scene... When it comes to talking to the general public, we should be champions of the local art scene but when it comes to this same discussion to what I would deem, art scene insiders, we owe it to ourselves to be honest and more critical.

I view this in the context that people who surround themselves by people at the top of their game, push themselves to be at the top of theirs. I often feel that the bar in Indy is so low that we do not push ourselves to put on our "A" game. This goes for artists, curators and galleries a like. There are some exceptions to this model as there are in any other but if we look at this model in other fields, be it educational institutions, think tanks, professional sports, etc. we see this to hold true.

I do not hold that we should be critical just to be critical, but if we can be honest with each other, call each other out when we see holes in our mission or purpose then that will push us to do better.

With every exhibition I have exhibited in or curated, I have made errors (lost track of budgets, fail to send out press releases on time, time management, still working on pieces the day before the show, etc.) but I learn from each of these and I find that I am getting better with each of these as time goes on. But, if no one ever called me on it I am unsure whether I would push myself to do better or at least not be as concerned with it. If we call out artists for hanging unfinished works, bad works, poorly crafted works, etc., while we call out galleries for putting on poorly conceived exhibitions, poor lighting, failure to promote shows, or poorly presenting the art, then we hold each other accountable and therefore we will in time hopefully begin raising that bar.

The Urbanophile said...
January 3, 2009 at 4:11 PM

Scott, I agree totally. Just because you demand excellence from local purveyors of anything doesn't mean you aren't supportive of the local scene and don't want local institutions, artists, etc. to thrive and grow.

I should also note that you don't always have to try for world class, but then again, if you are aiming lower - a perfectly valid thing to do when, for example, you are budget constrained - don't pretend you didn't.

I think we should also take the time to recognize that while Indy has a long way to go as a city, it's come a long way too. The difference in the IMA just since Max Anderson took over is incredible. Where was the public art 15 years ago? Heck, where was anything in this city 15 years ago? We've come a long way, baby. Let's celebrate that, but let's also realize that we aren't at the end of the journey yet.

I look forward to reading further this year.

Anonymous said...
January 3, 2009 at 4:41 PM

A big questions always is "what qualifies a critic to be a critic?" Iin the age of the internet, many folks that have blogs perceive themselves as serious critics.

Scott said...
January 3, 2009 at 7:38 PM

Fair enough question though I do not know if there is an easy answer anyone could simply state that would clarify this for all but I will, in my humble sort of way attempt to. [For the record, I do not consider myself a "critic" in the traditional sense as that I feel implies an ongoing line of work.]

To start, I would more than likely read the criticism from a blogger who blogs on a specific topic more than I would most supposed critics working for local newspapers. If we look at say one of our own local movie critic for the star, she has no background in film and little or no passion on the topic which makes her writing shallow. Why is she the movie critic more likely to do with paper politics where I hear they love to shuffle staff to positions they feel are easy to write about. If they like going to movies, they should be able to write about them.

As for what should qualify someone to be an art critic? Well, I would say that they first need an understanding and knowledge of art history (particularly that of the past 60 years). This is not to say they need to be an art historian or such, or even need some sort of degree like an MFA or PhD but this understanding of arts past will better situate them so they can better understand contemporary art and artists practices. They must have a good eye. They must be knowledgeable with contemporary art and practices and see as much art as they possibly can. Keep up with current discussions concerning art and art theory. Ability to intelligently comprehend, deconstruct, evaluate and communicate/write about art to the given audience. A passion for art, I feel is a must. A willingness to be blunt and honest in their criticism in spite of their connections to an artist or venue. A clear point of view is probably tops for me as well. In a nutshell, I think that sums it up for me.

While being an artist or art historian might give you some sort of leg up, it can not in its own qualify you, just as being a great writer would not necessarily qualify them. Hell, I know a number of artists in which I graduated from Herron with who rarely if ever go to gallery shows, couldn't name more than 5 galleries in NYC, or if I dropped the name of say, Dana Schutz, they would have no clue who I was talking about. So just being a talented artist would not in itself qualify someone. It is a package deal. I feel these criteria are necessary for critics in any field, (area of knowledge pertaining).

Some great art criticism comes in the form of bloggers and blog readers most of which are unpaid. This is a valuable resource for growing art scenes, especially when more and more papers are cutting their arts coverage (criticism is one of the first to go).

Would I qualify as an art critic, given my own criteria? I will let you all decide. Though I would have to give myself at least 85%.

The Urbanophile said...
January 4, 2009 at 8:23 PM

I find it interesting that someone who posts a comment as "Anonymous" on a blog questions bloggers as critics.

The web has had a great democratizing effect in many areas. We've seen what it has done to the so-called "mainstream media". It's similar with arts criticism. Some people don't like this, but it is reality. Anyone can say anything they like on the web. Some people will get an audience, some won't.

If someone doesn't want the public commenting on their arts exhibits and performances, I suggest not asking the public to attend or fork over money.

I read this blog because I find it valueable, not because of any particular credentials held by the people who write for it.

Lirio said...
January 4, 2009 at 9:35 PM

I've had password problems for so long....anyway....I remember the early days....I tried to help OTC get beyond the *F-you...No, F-you!* made it! Heh!
I'm more of a "forum" style communicator....but appreciate all the time and effort you have devoted to this art blog Scot.....there's supposed to be a local arts magazine soon....I believe I read that somewhere......

Scott said...
January 5, 2009 at 12:39 AM

Hi Lirio,
Yes, there is apparently a new local arts mag coming out this month. While I have corresponded with one of the people behind it (generically that is), I have little knowledge of what it will be like or where it will be available. I believe the person I was corresponding with will be presenting information about the mag at the IDADA meeting this week, so I hope to learn more about it. Once I get more information I will share that with all of you.

ArtistDan said...
January 5, 2009 at 1:36 PM

In response to Scott's answer about what qualifies a critic to be a critic, I have been wondering that about myself. As somewhat of a newbie to blogging I have taken my time to feel out if I have anything interesting to share. After being told and realizing I tended to be passionate and descriptive about my opinions at art openings, I decided to write about that. My first comments were simply a reply to an IBJ post. I did my first blog article a few weeks ago.

So whether anybody ever reads what I come up with isn't as important as developing a voice and participating more fully in the local arts community.

I'm not good at remembering nationally known artists' names, nor do I frequent NYC galleries. But I have been a practicing professional visual artist in Indianapolis for over 30 years and have been successfully teaching at the Indianapolis Art Center for a couple of years. From that perspective I have gained the kind of experience that I hope will translate into sharing opinions and creating more discussions.

So my response to "Anonymous" is that I will offer critiques, but I'll always think of myself as an artist and not a critic. Anybody can be a critic. We're all critics. It's simply a matter to what level one takes to wear that cap. Is it for pay? self-gratification? or feedback?

Regarding Scott's self grading of at least 85% - I'd grade him higher. His comments have been carefully thought out and rationally expressed. Scott has been an inspiration to me and I would like to see more people become active.

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