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Song Zhenxi: Art Critics, Make It Real

宋振熙 Song Zhenxi 2016-09-30 10:51

Human society is very strange - we draw circles to define things. We are always staying inside or outside of the circle and certainly the art circle is always confusing for “outsiders”. The self-contained ecosystem within the art circle is evolving to become ever more inaccessible, as if existing solely for self-amusement. And the outsiders? What do they see when they look inside? 

Speech is our basic physiology, and freedom of it is protected by law. However, if you want to speak "professionally", then it's not just about physiology or legality. 


European Thousand-Arms Classical Sculpture-Creation Xu Zhen

The discrepancy of "language" is creating contradictions. The collision and crossing of critical words is a good thing. With a different knowledge background, talking about the art from different angles is the right condition of Art Criticism and the best course for the development and practice of art theory. Those who studied traditional art history criticize according to art history with its own modes and methods. More radical curators and critics prefer discussing these questions using interdisciplinary ways of thinking. They have their own opinions and angles. But they should not overstep their bounds. Sometimes, they will be easily mixed together under some impetuses. Collision without foundations or standards is ineffective. 

Besides of not to "overstep", you also need to be equipped with the ability to speaking the language that people understand, and that is definitely not easy. In order to get to the top of "Discourse Mace of Contemporary Art", you need to learn many "magic words" of seemingly arcane origin. "Upgrade" and "level up", like in virtual games. However, in the end, some wise person will just use an ingeniously simple method to defeat so-called "top martial artists" and win respect from others. So is art criticism. You shouldn't try to make the answer to a simple question so complicated that only few professionals could understand what you are talking about. You should make the explanation as simple as possible. Otherwise it's just evading the point.


Facial Tattoo, Huang Yan

Some art critics really like the quoting words and opinions of top academics, especially Western academic allusions. This leads to the lack of context. They don't have accurate understanding and translation of the original text and they don't use their own judgement. Just putting those words that you don't understand together is self-denial and threatens the development of Contemporary Art Criticism. It looks very easy to make yourself clear about a work of art, but it actually demands high ability because art itself is not built upon a textual language.

Another big problem in the current art critique circle is "attitude". The "attitude" is about how to face the things you need to criticize and if you can speak the truth. China strives for "moderation". Under this cultural background, everyone speaks politely, which the diametric opposite of criticism. You can always see the complimentary words from the media, academic reports, and research meetings. This phenomenon isn't a simple problem. I hope, if there is a chance or someone is enterprising, he/she can use proper language to express real attitude. That's what criticism needs.


What's interesting is that the critics who can say true words will often get their right of speaking through hard criticism. Many critics' famous articles are serious criticism and academic attack about one "imaginary enemy". This is a kind of PK tactic. However, under some extreme manner, it will cause work itself separating from the nature. Creating view conflicts, refutation of academy started from the sophistry of ancient Greeks. Since then, it has been the methods of academic and cultural criticism. While also in the media era, it is very useful for those who are anxious to achieve quick success and get instant benefits. Doing so can reveal their academic skills and also establish their powerful right of speaking. However, it’s meaningless for contemporary art. "Arguing" is the "dynamic point", but "invective" is not right. Radical emotions need to be suppressed. This is also the main content of cleansing art criticism. 

As far as I'm concerned, there are two kinds of "words": useful and useless. It's more difficult to be the former one, but it's pointless to be the latter. As it is easier, there are always tons of useless articles. Only a few are useful. Maybe I'll say useless words, but what's more important for critics is self-criticism. So art critics, make it real. 

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