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SUPERSCRIPT:

ARTS JOURNALISM AND CRITICISM IN A DIGITAL AGE


OFFICIAL CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

From May 2830, 2015, the Walker Art Center hosted Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a
Digital Age, an international conference on cultural publishings current challenges and its possible
futures. All sessions of the convening were transcribed live by a stenographer; below is an edited
transcript of both days of the one of the conference.
To view videos of all Superscript panels and keynotes, or to read commissioned essays and live
blogging by participants in the Superscript Blog Mentorship program (a partnership with
Hyperallergic), visit walkerart.org/superscript-reader. To report errors in this document, email
superscript@walkerart.org.
PANEL PRESENTATIONS:
Credibility, Criticism, Collusion
Ryan Schreiber, Pitchfork
I was raised in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, and as a young person, the Walkers collection
served as my first introduction to contemporary art, so its exciting to find myself involved with
Superscript. I was lucky to grow up with access to this citys arts community. My taste in music was
strongly shaped by its influence. The alternative radio stations KJ104 and REV105 introduced me to
bands like Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Guided by Voices. KUOM at the University of
Minnesota taught me about underground punk and electronic music. KMOJ introduced me to hip-hop,
First Avenue and the Cedar Cultural Center made me a fan of live music, and the City Pages, along
with local defunct zines, such as Cake and the Squealer, inspired me to be a writer and a critic.
Pitchfork began here in 1996. I was 18 and just out of high school when a friend introduced me to the
Internet. Ive always loved the idea of working for a music magazine and immediately recognized the
potential of the web as a publishing platform. At that time, only a few web publications existed, but
none with an eye towards independent music. I thought if I didnt start one, someone else was going
to beat me to it. So, despite having no formal writing background, I began typing up a few record
reviews every day, and soon we added a new section and features, and after a few years of this,
Pitchfork managed to accumulate a small readership and other larger music publications began to
take note.
It was around this time in the early 2000s, that the old vanguard of elite arts journalists started to
take issue of the influence of young new voices on the Internet, and we werent alone. There were
fresh film publication, arts publications and, most loathed of all, that terrible scourge known as
bloggers. The general idea was that these guys werent really critics, because they didnt understand
what real criticism wassimplified version, but nonetheless. And fair enough, this generation of
Internet opinion makers were, in many cases, not formally trained, but we knew our subjects well
and we werent content to regurgitate the same canon laid out by our forebears.
So, the idea that criticism as the world had known it was dying was totally unfounded, and as it
happened, the web made room for all sorts of writers, from all kinds of different backgrounds,
including those more seasoned, veteran critics and newer critics with the same kind of training. And
part of the beauty of this was that, no matter who you were, you could find a voice, or several voices,
that you trusted and related to. So now, as the web has expanded, there are recommendation

engines, algorithms, user reviews and all kinds of other ways to discover the arts, including just going
online and listening or seeing for yourself. So where does that leave criticism?
Some people argue, as they have argued for years, that criticism is no longer relevant, that in an age
where discovery is so accessible, so-called gatekeepers are an anachronism. For those who have only
ever reviewed criticism as a consumer report to guide their listening or viewing habits and find they
have a higher rate of success when looking to these other avenues, there might for once be a very
faint ring of truth to that. Still, the popularity of sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, which
aggregate critical consensus, would seem to counter that idea. And Pitchfork itself has seen continual
growth to its review section year after year and more time spent by readers on those pages. So the
demand is clearly and quantifiably there.
So with more media being made and released than ever before, and virtually all of it accessible
online, the question readers are hoping to have answered is not so much How should I spend my
money? but How should I spend spend my time? And of course, criticism is much more than a
consumer guide. I read it to learn, not just about the subject at hand, but to gain insights that confirm
or challenge my own, to grasp the ideologies between different scenes and movements, and to better
and more capably argue my positions as a fan. As often as I disagree with reviews, even sometimes
those published on my own website, Im nonetheless educated by them.
At their best, they lead me to reexamine my enthusiasm or distaste for certain artists and albums by
offering an intelligent counterpoint. And like any other genre of writing, criticism is an art form unto
itself. The greatest critics, Roger Ebert, Lester Bangs, Pauline Kael, Richard Meltzer, are wonderfully
entertaining, educational, and thought-provoking and their work remains as relevant today as it was
in their own time. And yet reviews, especially negative ones, are increasingly falling out of favor with
editors and publishers. Over the last decade, several major music magazines have shrunk theirs to
single paragraphs or tiny capsules. Some have ceased reviews altogether. Many of the newer music
publications launched without them in the first place. And why shouldnt they? Negative reviews are
often unpopular, not necessarily by metrics but by the reactions. They cause all kinds of trouble. They
can break important editorial relationships, incite fans to essentially riot on social media against
writersthey upset people.
Pitchfork has succeeded, not just because our critics have distinctive tastes and insights, but because
were willing to assume the weight of these consequences. This doesnt always make us well loved,
but it does create an active discourse around the music we cover. Because passionate music fans hold
their own convictions about the artists and albums with which they engage, and the differences
between those convictions are often the basis of engaging and lightening discussions.
Theres a cliche that critics use about the dialoguethat the opinions they express are essentially
conversation starters, or jump-off points, for a larger productive conversation, right? Well, thats
pretty true. We understand our pieces figure into a larger critical framework, and that readers and
writers may identify with any number of critical resources with broadly varying takes. We throw
ourselves into our work and attempt to ensure that ours will be the definitive piece on the subject,
but we also acknowledge that our taste is somewhat subjective. But our insights, our knowledge of
our subjects and our recommendations, gradually built trust with our readers that translated to
influence, and we dont take it for granted.
Today Pitchfork is among the largest and most comprehensive music publications online. Our site
sees 7.5 million unique visitors per month, we have a staff of 50 people spread between offices in
New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, annual music festivals in Chicago and Paris, a quarterly print
journal called The Pitchfork Review, our sister site, The Dissolve, which is dedicated to film, and our
video arm, Pitchfork TV. So, in an era where so many avenues exist for recommendation discovery,
where you can listen to complete albums with the click of a button, or simply rely on the taste of
friends or algorithms, our readers continue to turn to us to help them parse musics ever-expanding

world. And our work is for them, its not for the artists, the managers, or the industry. We do it
because we love music deeply and care intensely about its future. So, thanks again to Minneapolis for
helping me find my niche and to the Walker for having me here today. Its an honor to be here.

Orit Gat, Rhizome, WdW Review
Ive been making the same joke for the past like few weeks, I think: Im so happy to be here, because
this conference is exactly everything Im interested in, and if they didnt invite me, I would have had
to pay to come here. That said, Im going to use this time to actually ask if the Internet has affected or
changed art criticism at all. I figured Ill use this time to work through ideas with all of you. And yeah,
Im gonna ask has and now how. I think whats really interesting about this particular panel is
that we have people from different industries, and Im using the word industry really carefully, but
not so much, because Im going to talk about advertising and money and financial structures, so
industry seems kind of fitting and see what will happen to art criticism.
So, Im going to talk about the structures of the Internet and how they changed music and literature,
because those are the two other disciplines that we have here. And in case youre really nodding off
here, Im going to tell you that my answer to Has the Internet changed art criticism? is Not yet, but
it definitely will. So, when Im asking about the Internet effect theres two facets to it. The first is in
publishing and circulation, the second is the way it shapes and affects the discipline and the
discourse around it.
Music and literature experience a digital shift in a much more extreme way than contemporary art
has thus far. As far as I see it, they experienced this digital shift and it began with circulation, the
adjustment from an object, as in a CD to vinyl to MP3, and from the independent bookstore or even
the mega chain bookstore, because now we have to start caring about Barnes and Noble, too, to
Amazon.
But then it continued with an altered discourse that poses really valid questions about the function of
criticism. Im going to call this service criticism. In a nutshell, what I define as service criticism is
criticism thats discovery orientedcriticism that assumes the reader is looking for
recommendations, for a way of making sense of it all. Take Pitchfork, for example, I remember the
first time I heard about Pitchfork. I was a teenager in Paris and I had a friend who would read every
review on Pitchfork and then he would download, and Im going to say this even though I guess this is
not a panel about law and copyrights, he would download everything he read about to see what hes
going to be actually interested in. Thats a really amazing way of discovering things, and its also a
way of contrasting the sense of overproduction that the Internet seems to do.
So, just to clarify this, the use of a word like service does not indicate a value judgment at all. Im
not making that. Im not making it, because I dont write in an industry that could produce a service
criticism. Yet. When I write about an exhibition, I often write for print publications, so it means that
the exhibition closed months ago. Im always writing in the past tense, and I also know that whoever
my audience is, and I know its small, almost none of them are art collectors that are reading the
reviews as a way of assessing the artists worth. Its kind of similar to the way I read food reviews.
I dont go to fancy restaurants, but I always make the joke that I really love living in New York, in a
city where reviews like this makes sense: Once in a while, this restaurant still gets a case of the
blahs. The dressing on the wax bean salad, allegedly a tahini-soy vinaigrette, made no impression,
and curls of raw hamachi with diced apples didnt rise above routine. This is from the New York
Times review of a restaurant called Montmarte, or some French restaurant in Chelsea. Just saying
curls of raw hamachi is routine to some people amazing to me. Im never going to go to this place,

just the chicken costs $26, and this is the kind of research I do when I write. So why do I care about
it? Because I think food criticism talks about a culture that Im interested in and I think that focus on
ephemeral in experience is actually really similar to you do when you write about art exhibits
exhibitions.
And, of course, the discovery oriented, or service review do the same thing, but we really cant
ignore the fact that in the popular imagination, they have a much more specific role. They act as a
vehicle for recognition, as recommendations. Should I see Mad Max? Let me see what the paper said
about this. Have you seen that review of 10:04? I really want to read it. And this is like the main point
that Im going to make here, is that search habits have only enhanced this sentiment. Im going to go
back to my example of Ben Lerners 10:04. I Googled it yesterday. The first response on Google is
Amazon, buy the book, the next nine are all reviews. Its the New York Times, its the Guardian,
everything, the New Republic, Bookforum, etc. The next page on Google is the Wikipedia site. And you
know that 99% of Google searchers dont actually go to the second page of Google.
So, this explains my claim that digital circulation has changed the discourse. And Im going to go back
for a second to my not a judgment sentiment. I think the service review comes with an immense
sense of responsibility to analyze the market, to give context to what is popular beyond just
bestseller lists, even though I totally acknowledge and recognize the Internets feelings about lists,
and we all love them. I also think that a sense of responsibility is what leads this discourse around
positive and negative criticism. Im sure well get back to this later. When a publication decides to
focus on positive reviews, in order not to waste paper, a line on negative reviews, a huge part of the
reason for that is the presumption that people look to reviews as recommendations. My only
problem with that is that it really neglects what I consider a really important role of criticism, which
is to keep the market in check.
Im going to talk about Jerry Saltz here, which Ive never done as an art critic. But this is why the
zombie formalism thing is so important. He coined the term that actually discusses what the market
is doing right now, focusing on a certain generation of New York painters who do abstract process
work. I think his argument was really weak, because he talks about sameness and not about financial
structures, but I think its really decisive that he did that, because he recognizes that criticism
generates cultural capital, which in turns generates capital, so actually keeping that market in check
is really important. And the fact that it will be the same in every kind of publication. Like if you
publish negative reviews on a book review site, there will be a much lower click rate through to
Amazon. And if you publish negative reviews on a music site, less people will stream it. So I wonder,
though, if this instinct to only publish positive reviews actually goes against the nature of the
Internet. Mainly because I think negative reviews travel infinitely better. Have you ever seen a
positive review that went viral? No.
But I did bring my favorite negative review that went viral for you guys. It is also from the New York
Times. It is also Pete Wells, because he is the star of viral content. So, this is a review of Guy Fierris
restaurant in Times Square, which is written as aI love that youre laughingits written as a list of
questions, and it starts with, Guy Fierri, have you ever eaten at your new restaurant in Times
Square? Have you pulled up one of the five hundred seat at Guys American Kitchen & Bar and
ordered a meal? Did you eat the food? Did it live up to your expectations? And why did the toasted
marshmallows taste like fish? It ends with Thanks, by the way.
One of the most amazing things about this review, apart from the fact that it made everyone talk
about criticism for a while, is that it sparked a conversation about the nature of negative reviews. The
New York Times opinionated blog ran bunch of op-eds about the state of negative criticism. The
public editor blog brought in the cultural editor to discuss negative criticism. I think this is all really,
really valuable, but Im not gonna be naive. I also know that sharing means participating in the
economy of scale that is the Internet. Funny enough, even though the Internet should have been
something for small scale operations, because you could all do that, this myth that audiences will self-

organize online really doesnt exist. Theres no If you publish it, they will come. What actually
happens is that most of your audience congregates around like 10 websites, and theyre all
underwritten by enormous corporations. The result is that we see a similar kind of mingling together
in the culture sphere, too.
Ive been really interested in this literary site called LitHub recently. Im gonna read you their About
page: Literary Hub is an organizing principle in the service of literary culture, a single, trusted, daily
source for all the news, ideas and richness of contemporary literary life. There is more great literary
content online than ever before, but it is scattered, easily lost. With the help of its partners
publishers big and small, journals, bookstores and non-profitsLiterary Hub will be a place where
readers can return each day for smart, engaged, and entertaining writing about all things books. I
guess the assumption is that all these magazines and publications are stronger together, but it just
seems to me, you can imagine more generalized, more popular, more eyeballs. Thats why
aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes become so influentialthey centralize the discourse.
So, what does more eyeballs actually do? It means more sharing, but is sharing actual participation,
and what does it mean to go viral? Im just going to remind you about the terms of engagement
before we talk about sharing and participation. Every tweet, reblog and like means another moment
when the cash register makes that beautiful little bell sound for a number of companies, too, the
social media platform, the publisher, the advertising agency, the actual retailer that is selling you
something. When the way we interact online is already so fraught in monetary terms, for something
to just go viral means to activate the system time and again. But all in all, much of what we do online
is to participate and its parceled into two, that personal feedback, so the fav, the like, whatever, and
the quote-unquote useful feedback. I think its really telling that on Yelp when you create a review, it
asks you was this review cool, useful, or funny? Theres nothing ever negative in that.
But Im really interested in the use value of crowdsourced criticism, because its one of the very few
new forms that developed online, except for blogging basically. So, while crowdsourced interaction is
really easily monetizable, unremunerated labor, it also messes with predetermined economic
structures, especially in the art contextin the art context thats specifically scarcity. I think when
you publish criticism in general, the actual strongest claim you make be it negative positive or
whatever, is what you wrote about. Thats it. After that, all you can do is a shopping list of whats in
the exhibition, because you wrote about this, and thats what matters.
For every exhibition I write about, I neglect, what, the other 600 galleries in New York? So it becomes
this place where the subject is the real criticism. I think this is a really valid conversation to have
right now, because the New York Times, this week, announced that theyre not going to review every
film that opens in New York. Which is going to make the film criticism scene very different, but I
know nothing about this. So not having a space to cover everything is definitely one of the virtues of
magazines, its selective. Whereas Yelp could include every storefront in New York City. How do the
economics of criticism change when something thats traditionally scarce becomes so abundant? It
means that reviews turn symbolic capital, which is attention, into monetary capital.
Thats where the brilliance of Amazons introduction of user-generated reviews is that the company
can monetize something that it doesnt need to take any responsibility for. While the integrity of
many of the reviews, maybe even most of them, can be questioned, the effect of having original or
semi-original content on the site means that it sells more. Its kind of amazing, crowdsourced
criticism enhances and plays on both monetary systems that are predominant in the digital
economyscale and participation. So is this where art criticism is going?
I started this talk talking about circulation and how the digital culture has modified circulation of
music, literature, film. The main reason contemporary art has not been as impacted by the digital
turn, is that the art object is notsometimes, but not alwaysinfinitely reproducible as a digital film
like an .mp3, .mov, or .epub. Except for those artists who play with that. To me thats one of the most

interesting things that artists can do right now. And I follow people who do that and find it really
fascinating, but thats not what you see in most galleries in Chelsea. What you see in most galleries in
Chelsea is zombie formalism. Its this one object. So the way to deal with this one object, I think, is
also to put it online. The result of that, though, is that I feel like the Internet promotes this behind
kind of service-oriented criticism. So even though were talking about stuff thats online, what you
see online is only that. So look at artform.com, for example, while Artforum publishes a great review
section, many of my friends write for it, online all they publish is positive reviews. Its only meant to
basically give you an analysis of whats up and send you there.
I dont know how thats going to change when we start viewing more and more art online. So like
right now were seeing this amazing proliferation of organizations, both for profit and not for profit,
that are really grappling with the presentation of work online on different levels of complexity,
especially moving-image work. London Gallery, Carroll/Fletcher initiated Carroll/ Fletcher Onscreen,
which displays different video works for two weeks at a time. The same system fuels Vdrome, which
is organized by Mousse Magazine. They also commissioned a new essay on each video they show on
the site. Another London-based organization called Opening Times Digital Art Commissions
supports new work online, so they commission your work, they give you all the support in the world,
its kind of amazing.
And a number of museums, like the museum in Tate Modern, have begun experimenting with the
presentation the work on their websites beyond just the collection tour. And on top of that, there are
all these sites that are trying to sell you art online. I spend so much time grappling with what the
financial model is for Artsy or Paddle8 or anything like that but theres the sense that theres money
online, and the first company to monetize the online art marketplace will win it. Christies invested
$50 million in building a custom built e-commerce business. Sothebys has partnered with Ebay to
make premium art and collectibles accessible to buyers everywhere. This is from the press release.
Theres this basic assumption that theres a market for this and that market is only going to grow. I
saw in the New York Times article about the Christies online initiative. Josh Auerbach, who is the
manager of it, and by the way came from Gilt Groupe, the luxury sales company, said that their
research shows that about 53% of those who registered to bid online are under the age of 45. As for
the most popular categories of the online auctions, get this, post-war and contemporary art, fashion,
followed by wine and cheese. I think its really telling. I think its really telling, also, that a major art
fair didnt step into this. Just think about Art Basel online sales, if there was a lot of money to be made
there, Art Basel would have made it already. That said, I probably dont know anything about money,
because if I did, I wouldnt have been an art critic.
I cant tell you if theyll succeed, but I can tell you that theres this huge leap that needs to be made for
art sales online to become the kind of game changer that Amazon was. Because youre dealing with a
singular or almost singular object. Artsy and Art Space seem to think that the solution is producing
editorial content. This editorial ambition reminds me of the early days of Amazon in the 90s when
the company, before reintroduced user reviews, actually hired maybe 30 editors and they would
publish reviews, previews, interviews, forthcoming books. A lot of the language around companies
like Artsy or Paddle8 and Art Store revolves around discovery, again, so what were seeing is these
service reviews being pushed to that kind of editorial content. But to be honest, if discovery is the
way artsy imagines it, like the art genome project that maps similar works, as in People who bought
this, also bought this but its based on school and subject and methodology. In that world, I kind of
prefer the service criticism. But really, if were talking in terms of the discovery of new art, how come
we dont have a Pitchfork for contemporary art? Id really much prefer that to Artsy.
So as presentation of art online changes in a way that I find really curatorially fascinating, and that
will be a huge promoter of digitally engaged work, were going to have to develop these new ways, or
at least new outlets, to analyze it. I for example have a lot of hope for the mailing list as of a forum
that we havent exhausted at all. Even though e-flux might have a little bit. I think its a really

promising model, mainly because its a way of surpassing the digital advertising revenue as we know
it, by which I mean selling your data bundled to a bunch of websites. But yeah, Im looking for these
new models.
Most of these structures that I discussed today relate to an ad revenue based Internet. I really hope
things will change. I think there is no bigger disappointment on the Internet than free culture. If the
user wont pay, the advertiser will, the result of this is a digital economy where websites that are all
aggregating and packaging the same material are hoping to attract as many eyeballs as possible and
with the eyeballs come advertising revenue. Its kind of weird that in my attempt to close on an
optimistic note Im basically telling you youre all going to have to pull out your credit card or Paypal
account or Google Wallet or whatever digital wallet were going to use. But I think that this will lead
us to the kind of criticism that we deserve. The more the Internet veers toward paid models, the
better off well be, I dont know if art criticism will catch up with this before or after. I think you can
imagine what Im crossing my fingers for. Thank you.

Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times
The redoubtable American writer Mark Twain once said that, An expert is just some guy from out of
town. Im from out of town. I imagine that my expertise, such as it is, has been requested because of
all the symposium panelists, I pretty much represent the guy down at the boatyard where the ship is
sailing.
Hes got one foot on the dock, and one foot on the boat, and watery doom is yawning wider and wider
between slowly spreading legs. The dock in this instance is print. Newspapers, old media, dead trees,
or the term that I prefer, legacy media. The boat, of course, is digital. The Internet and its
proliferating social media formats. Now, we could talk about the differences between print and
digital, starting with the limited size of a news hole on a piece of paper, versus the limitless space on
the web, plus a lot more, but at this late date more than a generation into the revolution, we pretty
much know what most of those differences are. For me, the most interesting and perhaps the most
puzzling one has always been the audience. Who is the audience for print? Whos the audience for
digital? Are they the same person? Do they read the same way? How do they come upon the writing
that is before them in print or in the ether?
In these kinds of discussions, the reader is often what Franklin Roosevelt once called, the forgotten
man. The one being indifferently squashed down at the bottom of the pyramid. I think that one
primary difference between most print publication and most digital publication has to do with the
question of the forgotten reader.
Although the situation is changing, every writer knows that before something appears in print, it will
be read by an editor. An editor is every print writers first reader. In digital publishing, this may or
may not be the case. There may or may not be an editor. The span ranges from online journals, which
probably will have an editor, to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which almost
never do. Social media is home to societys raging id. And readers, including editors, are its
restraining super ego.
I write art criticism for one primary reason. I write art criticism in order to find out what it is I think.
And my job as a professional art critic is to find ways to bring a reader into that process. Criticism is
writing. If I knew what I thought before I sat down to write, I would not be writing, I would just be
typing. Id be taking dictation from my memory and transferring it through a keyboard.

Now, it will probably come as no surprise to you that no one is going to pay you a salary just to allow
you to find out what it is you think. For a professional art critic, thats where the professional part
comes in.
The very first question posed by the folks at Superscript in putting together this symposium is this
one: What is the role of the professional art critic? For me, theres no question thats likely to come up
today that is more easily answered than that one. My role as a professional art critic at the Los
Angeles Times is to sell newspapers. My role as a professional art critic at the Los Angeles Times is to
generate traffic at our website.
I say this not to be sensationalistic or crass, although I suspect some institution somewhere will likely
pull the quote and misrepresent my position. I say it instead simply for the sake of clarity. It was in
fact the first lesson that I learned when I became a journalist 35 years ago. Like most professional art
critics I know, I became one pretty much by accident. I had left my prior profession of art museum
curator, which I discovered I didnt have the temperament for, when one day the telephone rang. It
was an editor at the old Los Angeles Herald Examiner, the afternoon newspaper in town. He told me
they were looking for a freelance art writer and someone had given them my name. Would I be
interested? I said, Sure, but I dont know anything about journalism. And he said, Dont worry, we
do.
So I became a newspaper art critic, and I learned on the job. This was in the summer of 1980. And
although the Herald had been publishing since 1903, it had never had a staff art critic before then.
But it needed one now. A group of prominent and influential citizens had prevailed upon the mayor,
Tom Bradley, to support the launch of a museum of contemporary art as part of a massive downtown
redevelopment plan. In the face of this challenge, the old guard in town had gotten a bit nervous, so
they launched a campaign of their own to build a big modern art wing at the Los Angeles County
Museum of Art. And most important of all, recently a dead mans will had emerged from a lengthy
probate, and suddenly the little J. Paul Getty museum at the edge of Malibu was the richest art
museum in the nation.
As an afternoon newspaper, the Herald had been struggling against the changing environment of
television news and it was determined that one final push would be made for stability and success. So
they did what most businesses do, they commissioned a marketing survey to analyze the
competition. The LA Times. What areas of coverage did readers of the Times find to be deficient? It
turned out that there were four areas that readers found to be wanting: local news, sports,
Hollywood, and cultural affairs. So thats where the Herald decided it would direct all of its assets and
it began hiring a roster of critics to fill the cultural affairs part. It made for a somewhat schizy
newspaper, but thats how I got a new profession.
You may have noticed that the generative impulse for bringing art criticism to the newspaper did not
come from some high-minded regard for these spiritual, emotional, intellectual, or otherwise tonic
qualities of art. This is America were talking about, and in America, art has always been a minority
interest. It came instead from witnessing the movement of power. Institutional power, political
power, and social power within the city. It came from recognizing that engagement with power is a
primary function of the power of journalism. And before Im an art critic, I am a journalist. There are
lots of different kinds of art criticism. But as a journalistic art critic, my aim is to enfold the power of
art within the larger dynamic of power relationships in society.
I relate all of this personal back story, because I think it illustrates something important. If you ask
what is the role of the professional art critic and the context that comes to mind for that role is
limited to art, then the answer is, there really isnt one. Art criticism has no essential role. Art can get
along just fine without it. Artists will do what artists do. In the body of art, art criticism is the
appendix. Surgical removal of the appendix causes no observable health problems.

The idea that professional art criticism has an inherent role to play in art is a fiction, and fiction is
what art criticisms write. Its a form of literary prose in which the writers imagination, experiences
and engages with the work of art, and it invites the reader along. In other words, art criticism is social
media. It always has been. Ever since Giorgio Vasari was making up stuff about Giotto and Piero della
Francesca in the 16th century. Today its potential reach and interactivity are bigger, faster, and its
sources theoretically endless, but I would submit that its moral and ethical conundrums are not
much different than theyve ever been. If my digital job as as a professional art critic is to generate
traffic to the LA Times website, I just have to decide whether thats best achieved by a nonstop diet of
listicles and cat videos which would probably do the trick. Or by something else entirely. Thanks.

Isaac Fitzgerald, BuzzFeed Books
Thank you so much for coming. And thank you to the Walker Art Center for having us. I think its
really important, and Im really happy to be here. So Im just going to get into it.
Im going to talk a little bit about myself, and why I came to be up here before you today. And then Im
going to talk a little bit on the subject of the discussion that were here to have. From the very
beginning, Im a book lover. Ive always been a book lover. I grew up loving books. I grew up in the
south end of Boston in the 1980s, before it got as ritzy as it is today. And then from there I actually
moved to north central Massachusetts, which is kind of like the Kid Rock of Massachusetts. Its a lot of
trailers and beer and guns and thats what we did with our time. When I could sneak away from the
beer and the guns and the trucks, I would always grab a book. Books were kind of my escape, both in
in the city and in the country.
From there I got lucky. I got a scholarship. I got to go to a boarding school. A place where education
was taken seriously. And that meant the world to me. From there I got to go to college, which I
actually wasnt planning on doing before that. And I didnt know what to do with myself. The whole
time, though, I was reading. Sitting in the back of the class, I had a book under a desk, in between
classes, after nights out, waking up, not wanting to moveId always be reading.
So for me, I mean again for me, books were just, they were constantly there and they were always
there. But I had no idea how they got made. So going to college I said hey, you know what I should do
is political science, because that makes sense, because thats where I am. I dont feel strongly about
politics, I never carried politics with me throughout my life, but that seemed like the right decision to
do. So I graduated, I went into politics, I helped get a guy into Congress, I realized I hated politics, and
that Id made a terrible decision and just wasted a ton of my life, education and time.
From there I moved to New Hampshire, where I painted houses for a little while, and from there I
met a girl who went to San Francisco, and like all of us who dont know what to do with our lives, I
followed a relationship. I moved to San Francisco, and I worked at a wonderful place called Buca di
Beppo. Its like the Olive Garden but worse, for those of you who dont know what it is. But at the time
I probably made more money than Id ever made to date, if you take it as an hourly rate, and thats
the truth. That freed up 20 hours, so I basically only had to work 20 hours a week. With 20 hours a
week and nothing to do, the person that Id moved out there for grew sick of me quickly and tried to
find me something to do.
Look, she says, theres this place called thats called 826 Valencia. It says it has storytelling
workshops, you love telling stories, because you wouldnt shut up, why dont you go to that. So, I
went to this place called 826 Valencia, and five minutes into the training session there, I realized that
we were talking about working with kids, it was not storytelling and book making for adults, but you

cant really get you up out of that meeting and walk away, because then you look like a big jerk who
doesnt care about kids.
So that what I started to do, I started to volunteer my time there, and I started to work there, and I
started to work with these kids and watched reading affect their lives and affect the way that they
saw the world. And at the same time I noticed around the center, this is a creative writing center for
youth and its in many different cities now, and it was started by Dave Eggers and McSweeneys, and
around the walls I saw these manuscripts, these pages from these manuscripts, and they had this
scribbling all over them.
And I realized that these were manuscript pages from very famous, famous people. Books that I have
read, that I had grown up with. What are these? Whats this scribbling? Well, thats to show the kids,
the person in the training center said, thats to show the kids that writing is a collaborative process,
thats to show them that no book is created by some person in a magical cave who sits down by a
typewriter and just writes and prints it out perfectly and sends it out to a publisher and then its a
book. Thats to show them that its an art form, that its a struggle, that theres so many different
voices that takes part in its creation. And I was so glad that they were teaching 8-year-olds that
because at the age of 23, I finally found out where books came from. I finally realized that they
werent made-because thats how I thought books worked. And I came to it very late.
So from there, I got involved a lot in the literary community in San Francisco, and I got to work on
this small website called The Rumpus, which is an online culture magazine. Now this was the mid
2000s, people have mentioned it here before, but what was happening in the mid 2000s is that
everybody was convinced that publishing was dying, so why start an online arts and culture
magazine in the middle of the sky is falling falling mentality of the mid 2000s? Well, we didnt have a
lot of money, and for the record Id actually ended up working at a political website, and I wanted to,
yet again, get out of politics. So, Stephen Elliott, the author who started The Rumpus, came to me and
said, do you want to take 50% less pay and no health care and come work on this books website? And
I said, absolutely, because that what you can do when youre young and youre dumb and youre
living in San Francisco in a one bedroom with three different people.
I didnt think it would work. I definitely didnt think it would work for as long as it did, and still
continues to after I left. But those years were fundamental to me because I got to work with some
incredible writers, Roxane Gaye, Cheryl Strayed, writers who I cared deeply about, and I realized that
there was this whole world of people, and not just in the San Francisco literary scene, but out there
online, all across the country, all over the world who really cared about books and cared about the
discussion of books and cared about getting attention for books, the books that maybe werent on the
New York Times bestseller. And I got to be a part of that, and that was beautiful for me.
At the same time, everyone like I said was saying that publishing is dying, I started to realize that
publishing wasnt dying, it was definitely transitioning, the same thing that had happened to music in
the 90s, happened to publishing in the 2000s is probably happening to movies right nowthe
Internet was just changing the landscape. I feel like back in the day when like the printing press was
invented, a bunch of monks were like, well, those new printing press books, those are not real books.
These hand-drawn, hand-lettered books, now, these, mwah, these are the books, this is the stuff.
Because thats what the publishing industry is. Weve always been obsessed with our own demise.
Like its crazy. If you take a group of neurotic people who care about art and some of the darker
things in life and what it means to be a human beingso weird that we end up this concept of
morbid mortality, no, it makes sense. It makes a lot of sense. The publishing industry has always been
worried about itself. Thats always the been case and its always been changing. The Internet is one of
these new changes. But theres always been these different parts of it, these different things. Its a
marketplace, its capitalism, like Christopher was saying, its about getting attention for books-I mean
it is. Its all part of it.

So, after four years at The Rumpus, McSweeneys actually needed a director of publicity, and after four
years of championing books, I decided to actually start working on helping promote them, and at
McSweeneys I had the distinct pleasure of working on a book by Hilton Als called White Girls. And I
bring it up because not only is it a fantastic book, and like I said, I love to champion books, and if you
havent read it, and I think especially this audience its an important book for you to read, its this
incredible mixture of memoir and criticism and its beautiful, and I got to work on that book, and it
meant a lot to me, and to be honest Id always read book reviews that Id definitely come to approach
it more from the you know, help me figure out what I need to buy approach that was being talked
about earlier. But to see cultural criticism on that level, to see that it itself can be this art form was
inspiring and incredible, and my job, though, was just to make sure that it got as much attention as it
possibly could.
And working in publicity was an eye-opening experience, because I realized how hard it is out there.
This is a roomful of critics, not a room full of publicists. But I think its a room full of critics, and all of
us are probably guilty of ignoring a lot of emails from a lot of publicists. And thats fine, because if you
were to answer every single one of them that would be insane, but it did show me the other side of
things, to have a little more empathy. But I did. What I missed was talking about books online. What I
missed was getting in the mix and thats when the book section at BuzzFeed was announced, that
they were going to have an editor, and so many friends wrote to me about the job description and
they said, you have to take it. You have to try for it. Itsyou miss talking about books online, and
thats absolutely true. And thats what I did.
So I said a couple of dumb things when I was hired. I hadnt actually started working. I hadnt actually
built anything, but like we like to do, we wanted to talk about it first. So there was a big discussion
about it, and Im going to open it up in this room. Something that I usually only tell in private. But it
was hard being at the center of that, there was a day when I turned off all my lights in my bathroom
and I crawled into my bathtub fully clothed. I didnt turn on the water. It wasnt as dramatic as all
that. But I laid there for a little while, because it was hard. There were people that I loved, respected,
and read on the regular telling me that, just because I said that I wanted to be nice about books, that I
was full of shit. And when people you care about and respect say that about it, you it can be very
difficult.
So I decided to step away from it, which I think is a good approach sometimes on the Internet. Not
always. Sometimes youve got to fight for it. But I realized I hadnt even done anything yet. So I
stepped away from the fray, and I started working on it. So that was almost a year and a half ago, and
BuzzFeed Books now getsI mean I dont want to talk exact traffic numbers, but gets a huge amount
of eye, so much more Im allowed to do for books than I was doing at The Rumpus. We have a mix of
different things that all of which Im very proud of.
One is quizzes. One is recommendation lists. Another way that we try to draw attention to books is a
if theres a book coming out, and theres an author Im really excited for, and I think the book is really
great, Ill approach them and ask them to write something for the site, not about their book, not so its
a commercial, just something that is beautiful and unique, so that I can take this author whose work I
think is really meaningful, I can put it in front of our massive audience, if they write something really
good, it will do well on its own. I do believe that some of the cream does rise to the top. And there at
the end of the piece is an announcement that their next book is coming out.
So if one person who doesnt know about this writer gets to read this wonderful piece that moves
them, then they discover that book at the bottom, they buy that, they read this, maybe they discover
this personall their work. That means the world to me. So thats another way we do it, how we get
out there. Another thing we do is 6-Second Book Reviews. I was told, play around with Vine, Im like
how can I play around with Vine for book reviews? That seems insane. So as a joke I started yelling at
the camera about how great Kelly Links new short story collection Get in Trouble is. People actually
really liked it. And thats how I view these things. Those things are a launching off point. If somebody

hears something, as I say a couple of quick sentences about a book, if it sparks their interest then
maybe they go and they look up a review. Then maybe they go to their friends and ask, hey have you
read this Kelly Link stuff. Talk about it. And thats what I want to be doing, sparking interest.
Now, the lists, recommendations, the quizzes, the books entertainment as it were, a lot of people say
oh, its a two-pronged attack. You have this high-minded stuff and you have this which Bronte sister
are you stuff, and that supplements that, right? No, it doesnt. For me its all part of the mix. Its all
part of what makes that little site work. Its all part of my little slice of the Internet, which is going to
get to our discussion now, today.
I really view this all, what we all do, as a giant garden party. And I think a while ago, especially before
the Internet, that it was a pretty exclusive garden party, and there was champagne and people
dressed certain way and had to be really, really nice and there were certain things talked about and
things that are not. And what the Internet did was this still exists and its still incredibly, incredibly
important, the champagne partthat still exists. Its not about storming the gates of that and tearing
it apart. Its about building around that party, so that more and more voices can be heard. And so
while that can exist over here, Im going to be playing frisbee over there, maybe some people are
playing beer pong over, theres some fried chicken in the back, theres a fish fry going on over here,
its all a giant mix. The more people that can be brought into the discussion of this, the better.
Theres talk of, again, in the mid 2000s was that books were dying. Then there was indie bookstores
were dying. Barnes & Noble is all the sudden something we need to care about. The fact of the matter
is though now indie bookstores are on the rocks. E-books were going to kill books. Well, actually e-
books have plateaued off and book sales are actually doing well. That kind of shakeup has happened
and there will be another shakeup that happens next. But books arent dying. Books criticism isnt
gonna die. Because thats what we do, thats what we love and Im coming from a literary standpoint,
but I think it could be said of all art, because if were in here its because we care about it, its because
we love it.
And so this party is open for everyone now. And if there are people in the audience here, if youre
students, all I can say is I have to encourage you to start something. It was mentioned earlier the
Pitchfork of fine arts. Somebody wishes that that exists, so do it. Make something like that happen.
The Rumpus was slowly, slowly built over four years, but to see the people that have come out of it
and to see whats happened with their careers has just been invigorating. So if you dont see, if theres
part of the party that you dont like or if theres a part of the party that you wish was there, you
yourself should reach out and should do it.
Because thats why were all here, right? Negative reviews, positive reviews, were all here because
we care about it. Were all here because either we grew up loving books or we grew up loving art or
we grew up loving some different aspect of it. Whether we love recommendation lists, or whether we
really live for criticism as stand-alone art, were all here because we really, really believe in it, and we
want to keep talking about it, and I think the fact that this conference even exists is a sign that
everything is actually going really, really well. Because people still really, really care. So thank you so
much.
PANEL DISCUSSION:
Credibility, Criticism, Collusion
Orit Gat: So Im going to go ahead and start. Im going to start with the first thing that I deleted from
my essay, which was I thought that I would come here and like everyone will talk about the death of
criticism, and I was like Im going to start by saying that criticism is alive, and then I figured, maybe
all of this conversation about the death of criticism is also related to online publishing somehow and

to the proliferation of new voices online. And I wanted to see what you guys think about that and
what the connection between that conversation and the rise of online publishing is.
Christopher Knight: True. I mean you know, several years ago when there was this whole brouhaha
about, you know, is criticism in crisis and all of that. I thought it was really beside the point. Criticism
was never in crisis. Publishing was in crisis and theyre not the same thing. And because the
platforms were changing and fluid and unknown, and all of that, things I think sort of got misplaced,
and one of the primary differences betweenfor me at any rate, between digital and print is that in
digital, theres much more opportunity for the kind of chitchat off the top of the headas someone
said, I think it was Isaac, but you know, its like being at a garden party. Where people are talking, and
usually you only hear that face to face, or if youre eavesdropping at the people in the next group, but
now its online, now its in print, now billions of people can see it. So the wholethat whole layer of
conversation has gone public. It used to be private. Now its gone public. For good and for ill, I think
its created a lot of confusion about criticism.
Isaac Fitzgerald: Yeah. I would agree. One of the things that Im most excited about, one of the
positives that I think is coming out of it, that I meant to get to, but I didnt, but is the rise of diverse
voices, and I think that thats so important, not just that we have art being made by diverse artists,
which I think of course is incredibly important, but I think were starting to almostits almost
trickling up. Like I think were seeing more and more artists of color creating work, and then talking
about that work, but were now also getting to see criticism coming from all these different avenues
where there didnt exist a place for that and I think online has been really, really great for this kind of
rise in not just the diversity of the art or the diversity of the artists, but the diversity of the people
that get to have the conversations around the art that we talk about, which I think is just so
incredibly important, to all these conversations, like anything, anything gets improved through
diversity, through having more and more voices and I just think that thatthats one of the things
that makes me so excited to be part of this time, I guess, is the ability to have these diverse
conversation.
Its one of the things Im really proud of BuzzFeed actually, they really do reach out and try to work
with so many different types of people from so many different types of backgrounds to make sure
theres this inclusive group. Because look at this panel right here, diversity is something that always
needs, there needs to be more, like weve got one woman, and I dont want to assume peoples
backgrounds, but Im a white boy from Boston. And so I justI feel like to have the more diversity,
the better, and I think thats something that weve seen grow both with this online publishing art
thats being made and also the online conversation around art.
Ryan Schreiber: Yeah, when Pitchfork started there were not a lot of other music publications out
there and as weve grown, all of a sudden there are now all these music publication, music blogs, so
many different opinions coming out about all these different records. I mean there aretheres just a
tremendous number of voices and Pitchfork staff has grown, as well, so we have now like you know,
somewhere in the range of 120 contributors or freelancers, so its really interesting to see how
people engage with things differently and how peoples backgrounds play into it
Gat: Im going to move from the death of criticism to the death of the critic, the appendix in the art
world.
Knight: Dont look at me.
Gat: This isI like all of you so muchthis is my first point of contention. I think criticism is still
really important. I never shy away from telling artists, like I have dinner theres a bunch of artists at
the table, they ask me what I do, I respond Im an art critic. I think its really important. I find myself
as a completely equal within the arts scene to them basically I think my role is to have the exact same

conversation at the exact same level of rigor as them, and I dont think they give that up, maybe some
of them would, well, especially some that Ive written about, but I dont think they want to give that
up. I think thats a really important thing to discuss, especially with, as you say, more and more
criticism happening online, it seems crazy to think that thats not just as important as the rest of
cultural production.
Knight: An artist once said to me, you know, without me, you wouldnt have a job, you wouldnt have
anything to write about, and I said that is not true, if there were no artists, I could write endlessly
about why not.
Fitzgerald: Also, I just feel like also without you, you know, there arehow does their art get
discovered? And I felt like your talk was just absolutely incredible and the honesty of it and what it
means to work for a publication and to try and attract people to your readership and basically
someone thats been in the game for as long as you have, and had such an established career, but you
have your own fan base and we were talking about this a little bit earlier but this dependability,
people know that they can turn to you and that youre going to have an opinion about it, and I feel
like what the critic does, and even if it is scathing, it still is drawing attention to the artist and the
artists work, so without them you would definitely have something to talk about, but without you,
they maybe wouldnt have people talking about their stuff.
Knight: Yes and no. I mean, I thinkhow can I put this? I think artists, as I said in my talk, artists are
going to do what theyre going to do, and if Im not around to you know, direct attention towards
them, theyre going to find ways to make whatever they need to happen, happen. Theyre really good
at that and, you know, its much more, its much more of back and forth, I think, as Orit was saying,
than me directing people to them.
I mean theyre directing me to them, the artists are. At any rate. And working for a newspaper, I also
feel a certain obligation to principally write about art that a readership can see, so Im not in the
business of discovering people who havent had, you know, an exhibition or in an exhibition
somewhere so its a little more of a balanced situation, I think. And also art is going to be more and
more a discursive thing. So many artists right now theyre expected to be able to talk about their
work, that even puts them on a more equal level. Do you feel the same way about music? I dont see
as many musicians talking about their work analytically.
Schreiber: No, I think thats true. I think music, its almost automatic. Like I make music for myself. I
sit down and play and I think that release, its not, you its notyou know, its more physical in a lot
of ways and you know, I think obviously it depends on the artist. There are some obviously brilliant
artists who do think extremely intellectually about it, but I think one of the rules to critics is kind of,
you know, distinguishing where within the canon or where within an artists discography certain
releases fall and telling the story overall and how thats shaped. So I think thats an interesting thing.
Gat: OK, now Im going to warn you in advance Im going to move to the positive and negative thing.
Why dont we start with the Bambi rule and what did you actually think about that.
Knight: What were you thinking about in the bathtub?
Fitzgerald: You should write your speeches beforehand. I did not expect for that to spill out of my
mouth. I feel like I made eye contact with one person in here, and you looked really empathetic, and I
was like, all right, man, Im going to tell a bunch of strangers about the half a day I spent in the
bathtub in the dark. This is a story Iand again, like I said, I kind of just walked away from it and
tried to disengage so Im talking about it kind of for the first time. But it was an interview that I gave
at 6 a.m. If you read the whole entire thing, like you were talking about having a little segment taken

out and then blown up, it was kind of a very offhand comment. Just trying to answer somebodys
question. It was born in The Rumpus, I wont lie about that.
The Rumpus, we had a very hard and strict rule, do not review your friends books, I think were
talking credibility here, right? Like you definitely should not do that. Thats very basic. But the other
thing we wanted to do was, there are so many other places that are there and stand ready to protect
the readership. If somebody who has a giant name and theyre coming out with a book, and that book
is bad, that is somebodys job to point that out to say, you know what, this is maybe that persons not
their best work. But at The Rumpus, we decided were going to stay out of that not because we dont
think its important, but because there are so many places that already do it, and I kind of carried that
into it. And literally it came to me growing up like Bambi was the first movie Id ever seen, and it has
a place in my heart, and I have these McDonalds figurines that I got with my mom, and its all very
precious. Its not actually Bambi. Its Thumper.
Knight: Thumper. Its the Thumper Rule.
Gat: Should we have this panel about Disney, actually?
Fitzgerald: But if you dont have anything nice to say, dont say anything at all. What I meant is thats
how Im going to run my little area.
Gat: Isnt that throwing responsibility away? Other people will do that, Im not going to do that, but it
is remunerating to do that because negative reviews travel really well but it also means that youre
escaping something thats going to be hard to do. Something that means that youre going to run into
the street and someone is going to say, you published that thing about me.
Fitzgerald: I dont go a lot. So I wouldnt have thatno, its a responsibility that I personally dont
feel like Ive ever picked up that banner, so I dont actually feel like Im letting go. Thats what Im
trying to to, Im trying to be very straightforward. Like I didnt want to hide it. I wanted to be very
straightforward about thats my approach to it but again thats my approach. Im not trying to be the
best critic. Im again, Boston, I hope Americas best critic, I hope Americas best critic doesnt come
fromThats not what Im setting out to do. And thats kind of why I feel OK with it. The guy that you
mentioned, the New York Times writer who wrote that incredible
Gat: Pete Wells.
Fitzgerald: He just had another one. Which was fabulous. If you think I didnt read that and think
mmmm this is delicious. Like of course, absolutely, I loved it but just like I wouldnt start reviewing
food. What I know is my love of books. I promised I would never leave San Francisco and I left San
Francisco. So what I really what I took away from it was never make hard, fast statements. But Im
open to discussing it here if you guys want to talk about it.
Knight: I have as a general rule of thumb in terms of negativity: only punch up, never punch down. If
an artist is, you know, having their first show in a gallery and I hate it, I dont review it. It doesnt
matter. If its a major artist having yet another show that I dislike, Im more than happy to write
about it.
Schreiber: Yeah, I think its actually really essential, because in a lot of cases artists can happen
overnight. They can come out of nowhere and be suddenly relevant to the conversation and I think
even with an established artist its worth pointing out. You know, these artists can become more
relevant, they can start evolving. Theres a lot of amazing artists whose initial records are not their
best work and maybe are their worst work, and within the greater conversation, for us, we want to
have a complete catalog of that artists work. So if they start off on something and then they kind of

evolve and become more relevant, become more significant, their art becomes better, it becomes
brighter, I think having that initial review is really essential to, you know, parsing their work as a
whole.
Gat: Yeah, and Im going to bring money back into it, because apparently thats my role here. We all
work in industries that make a lot of money, it seems really important do you have to keep the
market in check. I have written about artists who were younger than me who had their first solo
show ever and wrote really negative reviews about them because they sell. And this is selling
because its pretty and it looks digital, but it is not good work, point blank. I know thats a matter of
taste and opinion and etc. and etc., and taste is something you should get over, but it seems like a
really crucial word. But I also in my research about this positive and negative thing, which all sparked
by Isaac actually. I found this amazing quite from Susan Sontag that says, I dont ultimately care for
handing out grades for a work of art, which is why I avoided the opportunity of writing about things I
didnt admire. Im also interested in the grading thing.
Schreiber: Yeah, I think ratings are, well, when I wasbefore I started doing Pitchfork, I read a ton
of music criticism and I read a lot of books you know, guide books essentially, you know, and I think
thatI think just having an at a glance kind of ait sets the tone sort of for what the review is about
to say and I think its also good, like Im sort of a populist type of person, and I also really like the
ability to kind oflike it kind of opens it up to a little bit of a broader audience, like theres a lot of
people who just arent that interested in criticism, as well, so having something there and having
something that kind of grabs their attention like OK, I kind of know what youre saying, Ill read a bit
of it but I alsoI think that the ratings are really, again, for setting framework of the artists
discography.
Theyre actually really tricky because Pitchforks scale seems to be so scientific like 7.9, these really
granular kind of ratings, and thats sort of somewhat of a gut theres not really a lot of science to it,
its just this is where we kind of feel, and I think that our readers kind of know the difference what
the difference is between an 8.1 and an 8.8, that there is actually a vast difference. When youre
reviewing five records a day and you have a catalog of thousands upon thousands of reviews, these
distinctions, you know, make a littlemake sense. But I do think that, yeah, that ratings aretheyre
a form of populism, but also I think, you know, just placing things in context.
Gat: So do you think ratings has to do with online attention? Do people expect that more online?
Schreiber: I think so, yeah. I think everything is really, pretty quickly on the Internet. Its easy to be
distracted, and I think having that there, I think its a nice balance because our reviews are often
quite long, and I think thats unusual. It allows the writer to go very in depth and gives the reader a
lot to chew on and really back up their argument. And so, yeah, I think thatbut attention isit isI
think the rating does play into that a lot.
Fitzgerald: I mean I just want to think like as a fan, it works, yeah. Like you were talking about
remembering, looking at Pitchfork for the first time, we were talking about this a little built before,
but I was raised on two tapes like Les Miserables and Billy Joel and that was my musical education.
And I remember discovering Pitchfork. As somebody who didnt know music background, didnt
know theory, didnt really know a lot, it became such an easy place to discover things for me anded
that rating system, because thats exactly who I was, I wasnt going to read a bunch of different
reviews, is oh, heres this band, they obviously think very highly of this or like oh, its really rough but
thats what brought me in, its what engaged me, because like you said its this framework that I
knew. I know what a grading system is.
Gat: Would you introduce grading system in BuzzFeed?

Fitzgerald: No.
Gat: Why not?
Fitzgerald: I did that thing, you made me say something hard and fast. Again, because I would do
with Pitchfork does. The way I view my role is Id like to think of myself as like your friend whos just
like, this is the book youve got to check out. Im nottheres not going to be like a rating of how
much I think this like thing is. These, the books that I tend to talk about, the authors I tend to talk
about, are people that I really think other people should be discovering. So a rating system in the
context in how I talk about books really wouldnt make sense, but I really appreciate that Pitchfork
does it.
Gat: Would a rating system make sense in arts?
Knight: Every now and then theres been discussions at the papershould we go to a multi-star
review, five star, four star, and weve always resisted it, I think for a good reason. Whereas youre
suggesting that it can help bring people to it, I think it pushes people away. Oh, its only got three
stars, Im not going to read that, and if the writer cantif the writer cant bring the reader through
the piece, then get a new writer. My primary goal in writing a review is that once a reader reads the
first paragraph, I consider it a success if they get all the way to the end, and if they dont get all the
way to the end, then the review is a flop. Whether they go see the show or something, you know, Im
really happy if it inspires people to go see a show or something like that, but mostly I just want them
to read the whole thing, and you know, putting stars at the top would affect that, I think, in a negative
way.
Schreiber: See, I would think thatI think maybe from kind of an intuitive place, that that seems like
it makes sense, but in our case really we find a lot, we find that people, at least from the metrics, will
spend an average of 3 to 4 minutes on our review pages. Which is a lot. Some people are spending 7
or 8 minutes on the review pages. So I think thats something that like early on, pitch people would
say about Pitchfork and oh, Im going to look at the ratings or whatever, and that says something
about you. That the ratings are a hook. Its interesting knowing going into something, you know, how
good or how bad do you think this is, and that to me is always sort of an engaging starting point. It
just gives you like a little reference and from there you may be interested in reading something that
you didnt know you were interested in reading.
You know, if Iwithout any kind of rating system or without a best new music or whatever, I think
that Pitchfork would not be what it is, I think that these types of things kind of allow, are a way of
kind of just hooking somebody and getting them a little bit more interested. There are five reviews a
day, so if Im supposed to sit and read five 2,000-word reviews, you know, in a day, thats a lot of
expectation to place on readers, because we want to be comprehensive. We really want to be
thorough, and I think that just giving people a place to start, its like, oh, wow, this Mumford and Sons
record is a 2 or is a 1.9, what does that mean? You know, I think getting into that islike, I think
thats a fun place to start, you know. Oh, I really have to read what they said about this.
Gat: I wonder, too, because having a rating system means that you have this recognizable structure
that I know from food criticism, which I clearly read all the time, does that help people assert their
authority? That seems important online. You work with young critics, you work with young critics,
how do people assert authority online over Yelp if Yelp is considered something that is not as
valuable?
Schreiber: I think through, how do they assert authority? I think really just through like through the
strength of their opinions, you know, its like any other critic, in a lot of ways. I think that people who

are experienced critics or experienced Yelp reviewers, in some case you can kind of tell. But yeah,
theyre writing the review, just the practice of reviewing is asserting authority.
Gat: Could you assert authority if youre only writing positive reviews? How do you develop a long-
lasting voice if youre only positive.
Schreiber: I think that would be really, really difficult. I think asserting authority, really at that point
it just comes down to the taste of coverage, right? Like is somebody writing about, and what is kind of
new and whats coming to the surface, and Im listening for myself, and do I like it? Its a very
different kind of practice, so I find that to beits one way of doing it, but I think that asserting
authority, I think the negative really, negativity lends weight to the positivity, you know, without one,
theres just, theres not this balance, theres varying degrees or varying shades of positive. And yeah, I
think that you need tothat the negative reallyI think that whenlike, for example, Pitchfork is
verywe kind of have a reputation as being tough critics or difficult to please, and I think because of
that, it does lend more weight to when we think something is really exceptional, I think it creates a
little bit more interest.
Fitzgerald: And not to keep hitting a dead horse, I will say that that works perfectly for him. To
answer your question, though, for me its dependability. Its do the recommendations that I make
please my readership? So our newsletter that we have, it goes out twice a week and once a week we
have a small review, just a paragraph long, its just art, its the new book to recommend that we
recommend that people read that week. And obviously not everyone reads each book each week, it
all depends on how much time you have, etc., etc., but that newsletter has over 150,000 subscribers,
that means that those people find our recommendations, that they like them enough to keep getting, I
mean email is time, and so for me its about being a dependable person.
Im not walking around giving gold stars to everything. I really take a lot of time, and I read a lot of
books, and I get pitched a lot of essays that I do not publish that I tend not to talk about, so for me its
about dependability and really having the strength of having good taste. And again, Chris, this is
something I feel like you have, in spades in both, the negative and the positive. People, you have a fan
base that depends on you, and really enjoys, and sometimes probably disagree with you, but
definitely enjoys hearing your thoughts.
Knight: Yeah, I was thinking whats the opposite of a fan base? A loathing base or something?
Because I have one of those, too. In terms of credibility, I think, you know, maybe just because I work
for legacy media, there is a kind of built-in institutional weight that comes along with that. For good
and for ill. I mean when I started writing in the 1980s, probably journalistically speaking, the most
powerful journalistic art critic in America was Hilton Kramer at the New York Times, and since I
didnt know anything about journalism, I read him religiously, even though I find him to be a
loathsome, reprehensible, hideous human being. Hes dead now, so
But I also at the same time regard him as absolutely brilliant as a journalist. He knew how to push
those buttons that a newspaper has in a way that very few other journalistic critics knew how to do.
He was really, really good at it which is part of the reason that he developed, you know, whatever
clout he had. So I wouldI would read him for that purpose, to learn how toto learn how to use
journalism in certain ways, and he often had all of the right reasons for coming to the wrong
conclusion. So Id take the reasons and rewrite them. So the credibility thing can, speaking of
negativity, can be useful in that way, too.
Fitzgerald: I want to say one thing, just to jump back a little bit. You also said that a lot of this
conversation sparked from those comments that I made. And I just want to make sure that folks see
things in like a broader sense. Thethis is notits not a new conversation, like I want to make that
very clear. Like that blew up around that time about a year and a half ago, but before that, when

believer magazine came out, it blew up. This positive-negative thing is a conversation thats always
been a part of criticism and talking about people of loving or clothing and fights between critics, the
Renata Adler, and who did she go after? The name is slipping from me, say it louder. Pauline Kael.
There it is, like again it is fascinating and it gives people things to talk about but these are all kinds of
the conversations weve had about criticism for decades, if not longer.
Gat: Im going to take that back and say that my research has come out of the links, it has been going
on forever. I have been interested in it forever. Now to a really great came that came from the
audience, I feel like Im a radio show host or something. This is from Luke Finsaas whos asking if
critics have a role of guiding artists or the scene or the industry somehow? And that seems really
important in this context, I know that you think you have a role, I can see that in your eyes.
Schreiber: Yeah, I think we do have a role. I think that it isI think we have a role really for our
readers, all different critics have different perspectives, different vantage points, different tastes and
I think they resonate with their audiences in different ways and a lot of different publications, even
covering the same type of art or same medium, you know, have different kind of a different
perspective that theyve built a trust with their readership that they turn to. So I mean its not really
in shaping like the industry, its really in shaping our own kind of perspective on music.
Gat: Do you ever get feedback from musicians one-on-one?
Schreiber: Yeah, well, I mean I do to an extent. When prompted, I would say. You know, I dont
usually just go up and say, you know what, that show was really good, but have you considered like
an in-ear monitor or something in its not I dont usually do that kind of thing. Like for the most part, I
dont know, I generally am more interested in artists kind of perspective. Ill usually ask them
questions about their art and how they make it, Im really interested in gear, for example, and Im
always interested in the actual process of that, so Ill ask them a lot of those types of questions, but
you know, when Im asked about it, you know, Ill beIll be pretty candid, but you know, its a little
bit of a different discussion when its one-on-one. You know, Im not trying to be cruel, you know.
Soyeah, it varies a little bit.
Gat: What about your role? Do you
Fitzgerald: Um, yeah, I mean I think itsthings affect other things. I think its like physics or
something some scientist would understand. But everything you do kind of affects, and so for me, its
really about like what we share, which again gets into the philosophy. Im just talking about BuzzFeed
Books here, but BuzzFeed kind of as a whole, like what is something that is so good that you want to
share it, this kind of gets into the idea of like click bait, right? There was a time in the mid 2000s, that
I worked another website like how to get a click. If you get a click and the person doesnt like what
they see, theyre not going to take the next step to share, so for me what we all share, what we all talk
about, of course its going to influence what art gets created and what people are interested in things,
because none of us live in a bubble.
And thatsand I think thats a very good thing. So art, much like music to be honest, is something
that I really enjoy now, but Im not very well versed in it so I just went to the Brooklyn art museum
recently, and I had a very big fear moment which ties into music as well. I didnt want to be the
person at the show that holds up the camera and periscopes the whole, like, those people are really
annoying, somebodys got a selfie stick up for two hours and thats really annoying. When I wanted to
take pictures at Brooklyn art, they said no, we really encourage that, because it allowed maybe that
somebody doesnt get to go to the Brooklyn art museum to take a time with that and enjoy that and I
do think that movement its a type of fandom, to be honest, but theres no way that doesnt influence
it. Its all part of the conversation.

Gat: Theres also a feedback loop thats built into being an author, you have a relationship with your
editor which you discussed. Artists dont get that after art school. Do you do studio visits, for
example, do you consider that as part of your role as a critic?
Knight: I dont often do studio visits anymore, but its mostly just a practical consideration, like who
has time? I love being in artists studios, you find out all kinds of things, but I typically, I will typically
do that at my request, not there is, because I dont know how to prioritize things. And in aI dont
mean to completely change the topic and maybe Im not, but I was thinking about in terms of
criticism, negativity and so on, what one of the virtues that I think of newspapers is my column is not
supported by advertising. There is some, you know, art-related advertising in a newspaper, but its
like the onlythe only newspaper where its significant is the New York Times.
So I find it a huge amount of freedom in that fact. And I get a lot of editorial support because I dont
think itI mean they recognize it doesnt impact that way and its the reason that I stopped writing
for trade magazines in 1996. The Museum of Modern Art was doing a Jasper Johns retrospective and
at that time Artforum when they commissioned a cover story, they would commission two so there
would be two different voices because, god forbid, Artforum should have a point of view because it
had advertisers to serve. So they asked Rosalind Krauss and me to write pieces about Johns, and as I
was really excited to do it, because his work had been extremely important to me, just in the way I
think about art, and I developed thinking about art, but his work from the early 90s and late 80, I
didnt like at all and I never had a chance to think through why, and I can quote the opening line of
the review which is I dont like not liking Jasper Johns recent work.
Because what I wanted to do in the piece was parse out why. And they went ballistic at Artforum, you
cant say that about Jasper John, and what? And we had a real knock-down, drag-out and they
basically sent a rewritten review which started out elsewhere in the review and I sent it back and no,
no, no, and by that point I had been used to newspaper writing where I could basically take a position
which I think is an important thing to do. And we eventually came to terms and were I think both
satisfied with the piece that ran. But I decided at that point Im not going to do that anymore.
Fitzgerald: You got to keep that line? You got to keep that open line?
Gat: I have never had that problem with trade publication, I that seems like a really important thing
to discuss, actually and the ethics of it, too, what does that mean to write, but I also wonder about
whether or not multiplicity of voices cancels that out so you say Artforum god forbid would have a
statement or anything. Would covering everything releases you from that? You talk a lot about the
comprehensiveness. I talk a lot about selectiveness, because as far as Im concerned what Im
covering, the fact that I covered it that it appears in the pages of whatever magazine, already means
more than anything I wrote and I see that, too. This week a museum shared a really negative review
that I wrote all over Facebook and Twitter. Orit Gat has some really interesting ideas about the show
and my interesting ideas about the show is terrible. They dont care.
Schreiber: Yeah, I think actually what you were talking about, I think Ive seen that happen, I know
writers talk about it, and have talked about it happening to them at other publications. In fact, we had
a handful of writers come to work for us, because at a former publication they found they were being
stifled by the publisher saying we need to be a little more positive or diplomatic because we have
advertising and Im sure the conversation wasnt that direct, Im sure it was a little bit more couched.
But the fact of the matter is a number of publications do have dollars that actually have an impact on
what is and can be said. For us, the editors, the Editor in Chief are not privy at all to what ads are
going to run on the site, so they cant know. Its something we want them to be to be oblivious of. And
its also you know something that isthat really you just cant have these two opposing forces, you
know, you know, weve had many instances where a negative review ran on the site, and it was

plastered around the adds for the album was plastered around this review. Its such a strange, you
know, feeling or a strange look, but its really necessary, and I always kind of revel in that and kind of
take pride in it, because it shows. Its right out there in front of everybody. Look, you can see for
yourself, these things do not coincide. And I think thats really crucial and also interesting that I kind
of increasingly Pitchfork some of the ads are less supported by labels and things like that now, as
well. But thats not necessarily as by design, but it isbut it is sort of the reality of things.
Gat: I actually really believe in advertising that doesnt come from your own industry. If all art
magazines were supported by fashion labels for example it would release you so much, you could
write anything you want. When I was an editor, I was told dont cover certain things, thats an
advertiser, thats the biggest gallery in the city.
Schreiber: No, you have to be willing to risk those relationships, because also people change at these
companies all the time, an old person will leave, a new person will come in and these relationships
they can be repaired. Whats really important is that, you know, we stand for our opinion, and that
our opinion is not affected by that. I think its just like 101 journalism. And like you said, its
something that you hear all the time, people arepublishers always want, you know, that they are
planning playing a very difficult game of balancing both sides of this thing, trying to make everybody
happy but you just cant.
Fitzgerald: And it gets to the credibility. The fact that journalism, criticism, whatever, right, what are
we all grasping at right? Life in general is grasping at truth. And if you start ignoring that.
Gat: So many questions from the audience. I want to like stay on the money thing, obviously. And talk
about payments for writers, too, because that seems like a part of the an ethics of a website. Youre
going to be writers for a long time.
Fitzgerald: At The Rumpus, let us be clear.
Gat: Sorry, sorry, I dont believe in writing for exposure. I think its really important as a woman to
say that, because people will assume that Ill be supported somehow in some mystery way.
Fitzgerald: So to be honest, I agree wholeheartedly. It is actually part of the reason why I felt that I
wanted to move on past The Rumpus. I was really proud of my time there. I was really proud of the
work that was done there, and I still actually do believe that its help a lot of peoples careers and a lot
of time I have to have faith in the writer that they are adult enough to make that call, if they want to
work for free, that really is on them. Working for The Rumpus, it came out of my first year I can say
this, I made $12,000 in San Francisco.
Gat: I hear that goes a long way in San Francisco.
Fitzgerald: Yeah. It does not. So I was working for nothing because I really believed in it so I dont
want to say that those publications like if youre trying to make something happen, whether its build
a community or cover a certain thing that you think there needs to be coverage out there and theres
just no money and its a labor of love, I think thats important and that that place exists and thats
wonderful. I will say that one of my favorite things about being at BuzzFeed books is that I get to pay
my writers, because I also do think, especially in this day and age, it becomes more and more
important. In the mid-2000s, there was the shakeup, what are we gonna do? Build the airplane, figure
it out when were in the sky. Great, what have we done? Beautiful editorial, anybody know anything
about business? Shit! And thats really a problem. But what we have now, you see it more and more
whether its been around for 20 years or new websites, I think a lot of more attention to how, no pun
intended but how you pay your writers, and not only how you keep the company afloat, but also that
youre treating your writers, your critics, whoever is creating the content for you as human beings

and I think especially if theres any way to make it work and in this day and age theres so many tools
to make it work. If you work on a wonderful website and you have no money, start a Kickstarter. If
you have built up the fan base theres different ways to monetize so that you can even just a little bit
pay the folks and then its their call whether they want to write for x amount of money but I think its
a very important part.
Gat: I also wonder about that connection between a salary and the kind of writing you get to do. Im
blanking on his name right now, the other art critic for the LA Times.
Knight: Current? Recent?
Gat: Current. He was amazing at a panel. Someone asked him what the value of criticism was and his
response was a dollar a word.
Knight: It was David Pagel.
Gat: Yeah. But having a position, being paid allows you to write very particular things. What do you
think is going to happen now that clearly Im not going to get your job one day, never gonna happen.
There arent any art critics anymore.
Knight: Well thats good, because Ive got a mortgage. Well, one of the other good things about legacy
media is that they willthey will support me to do things like this. They will underwrite my being at
something like this. Im doing this for free. Im not being paid to be here by the Walker because its
not a good idea for the chief art critic at the Los Angeles Times to be cashing a check issued by a major
art museum that is, you know, potentially part of coverage. So the newspaper allows me to be able to
do something like that. In terms of monetizing criticism, thats beyond my pay grade. Thats the
business side and I dont know anything about how that works. I dont know how they do it. Its a
mystery to me.
Gat: Im going to stick with that, theres also a really good question from the audience about ethics.
This from Anna Searle Jones whos asking what about the boundaries between the critic, the
journalist, and the publicist. I also think its really interesting that Superscript is about art journalism
and criticism, whereas I differentiate myself from journalism because that is what happens online in
the art world. Its just journalism. What are these boundaries? How important are they?
Knight: Boundaries between?
Gat: Between journalism, criticism, and publicist.
Knight: I consider myself a critic. There are places where they converge and there are places where
its clearly separate. My byline says critic so the reader is included in that what youre about to read
is opinion. And if thats not on the by line what youre about to read is theoretically fact. May or may
not be depending on situation. But there is generally a separation between the two that is clearly
clear in the way newspapers are laid out.
Gat: I think this is muddled a little bit online. Though, that separation that I consider really
important. I think people look at an art website and say this is criticism, this is critical analysis and I
think its reporting.
Knight: Do you consider yourself journalists, as well as critics?
Schreiber: No.

Fitzgerald: I dont have the memory, I dont have the facts. And thats what I respect about
journalism. Thats what makes itthats what makes it what it is, and like I feel like the boundaries
are actually just in the definitions of the words, you know, and then as far as to bring publicity into it,
like thats totally different. That is, somebody gets paid to promote something. Thats what publicity
is, and from the place that either published it or the art institute that is throwing the show.
Knight: You know, at the risk of getting too philosophical here, the First Amendment to the
constitution has our understanding of what the press is has really been negatively impacted in the
last 50 or 60 years when we generally seem to think that freedom of the press means that the press
will not be constrained by government. That thats what the constitutionthats what the First
Amendment is for.
And its true. But its also only half the equation. The reason that the free press is in the First
Amendment is an assertion that citizens have a right to information in order to make the democracy
work.
And thats the half of the equation that has disappeared in the last 50 years. The idea that citizenry
has a right to information is gone. Nobody thinks about that at all. So the whole idea of monetizing
journalism becomes a bigger issue than it really ought to be. Initially when, you know, after the
constitution was written and the country was being founded, the government subsidized journalism.
Because it was important. You paid less to send newspapers through the mail, than you know,
business contracts, things like that, because it was important to do. And whether or not there is a way
in which to make that half of the equation more prominent at a time when were all drowning in seas
of billionaires money I think its arguable that thats not going to happen too soon which is too bad.
Gat: Should we take questions from the audience? Why dont we start with you and then well go to
you, OK?
Audience Member: Hi, Im Patricia Maloney from Art Practical and Daily Serving, and I need to go
back Isaac to the end of your presentation and just sort of call you to task on imploring people to
start their own initiatives, because I think this is a room full of people who have either started their
own initiatives or are like deeply invested in contributing to independent publications, so I just
wanted to put that out there for this group. And then as someone who is really invested in an
independent publication that is also invested in locality, I wanted to go back to that idea of the
positive and negative, I think is much more nuanced when you think about the ways in which so
much of what we do is trying to represent the values of our cultural communities.
Gat: I think thats a self-canceling thing immediately. It means that because youre committed to a
scene youre only going to write about it positively.
Audience Member: No. No. No, I think I mean I think its just like bringing into the conversation that,
you know, like what you are calling to task, or like holding up as representative of the community,
has to be invested in like what thatan acknowledgement of what that community values and like
that positive and negativity has to include like presenting what that community revolves around and
what and what it values. And I think, you know, that happens much more at an independent level
than you know, perhaps you know at amajor media outlets.
Fitzgerald: So Im confused, though, because you started by saying you wanted to call me to task?
Audience Member: Oh, just about that last.
Fitzgerald: But I feel like what I was doing was trying to encourage people to start.

Audience Member: But I think youre speaking to, you know, the converted here, you know, like
how many people in this room, like have started their own initiatives?
Fitzgerald: Yeah, no, no, so, yeah, I mean I justits something that I believe strongly with. I guess I
dont get the task Im being called to. Not that we should get into this quagmire, but to speak to this
other point that yes, of course it is something that you have done and you have built and its
independent and its location-based which I love this. Im in Brooklyn theres like numerous local
blogs that I love to read, some independently owned, I think most independently owned probably
and of course it reflects the community and I think thats a wonderful thing. Thats something thats
very much come from the Internet. Instead of having this massive coverage of trying to speak to as
many people as possible because youre trying to get your circulation up, you can actually have a
place like youre talking about exclusivity thats very, very small thats power is drawn from the fact
that it talks about the area, like either whether its a small online culture or an actual physical area. I
think that thats something that should definitely be applied.
Gat: I think that the Internet would have been a great place. I didnt use the word exclusive, did I?
Small scale operation. Selectivity. But it actually isnt. Thats one of the biggest problems with the
Internet is that it creates this platform, these possibilities, and then the ten most visited websites, the
only one that is in control of a fortune 500 company is Wikipedia. Just saying.
Fitzgerald: So thats the top 10. I mean the top 10 TV companies, I mean yes, you go to the top 10 its
going to be conglomerate, absolutely, but that doesnt mean that we should be disheartened by the
fact that there are all these other ways to go to.
Gat: We need to find new ways to do so, though, because the economy of scale is really depressing.
Should we move to you?
Audience Member: Yes, getting maybe more to the nuance of the relationship with the critic to the
community, I justI had left graduate school, a degree with painting and was given a grant in the late
1970s from the center for arts criticism which is based here in St. Paul to write art criticism, and I
was cool, you know, I was living in a loft and everybody I knew was artists and everybody I knew
loved me and I loved them and then all of a sudden I got a grant to be an art critic and everybody
hated me. And I would go to the bar and people would say who do you think you are Clement
Greenberg or Barnett Newman? And then suddenly it became antagonistic, and I felt like Sam
Kinison. Im just a kid. Leave me alone.
I didnt have the power to do anything with that, Id just write. But I think historically theres a sort of
antagonism between the critic and the community sometimes and the artists and I see this in
institutions, locally, where people, you know, who put on plays or whatever they dont want to, you
know, talk to the critic or the critic is antagonistic or they want to like correct them or whatever. And
I just wonder if you feel there is historical antipathy, and if that has a function in terms of collusion,
credibility, all that sort of stuff that the antipathy, youre not just building people up, I mean youre
writingI like the definition, youre just writing your own thoughts and youre using writing to
discover that.
Gat: And if that antipathy is historical how does the Internet change that in the comments section in
the way you can see with your audience?
Schreiber: I think, yeah, I think there is oftentimes a sense that journalists are writing negative
reviews out of a place of insecurity or just a vindictiveness or various other reasons and artists make
this claim, sometimes fans who hold music really closely as part of their identity when something
that they love gets you know, kind of torn down or just not fully supported in the way that they think
it should be. You know, they always make these types of claims. And I think that really you know, you

write negative reviews, really because you care. You care about your subject. I mean we care about
music really a lot, and its really, really deep for all of us but I think that its just an absolutely
necessary thing and I think in a lot of cases youre speaking whats on a lot of peoples minds. In some
cases youre just making the claim or you have a completely independent point of view.
Youre willing to put yourself out there on the line and risk that kind of backlash, but yeah, I think
that kind ofits always interesting, I think that its just the kind of go-to response for people who,
you know, who disagree with criticism and I think there was that great piece on Gawker almost a
year ago on smarm, right, and that piece talked about the differences between snark and smarm and
that kind of oh, youre just insecure, youre vindictive, youre nasty, criticism comes from a nasty
place in people and its this defensiveness, is that then what is categorized as smarm? I think that,
you know, people dont really have a real reason for it. Its like, wow, you know, its really mysterious
why you would have to put this out there, but its really a central part of the conversation.
Knight: If youre in criticism to make friends, youre in the wrong business. The fundamental thing
that a writer has to do in addressing a work of art is take it seriously. You know, theres got to be a
level of respect involved, and short-term, people might be upset, long-term, I think people
understand that.
Gat: What about the comments section? That is something that I consider really important and am
always really disappointed by.
Knight: My solution for that is I dont read them.
Fitzgerald: I want to jump in here because that actually, that one used to be myI think I thought
getting it tattooed on my chest. Never read the comments, and for a long time that was a driving
philosophy for me, but I think this ties into a couple of things to your question that I kind of want to
talk about. One, I agree, I was going to say the same thing, not here to make friends I think is very
important and I think again my view of this is that its all of larger conversation. I think trying to
break it down, is negative or positive right or wrong? Like of course its both right. I cant believe that
thats a question. Like it is all important and it is all part of the conversation.
I want to talk about I love that this comes up around the Internet is that the inter net was a very
negative place, like super negative and I think it still is. You only have to take a look, if youre a guy,
get a friend whos opinionated and she talks on Twitter and look at her mentions just to realize that
the Internet is can be a very harsh and terrible place. So that there is a lot of negativity. Negativity is
not going extinct. Like negativity is fine because its important for some of it and some of it is people
fucking harassing your friends, which is a horrifying talk. That said Im glad I didnt get never read
the comments tattooed on my chest because Ive actually switched roles and I really like defending
the comments now. I mean dont get me wrong, if somebody comes into a comment section and just
like spews racist shit, then yes of course, delete it: fuck them! But sometimes the comments is where
these things that were all talking about actually bump into each other. People have super smart and
on the other side of the fence feelings about something, and in the comments section is where some
of that it come out.
But thats where Id like to say that the comment section is very much about the Internet as a role.
Whether negative or whether positive. You can find them and theyre gold and yes, sometimes
theyre surrounded by garbage. Sometimes theyre surrounded by even lovelier conversations or
more negative conversations but theyre still important. But thats what it is. Its humans bumping
into each other all given a voice, all given a space. So actually I am here fordont get me wrong, not
unregulated, Im notalthough maybe theres a space for that, as well, but.

Gat: I think thats one of the roles of the editor is to lead those. My editor at Rhizome responds to
every comment on the site, which is kind of easy, because you dont get every comment but theres
also a really smart thing there that that youre keeping your readers talking. Youre keeping your
readers discussing what youre writing on the site, not on Facebook. It mean Mark Zuckerberg is not
making money on your intellectual property. Which also leads me to another question from the
Internet. This one is from Katie [unintelligible] whos asking if what we share affects what gets
made, and that seems like maybe the two of you will have a lot of opinions about that.
Fitzgerald: Im going to jump in and just say to an extent of course. But I also believe what
Christopher says, just about writing in general, whether it be criticism or whether it be art creation,
right? People are going to make art. People are going to tell stories, from the literary world, this is
like one of the things that the human race has not dropped the ball on basically since the beginning.
So like its always going to happen. Now, what will what gets talked about force things, like the
memoir blew up and had this other resurgence again in the late 90s and you saw a lot of memoirs,
but I also think that art is a little self-correcting, and I believe people are going to express themselves
how they want to express themselves. I feel if somebody feels very passionate about something
theyre going to make it in spite of
Gat: Regardless of you.
Fitzgerald: Regardless of any of us.
Schreiber: Yeah, I think thats true and I guess I feel like it, I dont know, that it doesntits not
necessarily, well, isnt it kind of better to kind of take a back seat to that role? It says here you are
paying attention and seeing what gets made and how people make it, I guess I feel like its not
necessarily there. Criticism is not necessarily there to affect or influence. Its not really its role, its
not really our job, you know, if it happens, its kind of a byproduct. Ideally in negative reviews, as long
as its not, you know, if its something thats not completely harsh, completely totally negative, ideally,
there is a form of constructive criticism there that an artist can kind of take to heart. But, yeah, I think
its notits really not our place. Its something that I think can affect it and ideally it can affect it
positively because we have different opinions about it, but at the same time it kind of lets nature take
its course.
Gat: Lets take one more.
Audience Member: Im Skye Goodden. I founded a site promoting art criticism last October. Im
paying my writers, and Im paying myself a decent wage, as well. I had a question from an advertiser
of mine this morning, wanting to jump in, and saying, though, that he was worried, online advertising
was a bit moot because of ad blocks that a lot of us employ on our computers, so my question was to
Orit. You mentioned in your short lecture there that you thought we should return to pay walls or a
similar structure. I thought that didnt work out. Im pretty sure it didnt work out, so I just wondered
if you could speak to that at a bit more lengths and talk about why you think it still has a possibility as
a model for us.
Gat: Thats a really good question. I think it will work out, because I think that presumption that
everything online will always be free makes no sense whatsoever. Advertising has never supported
any industry that much. Journalism that happened there, and we all knew that that was not a great
idea, actually, I mean the idea of like newspapers with like champagne in the rooms and that
happened. That wasnt the like high time of journalism. I think that people really believe in what they
read. Theyre interested in that. They will pay for that. Its a really, really difficult move to do. Im not
jealous of the first ones to do that. A lot of art magazines have introduced pay walls on their site. A lot
of people are doing it really smartly like frieze that closes the entire issue and then their entire
archive is open. But yeah, your readers should support what you do, point blank, they should also

prefer that, they should prefer to pay whatever they pay so as to not get advertising that takes
advantage of them.
Knight: I think it also helps clarifyI mean one of the things that I run into a lot is the assumption
that social media is public space. And its not. Its private space. You know, its corporately owned
private space, in which labor is given for free. I mean basically. And doing some version of a pay wall
thing helps to clarify the situation in which youre engaged.
Gat: Another question from the audience? Where is the microphone? I guess right there. Yeah, OK, go
for it.
Audience Member: Hi. A lot of the criticism has been discussed is in terms of someone sort of on
high discussing individual projects by a maker of some sort. Whether its art or a book or whatever.
What do you think the value is of a critic in the sense of speaking to analyzing what cultural
institutions for presenters are doing? Do you think the value of negative criticism changes within that
context? And I dont know, Im just interested in hearing you speak to that a little bit more in terms of
the broad scope of criticism and who it can be directed towards.
Gat: Anyone want to take that first or should I? Im really into it.
Fitzgerald: Go for it.
Gat: I actually think its easier to criticize institutions than individuals. That said its terrifying
because institutions are usually more powerful than the freelance critic. I have long dreamed of a
blog or something that criticizes art magazines. I would never make a living if I did that. Every
magazine would hate me, so I did that publicly with other people and its the most engaging
conversation Ive ever had, and I think museums should do that, too. I think we should have critical
groups coming into to discuss what they do as an institution, because otherwise, all they get is
basically pat themselves on the back, were so great, we do research and R&D. Oh, my gosh, I
shouldnt say this at a museum.
Fitzgerald: Keep going. You got it. Its already out! Youve gotta be brave about it now. Weve got
your back.
Gat: So I saw a curator at a major museum speak at a panel, she was amazing, she was great, but she
also talked about the museum as an R&D lab and no one asked any questions about that, any
questions about how you translate financial models from Silicon Valley to cultural production.
Nobody really talked about that as something that needs to be critically discussed, and this was on
stage at another museum, and I think those discussions should be easier and I think theres a lot of
room for them.
Fitzgerald: I think its important, because thats how change happens, right? Calling out institutions,
if we wanted things to stay the same, I think thats incredibly important, you know, thats how you
fight if youve got a local museum or a publishing house that you love, if theres somebody and you
want to see change in those directions of course youre going to have to stand up and have those
conversations and like its just important, right? Like I feel like that is likeI feel like thats being a
good citizen, like thats not just being a critic.
Thats being like I think all of us as Americans or as human beings, thats what we should be doing all
the time, because thats usually the things that we care about, and thats what you want to see
reflected in the institutions around you. Sometimesa lot of good can come from getting punched on
the nose. I would not be here if I didnt get punched in the nose. But I think. Not to get too

philosophical, were getting to a much broader conversation. But were seeing that from our actual
government right now, right? And I think thats important as citizens to do that.
Gat: First Amendment in everything. As Americans.
Knight: Especially at art institutions. I mean, socially and politically the whole big trend since the
1980s has been to privatize, privatize public space, everything public has been privatized and
privatized and privatized. Well, an institution, whether its the Walker or the Metropolitan or
whatever public institution, I subsidize them with my taxes, as does everybody else, and the degree
to which theyre handed over to money can become a real problem.
The commercialization of American museums thats going on now is really disturbing to me. This is
on the top of my mind because Im in the midst of writing a sort of long piece about this. Its getting to
a point where its so pervasive, the commercialization of museums is so pervasive that people dont
pay attention to it anymore. Its becoming the new norm. Its like: of course, its that way. Well, it
doesnt have to be that way and I need to use my institutional clout, as I said in my talk, I need to use
my power against their power and let them do with it what they want, you know. Thats not up to me.
Its just up to me to, as a journalist, to say this is what I see going on, and this is why I think its
screwy. Thats all.
Gat: I think, well, thatsOK. I any last words?
Fitzgerald: I feel like this is why its screwy is a perfect way to end.

PANEL PRESENTATIONS:
Sustainability, Growth, & Ethics
Veken Gueyikian, Hyperallergic
Thank you so much for inviting me to speak today about Hyperallergic. Im typically behind the
scenes doing day to day work of building the business, but Im glad to be out here telling you a little
bit about how we started and what we are working to build.
So I wanted to begin by providing a little bit of background on how and why we started. In 2009,
when we were first making plans to start Hyperallergic, newspaper revenues were in free fall and it
seemed like new independent blogs were being started daily while the number of major newspapers
in the US was decreasing rapidly into the single digits and there was an absolute panic in the media
world that professional journalism may not survive.
And around the same time, it seemed like the established art media wasnt interested in digital
publishing at all. The art magazines were funded primarily by gallery ads that didnt translate well
onto the web and most were still only interested in reaching an older, wealthier collector audience
who were still not really online. And most of them had websites that just repurposed print articles
and displayed small logos in their side bars. And on the web the new digital media model promised
exposure to their audience but without any payment for their work. Theres still a lot of discussion
about how much critics and journalists should be paid or even if they should expect to get paid at all.
So back in 2009, my husband, Hrag, had been experimenting with a personal blog that I had set up for
him. And almost as soon as he started publishing online he fell in love with the idea of online writing.
Blogging offered him a new way of writing, of organizing thoughts, communicating ideas and making
connections. When he had previously written articles for print, there was never any response, no
feed back or dialogue, and very little ongoing conversation.
So it was the middle of the recession, and both of us were frustrated by our current jobs. I was
working at a corporate ad agency and itching to start something on my own and Hrag was ready to
move on from his communications job and was frustrated by all the non-paying writing
opportunities that were around and not really interested in writing a traditional 800-word review
for market focused art magazines, and so we just decided to build a new site that we could use as a
laboratory to explore our ideas. Him with new forms of writing online and me to build a business to
support art writing. So like the tech and business blogs had done in the previous decade, we out our
idea of what an arts publication could be. And with a few thousand dollars with a WordPress
designer we built the first version of the site with the name Hyperallergic and the tag line sensitive
to art and its discontents. We described it as a forum for serious, playful, and radical thinking about
art in the world today. We shied away from the predominant academic tone of art writing and
expressed strong, clear opinions to create something that we would want to read ourselves. And it
was important for us to be independent and challenge existing ideas, experiment with new forms of
writing and ways to activate communities and for me in particular, new ways to create a sustainable
business model for art writing.
This is what the site looks like today. We strive to champion the voices of the powerless and push for
social and economic justice with a multicultural world view. We champion visual storytelling.
And we integrate social media and understand that it is an important place to share, communicate
and offer insights into ideas.
We publish breaking news and always integrating an arts perspective.

Which is many times then picked up by other media outlets. We publish reviews both experimental
and traditional reviews that go in depth. And influential opinions that lead art world discussions on
current topics.
When we started to build our audience, we organized events where we could meet our readers and
where they could meet each other in real life. In the beginning when they were smaller, we had them
in our office in Brooklyn, as you can see here, and as they grew bigger, we moved to other spaces like
this one from last year that drew 800 people to a factory in Queens. And we also partnered with
museums and other arts organizations to co-host events in their spaces.
So how did we make all this happen? We started Hyperallergic with the goal of trying to build a
sustainable platform that could support high quality writing about art and culture and push the
boundaries of what that could be. So having the flexibility, independence and control over every
aspect of the project were really important to everything that we did. We wanted the autonomy to
challenge the status quo and to resist the influence of power and money in the art world and to
create a publication that was committed to paying writers for their work, that valued writing as
creative act as much as the other forms of art that we were writing about, and we knew that all these
things would require revenue.
And while many people in the art world have been saying for years that theres no money in online
publishing, I was married to a writer so I had a lot of motivation to figure it out.
So what does it mean to be sustainable? During the first year of the company, we looked at all sorts of
revenue streams and were excited to experiment with all of them.
We knew advertising would be a part of the mix, but we were also interested in exploring
subscriptions, events, books, apps and many other ideas that we were throwing around at the time.
One thing, though, we were never really interested in was trying to make money directly by selling
artwork, or by taking an investment that would inevitably steer us towards the market where most
of the money in the art world is made and we chose a for-profit model because we felt it aligned best
with our goals of being an independent sustainable company that could earn revenue directly from
our audience instead of what we did or did not publish. And to be sustainable, we knew we needed to
continue growing by earning the loyalty and satisfaction of our readers, our sponsors and all of our
partners.
So we started with advertising and which seems like the easiest to experiment with. And soon we
added other types of revenue as we went along. When we started we really thought a lot about what
it meant to be an ad-supported publication, specifically in visual art. Could we make online
advertising more transparent and work for both readers and art organizations? How could we
insulate our editorial from sponsor influence? Could we use advertising to create positive change in
the art community or support organizations we believed in? And could we work with sponsors that
shared or mission to grow the audience for art?
At the same time, we also knew that expecting charity from sponsors who would buy ads merely to
support writing was never going to be sustainable, nor would it be scalable.
And this approach to advertising was very difficult at first. Most of the arts organizations that we
were working with at the time in 2010 had never advertised online before. I had to spend a lot of
time educating and talking through them about the process, teaching them about impressions and
CPMs and click-through rates. And how to create campaign packages with fixed budgets that ran on a
monthly schedule so it would match up with their print magazine, both the concept of what an ad is
an their budgets.

But it seemed to work and more and more sponsors began to move their advertising online.
Online advertising can often be ugly, annoying, and sometimes even offensive. Its often considered
an interruption. So we thought we could do better and we thought we would need to do better if we
were going to avoid the race to the bottom that plagued online advertising at the time. So we try our
best to serve as a space that is relevant, respectful and beautiful. We want advertisers to find their
ads. We avoid ads that target only the wealthiest part of the art world and we work with art sponsors
to run campaigns that address their marketing goals. We really try and understand what they need
and how we can help by reaching out and interacting and engaging with our audience.
We work with museums and nonprofits to increase awareness and engagement of an exhibition, a
performance, an event, or a conference. We rally support for nonprofits that are looking to raise their
profile. We inform artists, writers, or creators about opportunities like residencies, exhibitions,
contests, or grants, and motivate them to improve their skills or expand their horizons through
education.
And also help professional services build their audiences and reach potential clients. And even work
with major brands looking specifically to reach our audience and raise awareness of an art focused
project.
At the same time when we were building a community with sponsors, we really felt it was important
to build a community, a broader community ofsorry, in addition to building a community of
readers and sponsors, we wanted to extend our reach by supporting a broader community of
independent voices in the arts and so about a year after we started Hyperallergic, we joined forces
with like-minded sites like Rhizome and art F city. We provide sales support to smaller publishers
who typically couldnt afford to do it on their own and we help contribute to their funding of other
operations.
So this is what we did. So we work with building four different communities and how it works is we
knew we had to provide value to each individual community individually, and together. For the
system to work. We started with one writer and a small audience and sold our first ads for $300 a
week. We reinvested that money into more writers, continued to grow our audience which in turn
created more demand from sponsors who wanted to reach audience and more funding for writers.
And weve been working through this cycle for the last five years, slowly but surely constantly
growing.
And its working. This year we have 9 full-time employees of Hyperallergic, 6 of them are writers and
editors and we are, working with 11 art publishers who reach over 4 million people per month and
many more on social media. We have published over 500 writers on Hyperallergic since we started
and continue to increase our freelance rates every year. Weve built a community of over 500
sponsors that readers welcome and love to hear from but that has no influence over our editorial.
And as one of the most important ways that we measure our success, in the last year weve paid out
to almost $300,000 to Nectar Ads, affiliated publications, and $75,000 to freelance writers and hope
to support them even more as we continue to grow. As you can see here, its been a long, steady climb
over the first five years, but we are confident and excited that this trend will continue and will keep
working every day to build a stronger and stronger company that can be a home to readers, writers,
publishers and sponsors. Thank you.

Eugenia Bell, Design Observer

Hi. A lot of you may not know Design Observer or read it religiously, so Im going to give a little bit of
history about how we came about and who we are and what we do before I kind of get into the meat
of the conversation.
In 2003, Michael Bierut, Bill Drenttel, Jessica Helfand, and Rick Poyner launched a blog at
designobserver.com. They were interested in creating a space for independent, provocative, and
serious conversation about design and the larger world and to bring that conversation to an audience
that reached beyond the design community.
By conversation, led by four prominent graphic designers was open to everybody. Experienced
professionals, curious students, sophisticated readers everywhere. We had a rich comment section
that no doubt was visited by the worst tendency of the commenting world, but was also a legitimate
and rich conversation in itself. Design Observer quickly earned and has sustained a reputation as the
leading online magazine covering design. Its writers include Jessica and Michael, the prolific Steven
Heller, Adrian Shaughnessy, Eric Spiekermann, Rob Walker (who many of you probably know for his
work from Slate or Medium) writes for us from Savannah. Paola Antonelli, the poet Megan ORourke,
the sound architect Nick Sowers, and the filmmakers Errol Morris have all written for Design
Observer. Despite, or as a direct result of the success of this inclusionary approach over the course of
the decade Design Observer expanded to broader topics. Ranging from citizen journalism to global
healthcare, which was of special interest to our late founder, Bill Drenttel.
A grant in 2009 from the Rockefeller Foundation allowed us to spend two years covering social
impact and design industry. More recently, very recently, Ive only been with Design Observer for
about nine months, we enter add two-year publishing initiative with the online platform Blurb, which
some of you may know about and may even use. Weve launched a publishing in print called Observer
Additions, which will collect essays from the website and also generate new content. We have
established an online platform for international BFA and MFA, called the Thesis Book Project, and we
hosted our inaugural conference last February on design and sound, this is an endeavor we hope will
become an annual event.
To a certain extent Design Observers original mission has been completely fulfilled and to go by
social media numbers if people care that audience has been widely reached. We have 800,000
Twitter followers, over 500,000 Facebook followers and a million subscribers to our podcast on
Soundcloud. Weve been nominated numerous times for Webby Awards and with a core staff of five
people, only 4 of us are part-time. Only one full-time person, I think its fair to say weve
accomplished a great deal and continue to do so. Yet, unlike the cultural climate that characterized
Design Observer in the early years, design coverage is now everywhere.
Conversation about design has emerged from its insular bubble to become a central concern and how
we talk about culture, education, technology, business, let alone the lifestyle, shelter, and food
coverage that has always lived at the margins of increasingly 24-hour design news cycle can be full of
highly visual pieces that are free of commentary and ideas. In this new environment of abundance, 12
years after its initial launch, Design Observer is still dedicated to its original initiatives of inclusion,
while amplifying designs, critical signals in a noisy world.
We are elevating the conversation about design on and off the Internet now. From traditional
publishing ventures like the books I just mentioned and also a magazine that we will be launching
this summer, to alternative projects like our podcast that we already do, and videos. And some face to
face encounters like seminars, our conference and salons like the ones that well be doing at AIGA
national conference this fall. We are not afraid to ask tough questions. Why do you only like an
announcement of a friend or family member on Facebook? Nor do we shy away from typical topics,
like is Lululemon inherently antifeminist and why do cities reject the homeless? Were eager to
debate and disagree and we think theres a role for humor, inquiry, scrutiny, for art, commerce,
politics, and film.

As design becomes not only a common cultural currency, but a truly international language, were
committed to extending our reach even more broadly than we already have. While sticking to our
core competencies as educators, and practitioners and editors, and most importantly as global
ambassadors for design, Design Observer is positioned at the nexus of the cultural and the critical, the
social and the commercial, like many of the publications and websites present here today probably.
So this might be a natural lead-in into talking a little bit about financial stuff.
Ill keep it brief because I think weve agreed that a lot of the meat of this discussion is really going to
happen in our panel discussion and from questions from you guys. But I will tell you what I can here.
Its probably a bit of a stretch to suggest that Design Observer operates on a really sophisticated
financial or business model because we dont and we never have. We are kind of in this foggy middle
ground where were not a for-profit, we wish we were, but were not a 501(c)(3), either, though we
have a component of the Design Observer group which is a foundation that has a writing award. For
some time early on, the site relied on really goodwill, and the urgent desire of contributors and our
founding editors to expose and expand the dialogue around design and that often meant not paying
people, including me in the early days.
In the first few years Design Observer has this modest stipend from the school of visual arts from New
York and it helped cover some operating costs and computers, and programming, and a little bit of
contributors fees.
That wasnt contingent on much, but wed already had an established relationship with the school of
visual arts because a lot of our contributors taught there or lectured there and it made is sense to
work with SVA as like educational partners and the educational component was a big part of our
mission. The programs were broad around progressive and Sympatico with Design Observers
mission and you know, mere inches of subtle ad space from a school didnt and still doesnt feel like a
principle-breaking act, so we happily partnered with them. But since those early years weve
attempted other things.
We have an active job board, it generates about $15,000 a year for us. That doesnt sound like a lot of
money, it isnt. But it goes a long way in helping pay contributors and our occasional interns.
Occasional grants of short-up special projects and topical coverage like the Rockefeller Grant from a
few years ago and more recently weve been taking sponsorships from companies like MailChimp
who underwrote ourone of our blogs, the observatory that Michael and Jessica do. The printing
company Moo and blurb as mentioned earlier who will be printing our magazine this summer.
You know, its kind of a more commercial take on the public radio model, I guess, you know, in having
these sponsors for discrete areas of the site. Podcasts in particular, because we have to hire
producers and you know, people to really help on those, and it makes a lot of sense for us. Especially
after our redesign last July, going after this kind of medium-sized funding support for the special
projects and podcasts, to help build support, and staff that those initiatives require. It also means Im
happy to say that I get to pay every single one of my writers. And the occasional intern.
By web standards we pay pretty generously, though, unlike Veken, we only publish two or three
times a day so its a slightly simpler model, but you know, I come from print, Design Observer is the
first website Ive ever worked at. By print standards, web pay is horrific. So when I first joined
observer and I was sort of given our rates for writers, I was totally scandalized and there were
people that I thought I couldnt approach because I thought those rates were so low, and then three
months into my tenure at Design Observer, I was talking to somebody who had worked at the
newyorker.com who told me what their rate was and it matched ours and all of a sudden I felt
completely legitimized and I could go to people and say we pay what the New Yorker pays and it felt
incredibly edifying. So were currently testing the waters about new funding possibilities.

The most important thing for us is to find ways of combining our principled approach which models
that complement our mission.
Or its earlier paid subscription, you know, really resonates with me, because its something thats
come up a lot at Design Observer and we want to believe in it, but you know, Design Observer is 12
years old and walking back something thats been free for 12 years and that has an incredibly deep
archive that people use, you know, we get emails from instructors and professors who are making
course packets out of our archives which is fantastic and thats probably something we should be
helping them do and you know, charging for, but you know, itsyou know, like Orit, Im not envious
of the first person whos going to do that, because its going to be complicated.
Some conversations that we have internally involve not just embracing new topics and the revenue
generating possibilities that those things might imply. But methods of distribution, as well, you know,
is the web, one question we always have, is the web, for a site like ours, which you know, that
publishes original writing and excerpts from new books, is the web a place of origin still or is it just a
place of dissemination? So these distribution models also come into our mind and you know,
especially what it means to be publishing serious design observations on the web anymore.
We dont have the answer and I dont think were going to answer it this weekend, but Im really
grateful to Susannah [Schouweiler] and Paul [Schmelzer] for organizing this, and giving us the
opportunity to talk a little bit more about it. Im also grateful to Andrew [Blauvelt] for inviting Design
Observer to the conference and me back to the Walker. Thanks, and I hope we have an active
conversation about this in the panel. And the question and answers. Thank you.

Carolina Miranda, Los Angeles Times
I know we are here to talk about models of art writing. I feel a little bit like a fraud in this area
because I have not come up with any models Im simply a writer.
I dont run a publication, I havent launched a platform and I work at a newspaper, which is, you
know, definitely a legacy media throwback. I do have a unique position at the Los Angeles Times in
that I have a new type of role which is considered digital first, so I can do bloggy items, I do full
feature stories, I do Q&As, I do photo essays, and then whatever the paper is interested in, they pick it
up from my blog, so its more about sort of being online and being a digital journalist and then sort of,
by osmosis, I end up in the paper. So the way I work is a little bit different than the way Christopher
works, but Im still a throwback to legacy media but Im really here to talk about sort of my time as a
freelancer.
I just did this story where I illustrated the entire Marina Abramovic/Jay-Z fight using media from the
Getty and Im really into it, I think we should illustrate all stories with artwork from museum
collections and I think this is more interesting than any photos of my website which you can go and
see at any time. Thats St. Matthew, by the way. So before I joined the Times I was a freelancer for
almost 8 years, I wrote for Art News, Time magazine, Architect a lot of work for public radio. And I
managed to make a career out of writing about art and culture, which is why Im here, but before I get
into the mechanics of that, I just wanted to give you a little bit of background on my professional
trajectory.
Peoplethats St. Lazarus, by the way, from the 16th century. People come to art writing in so many
ways. There are curators who create records of their shows, academics who publish their research,
there are essayists who want to add to the body of knowledge and the economic models are all
different its not a one size fits all profession, so I really think its important to acknowledge where

we all come from in this and I come to it through journalism. I am not an art historian, I didnt major
in art. I didnt take a single course in art history class in college so Im a complete and total fraud. I
dont teach and I dont do curatorial work. I really approach this as a journalist. And actually as a
storyteller so sort of the art and architecture and culture are where I happen to tell my stories and it
was reallyI got into it in my 30s when I was a reporter at Time magazine, I was a general
assignment reporter where one week you might be writing about Al Qaeda and the next week about
FEMA and the next week its Scarlett Johansson so its kind of all over the place.
And my first art architecture assignmentall this kind of happened by accident, Id been very happy
at a general assignment reporter. I thought it was very interesting to be able to write about all these
different and weird things. Id always been an aficionado of culture, a big reader, a big museum goer, I
always loved going to galleries, I read books about artists but it wasnt something I had considered
writing about professionally a lot and then one day at Time magazine Im walking down the hallway
going to get a Coke and I happened to walk in front of an editors office right as he debating who to
assign this architecture story to and so I happened to step in front of his office and he saw me and he
gave me the assignment. It was kind of that sophisticated was the assignment process at Time
magazine sometimes. But it was a story, it was a story about architecture and skyscrapers and how
architecture pedagogy is changing because of skyscrapers and architecture itself.
That really got me into the idea of writing about these topics for a mass audience. I was really
interested in this idea that it could go beyond the sinecure of the art world. So it was really Time that
fed this bug. The idea of Time magazine was that grandma in Peoria has to be able to read it and I
really loved the idea of doing that for culture stories. So when I left Time, I really got seriously into
culture writing. At the time there wasnt always a lot of opportunity to do it. And thats when I started
freelancing about art and architecture, but also other topics that I had been familiar with, travel, food,
the occasional opinion piece, and bizarrely, neurological development stories, because that was
something I had covered at Time magazine. So during this time that Im just starting out as a
freelancer, I also started a blog called C-Monster.
There we go. I dont know if theyre sea monsters, but they kind of look like it. These are from the
15th century. I did this blog for almost seven years, it was not designed as a platform, it did not
generate a lick of revenue, I didnt make a dime from it. It really was a place for me as a writer to go
and be able to play. And not have to have an institutional voice, not be writing for an editor, not be
writing for a giant publication, not have multiple layers of editing, so it was where I could really sort
of work out my own voice as a writer and in the process, it ended up being this great sort of piece of
visibility for me.
I didnt make any money off of it, but I think a lot ofI know many of you, through that site, but
because I didnt make a dime from it, it means that its always been really important to me to make a
living as a journalist and which means that any writing that was not on c monster, it was really, really
important for me to make money on it. Now, I come from a relatively privileged position in all of this,
in that when I started working as a freelancer, I was already an experienced journalist, I could
already sort of command a certain level of payment. It wasnt payment that I was getting rich from
but it allowed me to survive as an arts writer, and because I was a general assignment reporter, it
also allowed me to occasionally write stories about things outside art. So if things in art were a little
slow, I could do a travel story, I could do a neurological story and I think thats generally good for
writers, have other things that you can write about, too, because this is a shaky business.
So Ive had the good fortune of finding a steady stream of paid work both inside and outside the
world of culture that allowed me to work as a freelance writer for almost 8 years, but in my time as a
writer in those 8 years, Ive seen the landscape change. You know, Ive seen pay rates decline, Ive
seen magazines close, Ive been asked to write for free more times than I can count, you know, and
Ive been offered fees that once I sort of factor in the amount of time that goes to producing the work,
they probably violate all kinds of minimum wage laws, and so thats something that I wanted to

address here today, because I think questions of payment and more specifically nonpayment, and
how to get by in this economy, are really important. You know, so often I feel like the writers
contribution its treated as so expendable. So I think my main advice for folks who are trying to get
paid to write is to not give it away.
Now, by not giving it away, I dont necessarily mean immediately reject all unpaid work, tell that
editor to stick it where the sun dont shine, thats not what I mean, I mean in an ideal world wed all
get paid for everything we write and that minimum rate would be a dollar a word, because that is a
liveable wage for a writer as we talk about liveable minimum wage, a dollar a word is a liveable wage
for a writer. But we all face situations in which we choose to work for free or for little pay and I want
to highlight the word choose here because I really think it should be choice. When I get these offers
part of the exercise that I go through in order to determine whether this is something I really want to
or need to be doing is I ask myself three questions: And so the first question I ask myself is,
somebodys offeredyou know, asked me to do something for free, the first question is how can I
improve the terms of this?
So you know, if the pay is zero, can they give me 50 bucks? If the pay is 50 bucks, can they give me
100. If theres no money for a writers fee, can they purchase a couple of books for me to do my
research that I can then retain in my library? Does the sponsoring organization have access to
databases that maybe me as an independent journalist does not have? Can they give me access to
those databases? I feel like so often this is approached as a one-way relationship as you know, an
organization coming to you the writer and asking you to write for free, but its a negotiation, its a
collaboration and we are allowed to ask for things back and we might not get money but we might
get other things and I think its important to ask for them so that this becomes more of a relationship
of barter than one of unpaid labor.
So question No. 2. That I ask myself is, what does the publication and its staff look like?
So is this a commercial site that makes a profit? Does the publisher get paid? Does the editor get
paid? Do the marketing people get paid? Does everyone except the writer get paid?
Or are they paid 25 bucks for a thoughtful, well reported thousand-word blog post? You know, if
thats the case, then the writer is subsidizing that enterprise, and its unsustainable and usually in
those cases the answer to myself is no, that thats not a piece I want to do. However, if the publication
is a nonprofit with tiny budgets or a project supported by a passionate group of people who are
volunteering their time, if its a forward Ive been asked to do by an artist for their book and Im
really passionate about their work but I know that the budget to produce the book is microscopic, Ill
set aside the concerns about money because there are stories I want to tell. So in those kinds of
questions I ask myself, am I the collaborator? Is this part of a creative endeavor or again, am I simply
functioning as unpaid labor? I think if Im going to be doing something for free, I want to feel that Im
a collaborator.
The third question I ask myself is how much of a burning desire do I have to write about this topic?
There are times I have written for free or for low pay because I felt a sense of urgency about the
subject, because I was really moved by an artists show and I just wanted desperately to get the word
out about it or there was an idea that I really wanted to express and that particular platform, even
though it might not have been ideal in other ways in terms of pay or structure it was the most
appropriate place to tell that story so in that case Im willing to do it because Im not just a paid
writer, I feel like Im also somebody who traffics in ideas and sometimes you know, ideas just arent
about money.
So I think thats such an important question of if youre going to write something for free and youre
not going to be 100% enamored by it, it might not be worth doing it.

Now, for writers who are new to the field, who are trying to make a go as a freelancer, free or low-
paid work is probably going to be part of the deal initially. Thats a little different than how I started
out.
But I think again, think critically about what youre going to be getting out of it. Does this job give you
a portfolio of worthwhile clips? Is it improving your reporting skills are you getting good editing so
that youre improving your writing? Are you getting something that you wouldnt get just by writing
your own blog? So I think those are important questions to ask if youre starting out.
But I think at the same time its important to set limits on sort of how much and for how long youre
willing to do that, because by having everybody write for free, it devalues what we all do to some
degree, but I also recognize that writing is an art and its not any one thing and so people are going to
do it for different reasons.
Now, to finish out, I wanted to bring up a question of sustainability that has nothing to do with
money, but more about the way we communicate. We live in a society where art seems to hold little
cultural capital. According to the national center for education statistics, only half of American high
schools require any kind of arts coursework for graduation, we are not a culture that calls on artists
or architects or philosophers or playwrights to understand the world around us. When I watch TV on
Latin America Im always kind of wowed, there will be like a policy maker and a poet describing like
the weeks news, because in Latin America what a poet has to say about something is important and I
agree. Here in the US when art does make it into mass media it so often has to do with auctions or
scandals or you know, the San Diego professor whoever wants his class to get naked so it turns into
that, which is a little bit about I want to talk about asking ourselves who we write for and why.
So do we write for the caravan of people who jet from a fair to fair, biennial to biennial? Is it for the
people who buy the 150 million-dollar paintings? Is it the fellow egg-heads who like to use words like
recontextualizing and hybridity? Every choice, every choice we make as a writer of the subjects we
choose to cover and the language we use to cover it and the publication we choose to disseminate it
can narrow or expand our audience.
And I think the art world canit can be such an echo chamber and sometimes a very small one at
that and so I think its important given the state of art in this country for every writer to find ways to
get outside of that world, at least some of the time. To cover stories that arent arent fairs and
biennials to do essays that arent all jargon. To explore topics that take us into the myriad areas of
daily life. In whatever we write, I think its important to keep ideas concise and language simple, to
invite people in rather than keep them out, to continuously make the case to the broadest possible
audience that art is a rich part of life and not just something for the rich.
Its a really big world out there, so lets write for all of it. Thank you.
James McAnally, Temporary Art Review
I appreciate this panel in general. I think the conversation after will be really good because were all
coming from very different places.
So on my end, I thought it would be important first to define terms. Were not interested in growing
an industry, were interested in growing a field. An art world obsessed with money, we want to
understand how to surpass it. If we cant imagine new models as critics or publishers, were
perpetually subservient to models we claim to oppose.
Temporary Art Review is an anti-profit publication, founded in St. Louis in 2011 by Sarrita Hunn and I,
in order to connect disparate communities particularly those outside of traditional art centers to

document, assess and advocate for artist run and alternative practices throughout the United States
and increasingly abroad. We have many starts and resets and restarts. We talk a lot about models, I
think its because weve always been an experiment in how an alternative publication today may
operate as much as how it has existed as a publication itself. Its form as always applied back to its
language. Our decision, finances, and design moving towards a collapsing center. To talk about
alternative spaces we needed to enact or embody an alternative form. To forefront questions of the
artist run, we needed to be artist-run ourselves and to discuss inequities in the art world, or
problematic platforms, we needed to create a sustainable equitable financial model, a platform we
can live with and grow through. Its simple: We needed to connect the discourse with the work we
were doing, the artist, activist, organizer considered inseparable from the critic, editor, publisher. We
carry our conscience and out political consciousness forward through our forum, ethics, growth and
sustainability are considered inseparable.
That which we cover typically hovers in this border as well. Non-nonprofits, unprofitable for-profits,
conflicted curators, conflicted critics, artist-run, artist centric, alternative experimental, ephemeral,
and ekphrastic. The models we seek havent yet been found or theyre found in the passage between
forms and its our role to consider their emergence when they appear. We were interested in creating
a publication that is an example of the form we celebrate. It advances the forms we see succeeding
and that creates meaning that circumscribes ignores or pushes past the art world as we now know it.
To me, the most interesting models come out of extreme dissatisfaction, displacement. Temporary
initially reacted to the failure of art criticism and its extremities. In the smaller off-center cities and
smaller artist centric spaces. Founding the site in St. Louis in 2011 and in most cities throughout the
country the limitations of dominant model was clear from the out set. We knew we could not sustain
ourselves on ads or grants, subsisting on existing models, we werent going to found a new legacy
platform. We had to start from that place, post recession, uncertain support structures, collapsing
industry, we emerged alongside what we felt was the defining element of our time. The return of
alternative space. In the wake of economic shifts, the protest of shutters in place of context, the
conditions of scarcity itself catalyzing new models. Entering this landscape as a national site with an
emphasis on communities without an active critical dialogue only punctuated this.
The models werent working, so the work wasnt happening. So much of our work went
undocumented, undiscussed. Putting in a broader context of art criticism publishing, a point that
persists not only are critical institutions and traditional media outlets faltering, but there continues
to be a startling lack of meaningful expansions of models. Not just bloggers, part-timers and casual
critics that fill in the gaps our media outlets have always missed but emerging models of publishing
more broadly.
We can agree that criticism is in continual crisis. The crisis in audience and readership, The crisis in
advertising and gazes time and attention, the crisis of platform and pay. Round tables, presentations
and panels like this one often hang there, circling around a point without ever transcending it. The
possibilities of emerging platforms should lead to an expansion of agency. New critical voices should
be emerging as we understand there no gatekeepers and no gates to keep. New models should be
taking root, yet this persistent should continues to haunt the field. Our industry is not going to return
in the same form. Its our obligation to make sure our field is documented, discussed, distributed,
contended with publicly. I think this echoes a lot of what Carolina was saying, as well.
Can we not advance alternate means of address, of criticality, of sustainability. In times of crisis,
sometimes its sufficient to state the issue then experiment with whatever is in your control. Perhaps
in this experimentation, well stumble on the new forms of publishing, perhaps the form becomes a
model. Because repairing crumbling models isnt sufficient to address the contours of the
contemporary and this moment of experimentation is an opportunity to reshape our work into
something that addresses the breadth of art as it is. Decentered, multiple, malleable. There have to be
more models than grants ads, sponsored content, pay wall, our models to consider what he we can

build outside of these patterns. What a community can create for itself. We founded the site for $1.99.
Operated with essentially no budget until recently, publishing over 400 articles from a scattered
community of 150 artists, artist writers, curator critics from around the world.
Through this act, we became increasingly interested in the possibility of creating radical sustainable
and alternate forms of organizing, of publishing, of being. An emergence of a radical conscience not
limited to locality. In many ways this is what we were doing all along but it was inarticulate until we
relaunched the site last year as an anti-profit publication with the formulation our vision was to
make it public or at least attempt to. This making of a public, connecting together as a community
was itself a goal. We didnt feel like there was a place for ideas to gather that was open, equitable,
accessible, diverse, intelligent. A place to prepare that was neither for nor nonprofit but was other.
Opposed, experimental, and not just in language but in form. Not just by content, but by finances.
There was a form itself that acted out our oppositional radical stance as being alternate to, yet
intersecting with the art world we engage. We decided to distribute what we had this public
embarking on ad shares, mutual support, cooperative models and attempt to build out a structure we
could live with and in. It is still very much an open ended experiment, one that works at certain
moments and of course feels restrictive at times, but nonetheless keeps the space of the site open and
undetermined.
Temporary exists in a complex position which I feel is essential to make transparent, we are an anti-
profit experiment in mutualism and connectivity. Primarily managed by two people and published in
proximity to The Luminary, a nonprofit which I also helped found. It doesnt exist entirely outside of
these systems we critique, but at angles with it. We do sell a small number of ads, mostly from friends
and partners, we receive some grant money through the Warhol Foundation, through The Luminary,
in order to have create a fund for writers and guest editors, something like 95% of what we publish
had been bartered, donated, given to the public as a way to advance this discourse. Its a collectively
developed platform for a quickly growing number of contributors and readers. Anti-profit for us is a
transparent reflection of our finances.
More properly, that we operate without finances at the center of our enterprise. We may make
money, but when we do, its equally shared as one form of payment among others.
So we dont exist due to a financial model. Nor are we dependent on one. We found both for ourselves
and for many of our contributors that finances arent the primary concerned when youre openly
aligned along a similar vision. The removing money from the center of the conversation doesnt
collapse, but actually expands it. As a case study just to get practical, Cassie Thornton, an artist in the
Bay Area, wrote a piece for Temporary called Save the System in which she advocated for death
strikes in the context of increasing costs for MFA programs. In exchange she was given an ad space to
do with whatever she wished, she could sell it, barter it further, advertise a project, whatever. She
ended up putting up a gold and black ad saying Bad Credit does not Equal Bad Person, which led to
a site in which she would offer alternative credit scores through her feminist economics department.
This microcosm of the site connects as an idea outward. Merging an alternative proposition in one
field, puts the structure of a publication in another. Positing a valid alternative economics in a
succinct act.
For us an emerging community is the concern. In a broader sense of a radical alternative that does
not just critique, but builds. Its important that Temporary is just one model among many advancing
these ideas, a publication echoing the ways that artists are working.
The metaphor weve productively applied to our work, but also the larger landscape of that of the
artist-run ethos, is that of wild building its a practice in which families and small communities create
a settlement on border territory that drains off resources from the grid in order to sustain it. Whats

interesting about these structures, theyre built along a particular logic, the family builds the first
floor out fully, finishing it as a living space and moving in. However, the second and third floors and
so on are framed and left unfinished waiting for future generations to inhabit and expand it. Its a
radical form, open ended and anticipatory, the act of foretelling, waiting, preparation, paired for us
with documenting, describing, assessing, anticipates the sustainable structure in a migratory border.
An un-termed territory. Were interested in building towards this future space, creating a ground
floor that is inhabitable, living here and inching upward floor by floor, we wish to make a public, or at
least to attempt to. Thank you.

PANEL DISCUSSION:
Sustainability, Growth, & Ethics
Susannah Schouweiler: I was thinking about this, and as I followed all of our panelists really closely,
and as I think about sort of the economies of this work, of writing and responding to culture as a
professional, whatever professional means, or as an artist engaging that conversation, it strikes me
that cash might not be the central question, but compensation might be and that could be
professional compensation, that could be intellectual compensation, a sense of collaboration that
Carolina was talking about, but I think even with that, I think we have to start with the question of
pay. Pay for writers, before we get into publishing models. And I really cant think of a better way to
start than Yasmin Nairs essay Scabs, Academics, and Others Who Write for Free. This little nugget is
really striking. The system of free writing has created a caste system, she says, with those who can
afford to work for free doing so, while those who cant struggle to pay the bills and often give up. As
with unpaid interns, those who cant afford to write nothing, inevitably make it into networks of
influence, which allow them to continue on to actual paying gigs. She goes on, if you write for free,
you are making it possible for publishers to refuse to pay professional writers what theyre worth.
Youre contributing to what she calls the adjunctification of writing. Her solutions are really blunt.
If youre any kind of writer, demand pay and good pay, even and especially because you dont need it
to survive. If youre a would be publisher who wants to provide a space for radical feminists,
whatever but dont know how to do it with your pay rate starting in the hundreds and not the measly
tens, dont publish. Its as simple that. Do you think people who cant pay should just north publish?
Carolina Miranda: Well, I have some problems with that essay, I dont like to write for free and I
think writers should get paid for their work, but it completelytheres no nuance in who or what a
writer is. People write for lot of reasons. People write as part of another process. If theyre an
investigator research the written result is sort of an ancillary part of their research work or for an
academic to publish findings and so theres a lot of reasons that people write and I think to put this
blanket statement that if youre writing for free, youre a scab. Theres something really ooga booga
about it. I also feel like writing is a form of communication. After talking its one of the oldest forms of
communication and no, people havent always gotten paid to do it because sometimes what youre
expressing, you know, is not necessarily for a paying audience or things like that.
Veken Gueyikian: I have a problem with it, too, when we started, we started paying very little. I
mean what we could afford. Both me and Hrag had full-time jobs but we knew that we had to start
somewhere so that we could start paying writers and increasing over time and really grow. Because
growing from is probably impossible but growing from $20 to 50 to 75 to 100 seems like something
that we could all build together as a community. So our writers, as a community, our sponsors and
our publishers and us building it together to get to this point so I disagree that we shouldnt start,
because we need to start something. And thats what were trying to do.
Eugenia Bell: I have feelings about it, as well, I think the human in me wants to agree with the idea
that, you know, we should as writers should be demanding pay for our work, and that writers and the
work that we do absolutely be valued the same way that the work that doctors do or anybody else is

valued and certainly monetized. On the other hand, as the editor of a website and as a book editor in
the past, you know, and somebody who is lucky enough to be able to pay their writers, Iyou know, I
likeI really liked your point about the different, you know, and its not something I think about very
often, but the different models that paying your writers can take, and this idea of barter is a very
good one.
I know we spoke a little bit at dinner last night about sort of back and forth that a writer can have
with a really good and involved editor and the work that an editor puts into improving a writers
writing and thinking process. You know, hugely valuable, and thats something Ive had with my own
editors at Frieze and Artforum and on books, so I recognize that that is one characteristic of payment
or at least compensation. You know, on the other hand, wemany art writers live in cities like
London and San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, and cash pay is utterly important. Its vital.
Literally. So, yeah, I mean, you know, the idealist in me wants to side with her but the realist in me
understands that demanding some kind of compensation, whether that is intellectual or cash, is
utterly important, necessary, and I just, you know, and I am really glad you made that point. It wasnt
something that I really thought about though we had touched upon it and you made it very strong,
convincing.
James McAnally: I think one thing, that quote it sort of assumes a top-down industry. It assumes that
existing infrastructure that is able to pay and I think its something we have talked a lot about in this.
There are a lot of predatory publications out there I think that they kind of subsist in their
infrastructure and they pay some people and not others, which came up in several different panels
and I think the think that what we were reacting to is if you set out that model, then a lot of things are
not talked about. So if you do separate this conversation from industry to field, what are you doing?
What is the work? You know, something that we considered starting in a place like St. Louis, but also
in a lot of cities is it just wouldnt happen.
If you set out these kind of ways of formalized structure and what were going to see is the art critic
from the newspaper gets fired and then you go five years and theres nothing, you know, and thats
kind of not good for anyone. Its not good for artists, its not good for writers in those areas, so you
really have to consider what can you make happen otherwise. Sometimes, you know, that can exist in
a paid writing position, sometimes it can be a nonprofit publication, whatever, but I think that there
are always other approaches, I think, to make sure that its happening.
Schouweiler: James, when you guys founded Temporary, who were you serving? Who were you
writing for? Who were you accountable to?
McAnally: I mean I think we were accountable to ourselves. We go back to the beginning, it was
really an artist-run space. I mean we think about that in terms of spaces or galleries, but not really
about publications but its increasingly common. That it was sort of artists and I mean I also run a
space that has exhibitions that would just not get covered and so there was kind of an accountability
to ourselves that we sort of looked around St. Louis, but also we started out immediately kind of a
national conversation, and the idea was that we wanted to talk about artist-run spaces, alternative
spaces, projects that were ephemeral and were likely not going to be covered and so there was no
archive around it.
So we felt accountable to a way of working I think and actually documenting it, taking it seriously
being critical about it, as well, so not just kind of boostering, that way of working, but actually what is
criticism that is more directed and intentional, you know, the underlying value was, we felt like that
was a really important moment in time, we started in 2011 but really form 2009 on you see this
resurgence of the artist-run space and we felt that that conversation wasnt happening and that we
werent really willing to wait for it to happen, either that at a certain point you have to take
responsibility for it yourself.

Schouweiler: Im thinking about conflict of interest because I know Veken spoke really well I think
from the idea that from the very beginning, if youre approaching especially arts writing as
journalism, youre thinking about who youre accountable to and how you can keep the editorial, you
know, church and state how you keep them separate so that the source of your funding doesnt
unduly affect the kinds of stories you feel free to tell and Im wondering Carolina and Eugenia, youve
worked as freelancers, and you know, with this creative entrepreneur model, this go it alone
freelancer whos kind of a hired gun for a lot of publications, are you finding yourself when youre in
that role, you have to create your own kind of ethical super structure for determining your own sort
of comfort level with conflicts of interest or is that still dictated by the publisher that youre writing
for? Because to me those lines feel a lot more fluid with these sort of artist-driven and freelance-
driven enterprises.
Miranda: I mean it depends on who you work for. I did a lot of public radio work, and public radio
has, and especially NPR in Washington, not necessarily local affiliates, has very strong conflict of
interest rules and when you sign on to be a freelancer, even though youre not staff, youre still
governed by conflict of interest rules. So I couldnt make any money from any person I might be in
the position of covering in the future, so it meant I couldnt really do catalog essays for galleries, I
couldnt do projects for museums, I couldnt do any of those things and that sort of governed the
ethics I obviously applied to all of my work and it governs what certainly what I do at the LA Times
right now, we have very strict, you know, like Christopher I cant be paid to be here. Very strict rules.
Bell: I mostly freelance edit books for publishers and museums and galleries, and thatsyou know,
the primary source of my freelance work, so you know, I think there are self-imposed, you know, an
ethos that you are driven by, and thats kind of how I operate. There arent really conflict of issues
except in the case of when I was working at Frieze, if I was working onI wouldnt be, working on
the book of someone I was writing about in the magazine or someone Id commissioned someone you
know, to write an article about an artist or a designer or a musician or something. I wouldnt be
working for that person in another capacity. But I mean that doesnt feel very fluid to me that feels
quite obvious frankly, but you know, as far as book editing goes, I think you know you dont have
quite the same commercial or advertising interests you know, that would bring those questions up,
so in my case I feel a little bit free from that thankfully.
Schouweiler: Are there self-determined lines that youre drawing or is that expressed? Is that made
explicit?
Bell: Oh, no, definitely self-imposed. You know, there are kinds of books I wont do, or you know,
certain, you know, topics that I wont edit on because its not an area of expertise, you know, Im not
going to edit a book on neuroscience, you know, like theyre self-imposed, theyre common sense
quite frankly.
Schouweiler: What about you James? If part of this is filling a gap, a sort of a documentation gap and
were going to do this for ourselves to provide a critical discourse thats missing outside in these in-
between cultural zones that dont have the kind of publishing they used to, how do you avoid people
playing fast and loose with the barter system?
McAnally: I think thats something we have to be aware of as editors of people sort of wanting,you
know, if you want to cover what youre doing, then maybe this is an opportunity that youd see. I
mean I think weve experimented with different ways. One thing that weve been doing more recently
is kind of throwing that question out the window, conflict of interest. We started doing for kind of
longer duration I guess publishing, we have been doing things we call social responses. It actually
starts with the the curator stating what they intended to see happen so it goes from there and
bringing it into the body of review and making it explicit.

So I think thats one way is making it really clear who the person is thats writing, who the critic is,
what their connections to all these things are, but I mean its something that isnt reallyfor usI
mean conflict of interest isnt really a financial question. I think thats come up in a lot of
conversations of you know, are you beholden to your advertisers and that is a who whole other
conversation thats really problematic and I think for us, our duty is to make sure that something is
documented and talked about and that we self-select, we dont write about art fairs, we dont write
about commercial galleries for the most part. Even museums, so theres kind of a self-selecting thing.
People have to enter that conversation and be willing to risk relationship. I think thats the think that
we find is everyone in these fields are very tied together and you just have to kind of embody that
and you know, I think people have a hard time doing that, but its kind of coaxes it out and the
editorial process helps with it, as well.
Schouweiler: Thats certainly something I run into, we have a lot of artists in our stable of
contributors and I think its been trickier than even they would have anticipated much less than what
we would have anticipated where they have to switch gears and wear a critics hat what does it mean
to give critical feedback to your peers and does that criticism look like you know, criticism thats
published by a newspaper or by a magazine or by Hyperallergic, it seems like maybe they need
different terms because theyre kind of not functioning in the same way.
Bell: Are they? Do you set them out?
Schouweiler: I dont set them out but I find that theyre writing more strict reviews. Because Im
really interested foregrounding the artists who work within a particular practice, I found almost by
happenstance really that some of the most interesting critical analysis, if you get away from the
consumer guide model of reviews, right, the most interesting analysis is coming from people who
really understand and have a deep investment in the practice, so I wouldnt want to discount that, but
I think there is then this push-pull, because its a different kind of critique and it kind of functions
differently. Its really deeply interpersonal. And it has come up for people who are writing about folks
that they know well and its troublesome, I think. Veken, youve spoken well to the idea that you
specifically dont sell advertisers on the idea that theyre supporting the writing.
Gueyikian: Right.
Schouweiler: How are you making that case? Are you selling them on the reader?
Gueyikian: Yes, so we approach them and try to sell the access to the audience, so we engage our
audience, we can educate or inform our audience about something that needs to be addressed so we
address their marketing goals and not their PR goals, so we dont think about how this campaign will
influence the writing. Its completely separate, and I think that weve been able to grow the audience
big enough and through the network have reached into the many different audiences together that
we can really provide value there for advertisers when they keep coming back and coming back and
buying bigger and bigger campaigns to reach our audience and it has nothing to do with the editorial
and we have 500 sponsors versus 10 big sponsors so if we lose one its not a big deal, we can keep
going and we work with a lot of nonprofits and art institutions and art schools that we dont
necessarily write about anyway. Their mission or their goal is aligned with ours of reaching and
growing the audience for art and so theyre not looking to influence editorial. The ones that are
usually call me, ask for a review, I say I cant help them, and then I hang up. Or if they buy an ad
hoping for some kind of editorial, dont get it, they dont come back.
Schouweiler: You guys are doing really well now, Jillian just got an award, youve got a lot of traffic,
you have 500 sponsors, what did you do years 1, 2, and 3 when you didnt have that kind of clout and
you couldnt make the case? Were you just doing the hustle?

Gueyikian: Yeah, and we you know, we over-delivered and under-promised on everything. So if we


took a campaign, we charged less than what it was worth and delivered twice as much value and then
that built a reputation over time, word spread, people kept coming back for more and we just kept
building from there. So I think it was daily execution, you know, very hard work, it took years to
build, very slow going, but it just built brick by brick and by the third year of Hyperallergic and Nectar
Ads we were able to quit our jobs and start really building it and then word started to spread and
campaigns started coming in and it was really exciting and just kept running and kept building it. But
the first two years as very slow going, kind of just patience and lots of hard work, but always
providing value, like really we had to think about, the ads are not just tacked on with no thought. I
had to really think about the ads and what that experience was for the readers as well as the
sponsors.
Schouweiler: How did you articulate that to the people who were providing you with the ads? Like,
how did you lean on them to get beautiful, worthwhile.
Gueyikian: I had to do a lot of extra work with them.
Schouweiler: Did you make it for them?
Gueyikian: Sometimes. We did a lot of free consulting so I did a lot of teaching, I had to teach them
about the world of online advertising, how they should approach campaigns, you know, it wasnt just
picking up the phone and selling inventory for this price or that price, so I had to really bring them on
board and I think that made the difference. So it if someone called me and said Ive heard about blogs
I want to advertise, I dont know what to do. Id spend an hour with them talking to them about what
are their opportunities, what do they want to do and how they can best accomplish their goals and I
think thats really how we started.
Schouweiler: Just sort of educating your advertisers and bringing them into the
Gueyikian: Well in 2009, there was no real art ad marketplace where people were buying online ads.
It was really a new thing.
Schouweiler: When did you reach the threshold? Like, how did you determine internally that youd
reached a threshold when it was time to bump pay for writers did you have an internal formula.
Gueyikian: No, just as soon as we could afford it. This is the first year we might make a profit but
every time we made more revenue, we would just increase our writers, because we know were not
paying enough, we know were not where we need to be, so we wanted to start and not start from
zero, so we started but we keep bumping it up over time as we can afford it and were committed to
keep that going.
Schouweiler: Thinking of value and the declaration in that check when youve written something for
publication, that says this means something to me, this is valuable, this is work that were going to
treat right, given the interpersonal intangible qualities of that transaction, do you find that as writer,
Carolina, when you have written, you know, under a number of different sort of contractual terms,
sometimes collaborative, sometimes free, sometimes paid really well, do you find that your
investment in the editorial process for any given piece, like, how is that connected to the way you feel
valued.
Miranda: To the way I feel valued. Do I feel more valued if Im getting paid more? Is that the
question.

Schouweiler: OK, so in digital media if you think about sort of the way publishing works, I hit publish
but thats not the end, thats a the beginning of a reader response and sort of ongoing conversation
and long-tail click-through and ideally as an editor I would really love for my contributors to be
thinking about that article as a living thing, especially if theres reader conversation happening
around it. But it feels like a hell of a lot to ask a contributor thats getting 150 bucks for a thousand
words to moderate the conversation around it and so Im wondering what do you think is reasonable
to expect on the part of editors and publishers to expect that sense of stake in the ownership? Where
does that sense of shared ownership come from?
Miranda: Thats a tricky one because I think it is something, especially when you are really busy
doing a lot of stories, the onus of sort of maintaining a sort of a social media presence after a story is
done, there is an expectation that youre going to do that as a writer these days. I tend to have the
point of view of like, I treat my stories equally regardless of where they are published. I feel like a
story no matter what story I do, it has my name on it and that hopefully that name means something
so just because a site paid me $100 to write the piece instead of 1,000 doesnt mean that Im then
going to be like oh, see you later, guy, Im too busy to tweet it or engage in a discussion about it or
whatever. I mean I see all the work I do as just being part of this larger ecosystem of things that Im
interested in. And so yeah, whether its a well paid magazine or a tiny blog, I as a writer am going to
treat it the same.
Schouweiler: Eugenia did you notice that the investment from your contributors changed as you
were able to go from free to paid?
Bell: Thats not what changed, actually, no. I mean this is a slightly different conversation to have, but
really the investment that you know, our writers, our regular writers and even those who are once a
month or once every couple of months, all of our writers work really hard. And I think that that, you
know, that makes those pieces more valuable and potentially gives them a longer life span out in the
world.
There was a time at Design Observer until about four years ago where the comments section was
incredibly lively and was as much a part of the post as the post itself. I mean, you know, 60 comment-
long threads that were full conversations. We had a number of regular readers who kind of
commented on everything and those wereI mean those were like great days.
Schouweiler: Does anybody have good comment sections anymore? Has it all moved to Twitter and
Facebook?
Bell: Well, thats what happened with us unfortunately and you know, as soon as you know, the on
switch on Twitter went on, that entire thing moved over there, and theyou know, if theres a
tragedy when it comes to commons, you know, the tragedy is that its no longer a discussion. You
know, its moved to Twitter and its now just, you know, thats great or retweet are theres nono
one is saying anything of substance on Twitter about anything.
Miranda: That is getting retweeted so hard right now.
Bell: But you know, for Design Observer its been, you know, it has actually been a big blow, we
reallywe valued that, and in fact, you know, were doing these books now and the first two are
coming out this summer and they are essay collections from the site, that span quite a long period of
time on the site and theythere are posts that were reprinting that were reediting and reprinting
that had, you know, really rich discussions in the comments section and weve decided to reprint
those as they appeared on the site, because as I said, you know, they were as much a part of the
discussion as the original posts were, and you know, if theres one way we can resurrect that or you
know, try to stoke that a little bit more, that you know, thats one way. Another way is that we have

encouraged our contributing editors and our contributing writers, you know, we dont ask much of
them, usually but we do hope theyre reading the site every day and we want them to at least
comment. We dont need they will to go into some big philosophical discussion. I think a lot of our
readers would love to see Michael and Rick and Jessica back in the comment section and our other
contributors, but its a momentum issue and we should try to start that up again, because you know,
the Facebook and Twitter just arent really compensating for the loss of that.
Schouweiler: Has the making a public objective worked for Temporary? I mean, you get some pretty
good comments.
McAnally: I think it spans both audience and contributors that theres a sense of theres a stake in
the conversation and think its not a site that is aiming for this kind of mass circulation, so I think that
if youre there, then you want to have a conversation, which I think does drive, you know, more
interesting comments, like I appreciate when people kind of take the time to do it there where its
searchable and but attached to the original source. We were running a book club for a while that was
built around comments, the entire discussion was in the comment section, ours included, so there
was just sort of a general introduction and then it was really intentional, like can you do that? Can we
return? I think there are only a few sites doing it well.
I think its actually rebuilding a culture around that kind of thing, which I think e-flux conversations is
trying to do, as well, and the think about Facebook and Twitter and the thing is its not really
archived. Its there, it exists but its not searchable, its not returning the value back to the original
conversation and so ultimately like a really intense thing can happen and then it doesnt return back
to a community, actually that it benefits, however you define that community unless its just your
friends circle because thats false-reaching. Because I think we intentionally do invest in that, have a
sense that our stake is the same as our audience as the same as contributors, and I think in that way
its succeeding.
Schouweiler: Your editorial staff is volunteer, as well.
McAnally: It is, I am unfortunately the full time as the executive director of a nonprofit, but
Temporary exists outside of those hours, its kind of extra to that. So I mean we have startedI mean
again so we just started paying writers if they choose recently. Started paying our other editor is kind
of like doing copy and managing the site and she gets paid a little bit for that, but its kind of
comparable to the scale of the writers. So theres no sort of extra infrastructure layer of like where
does the money go in administration and all of these things, its really transparent and in that way
works as a cooperative.
Schouweiler: How do you handle the decision making? I mean my experience with publishing
started with print and thats got such a top-down dictatorial power structure, like you know, my
editors would decide how much we could afford to pay, a publisher would decide and the editors
would decide who to assign and that shifting online to the good, I think, but thosethe power
dynamic of both money and editorial control, moderating conversations in the comments, like who
pulls the plug in an overtly sort of collective environment? What if you brought in a writer who didnt
necessarily immediately fit into that public and was kind of an interloping voice? Can you envision a
situation where there would be such discomfort where you would think we are going to pull the plug
on that person or thats not our kind of piece. As a collective entity, how do you make those
decisions?
McAnally: I mean its not decentered in that senseit is edited by two people and we make the
decisions about those kinds of questions, including moderating comments and things like that, but
also choosing what we publish and what we wont. Its not kind of a free for all and the decision in
that sense are notintentionally we dont talk about ourself as a collective. Like its not collectively

owned and anything like that, its really about transparently sharing what we do have. And I think
thatbut that doesnt give up editorial control at the same time. I mean I think thats the thing thats
been kind of the question of, you know, a lot of it for a few years, it was kind of what people would
send or we would seek out and specifically ask for certain pieces from people that we knew and it
was kind of a broad thing. As its become more and more popular, those things are, you know, people
just send us stuff, we have to be a lot more careful, I think, with our editorial process.
Schouweiler: A brass tacks question here from Katie Hill. She wants everyone to talk actual
numbers. Is it always a dollar a word? Does anybody make a dollar a word anymore or real writing
about the arts? I havent for years.
Miranda: Well, Im staff now, so I have this magical thing that happens where every two weeks this
money materializesI can go to a doctor, too, without having to go to Mexico. As a freelancer, the
pay rate was all over the place, depending on the outlet I was working for. I did have dollar a word
assignments, and dollar a 50 word assignments, occasionally I could even get 2. Which was magical.
Oftentimes it might be a flat rate, so many of the art magazines would be like, OK, an 1800 to 2500
word feature, but were paying, you know, $1700 and thats, you know, but I always tried to negotiate
something that was in the range. Like I needed to be a dollar a word does not assure a comfortable
living. It assures a living. Its like Im not talking about, you know, vacations in Cancun, Im talking
about I can pay my rent, I can pay my bills and maybe Ive got some money left over for a happy hour
PBR.
Schouweiler: I dont know anybody who starts at a dollar a word. I dont think you spring fully
formed out of Zeus thigh.
Miranda: And Ive done work for free and Ive done work for 50 bucks and a hundred bucks, because
sometimes you negotiate it was sort of putting that checklist through my head of you know, is this
worth it for me, am I really passionate about the topic, am I subsidizing someplace that doesnt really
need subsidizing. Like if the questions stacked well for me, I really feel this is a personal decision, so
its not necessarily a template. You know, yeah, Id do a 500 word piece for 50 bucks, like I wasnt
but I needed the dollar pieces to survive. I was also an on-air critic and so that was a steady stream of
revenue that I had as a writer.
Schouweiler: For freelance work I sure dont know of anything like an industry standard. Its all
over.
Miranda: The web writing, yeah, it used to be a dollar to two dollars a word but web writing turned
it into heres 25 bucks and like a small scrappy outlet doing something interesting whos like OK but
you know when the Daily Beast is approaching you and says we want a 2,000 word reported feature
in two days Im like tell Tina Brown to take a cut on her lunch expenses and pay me a living wage, like
no.
Schouweiler: No thank you, Huffington Post.
Miranda: Yeah, thank you. Bye.
Bell: Well, Carolina as a freelance editor, Ive kind of had these thresholdsyou know, when I was
working for, if I was doing a book or you know, exhibition copy or something for a nonprofit artist
space Id have one rate that was way below, you know, the rate I would charge if I were, you know,
copy editing a 500 page catalog for The Met or something else of that size if I was working for a
commercial publisher, there was another rate. Though working for a commercial publisher is usually
just a big flat lump sum, you know, like Isaacs, like his tattoo of you know, dont read the comments,
mine would be never amortize, like you could never, you know, never think about that, you know,

because those jobs, and those editing jobs that some editor or publisher promises are going to be
three month gigs and they become seven because the main essay doesnt come in for months, you
know, theres that part of your life that youll never get back. Speaking as the editor of Design
Observer, we have a two-tiered rate system for what we consider short pieces and then long pieces,
and
Schouweiler: Whats a short piece?
Bell: A short piece is anything up to about 400 words.
Schouweiler: Whats the rate. We got a specific question.
Bell: Im happy to say.
Schouweiler: It says, OK, whats the rate?
Bell: Our rate for a 400 word piece or up to 400 word piece is about $125 and anything in the 500 to
800 word range or longer for that matter, you know depends on how much longer pieces become,
sometimes we serialize pieces, is $250.
Miranda: I mean I honestly used to negotiate a rate sometimes like oh, our website pays 40, Im like,
great, pay me 50 because its like youre going to get clean copy from me, its going to be well
reported, like theres also certain things when youve been doing it long I feel like theres a certain
something you can bring to the table and be like great, youre just going to pay me a little bit more
than you pay everyone else. Like, just a little.
Schouweiler: Carolina is going to take that bar and lift it with this shoulder.
Bell: Similar to this, you know, it took me a really, really long time to start saying no to jobs that
didnt pay enough and I think as a freelancers you are just so, you know,youre terrified, you know,
you think you say no, you know, to some gallery, and you know, the no in your brain your neurotic
brain, my neurotic brain is that oh, theyre never going to call me back, which is completely asinine,
thats not true. If they value your work, I was talking to somebody about this, who said, you know,
who was trying to point out how ridiculous my thinking was, she said but you as an editor tore who
commissions writer and they said you know what, Im writing an essay for a book, I dont have time
to do that right now, she said would you never go back to that person because they dont have time
this week and of course the answer is no, so
Schouweiler: It got you for a while to be able to have that kind of freedom.
Bell: Perhaps, I dont know but the same woman I was talking to was also a book editor, said to me,
you know, Ive been editing books for many years, and you know, she told me, she told me point
blank, she said act your age, like youre at a point now where you dont have to take, you know, like,
you know, the $300 gig to edit a gallery guide, but you have a Rolodex full of good young editors and
writers who would be great at that and would you know, kill for that opportunity to work for a big
commercial gallery and on something and she was absolutely right and it seems to me it finally
dawned on me, it was like right, this is the point in my career as an editor and as a freelance editor
where I should be kind of beginning to nurture people. Next generation of editors, whether theyre
freelance or otherwise. That I should be helping out, giving that work to. So thats one way.
Schouweiler: So you barter.

McAnally: Yeah mostly we allocate ad space, artists guest writers choose, then our rate it generally
50 to 150.
Gueyikian: Yeah we have different tiers depending on the type of writing it is so something like an
investigative piece that take a little bit longer might get 100 or 150. Something thats a blog post, 500
words, we usually start at 50, and we hope to raise that in the fall to 75. Since were not paying a
dollar a word, were generally working with young writers who need the opportunity. We publish
about 12 posts a day, so we have a lot of opportunities to publish new voices. And our editors work
really hard with them, so were nurturing kind of a new generation of writers. I think thats part of
the value we can provide now.
Schouweiler: Along those lines of value, who values this work is what James Bridle asks, which is a
great question, and who should be paid like doctors and who pays doctors and do you want to be
paid by a system like that? But I would add an addendumwhose work gets valued like that, and
thats seems to be a really critical question about access and actually diversity in arts writing and
who can afford to go through these really low levels of unpaid work to reach the point where you can
command a seat at a negotiating table where you can say Id like you know, how can we as editors
and publishers, how can we open the door a bit wider, like what are the economies of that for a
young writer?
Miranda: I think magazine writing has always been problematic for that reason. When youre
starting out youre not going to be making very much money. I mean, when I started out, I started as
an intern at The Nation, which was a full-time job, Monday through Friday, 10-6, then I got paid $75 a
week living in New York City, which meant I did moonlighting at a bakery, I stuffed cannoli like
nobodys business. So I mean I didnt come from a family that could support me. Like I was not the
cast of Girls. I had to make a living, so I worked at night. You know, slinging coffee, and cannolis, and
yeah, and it gets really frustrating and exhausting and youre sleep deprived, and you know, you dont
have the advantages that another more affluent person might have. Its not like I came from a family,
I ran into a lot of people in New York its like their uncle was so-and-so at time Time magazine. I
didnt have that.
My parents are immigrants from South America. I grew up Southern California this was not their
world or mine. What I do think the Internet was done in terms of diversity is that it has, you know its
allowed voices like mine, you know, would I have been hired by a major daily under the old system?
You know, to do what I do now? Probably not. I dont have a degree in art history. I dont have some
of the paperwork it takes to get some of those jobs but I think through doing work online and
through my blog I was able to prove that you dont necessarily need that. You can be a good writer
and a good reporter and do the homework without the piece of paper, so I think the web there has
provided an outlet for different voices and also allowed voices like myself to build an audience,
because you know in a print publication theyll be like oh, Latin America stories, nobody cares about
those and its like no, I know people who care and on the web you can publish them and kind of show
that there is an audience for it.
Schouweiler: And I think building that audience, means writing the stories as an article of faith that
the audience will come if its a good story. Do you find that with the more global arts coverage that
youve been doing? I mean youre unusual among the Brooklyn based outlets for being really
intentional about having national and international.
Gueyikian: Yeah, we really want to highlight diverse art scenes in different parts of the world and I
think people now come to us to learn about that, and to read about different things going on, and I
think weve developed that audience.

Schouweiler: David Truman and then you in the back I see. Could you hold on? Think, as Orit would
say, think of the Internet. Lets be mindful of people listening remotely.
Audience Member: I think my question is, are pay rates the same for writers here assay for
example in Europe? Are European writers paid more for doing arts writing? Do you know?
Bell: In Europe or if we commission European writers.
Audience Member: No, Im talking about in Europe.
Bell: I have no idea.
Audience Member: Heres the basis for my question. Are writers outside the US paid differently
because the public has amaybe a better educated, more interest in the arts?
Bell: Not for the with web, I dont think so. I mean my little experience with that and other editors I
know doing this kind of work abroad, no, I think the pay is paltry as it is here.
Miranda: I think in most parts of the world being an arts journalist avowed poverty. If there was a
country where I could get rich doing this, wed all be there right now.
Audience Member: Hi, thanks, this is a great conversation Im so glad for the transparency of it. The
publication I founded titled Momus, I forgot to mention that at the earlier session.
Schouweiler: I love Momus.
Audience Member: Im paying 200 per piece right now, thats where I started and Im about to bump
up to 300. Im sort of disappointed to hear the rates that Im hearing. Id like to think that my rates
are sustainable. Well see. I guess my question is this: With, say, Hyperallergic, why not publish less
and pay more? Is the only way that you can maintain the relationships that youve built and the
traffic that youve built at the pace that youre publishing?
Gueyikian: I mean thats kind of our thinking, that we really wanted to grow the audience and we
really wanted to capitalize on the momentum to create a sustainable foundation and then build from
there. We felt like if we just published once a day or twice a day that we wouldnt get the critical mass
and momentum behind us and it would peter out and die after a couple of years and I think thats
how we approached it and our goal is to raise those rates and our goal is to build something long-
term and we always had a ten-year plan. So the first five years was about building this momentum
and then going forward were going to be building the business around it and building up all of the
infrastructure that supports it.
Audience Member: So I work for an LGBT, pretty much alt-weekly in my region. While Im a young
reporter interested in going national, a number of my colleagues arent. They really do want to have
the opportunity to tell these stories in our community. But we all have clearly had different, more
specific forms of ad revenue than yall clearly do. Do yall have any experience and I guess maybe
Carolina may the most, but with likehow will we survive? How can we tell these rich stories, too? I
mean granted I work for an LGBT weekly and we just write about how people want to beat us up
every week but you know, it comes with the territory. Im not guilting you all, calm down. But where
does the role of community journalism in all of this? Not citizen journalism. But places like ours?
Miranda: Im a little confused about what the question is. Is it how do you make a community
journalism story a national story?

Audience Member: Well, we will localize a lot of local stories. Im seeing this as a lot of national
conversation but what is a way that could be relevant to bring this to bring this discussion to alt
weeklies, regional magazines, yeah.
Miranda: Its really interesting that you ask that question because now that Ive been at the LA Times
for a year Im in this interesting position where I do think about national, but I have to think about
local. I cant justing writing stories about the New York art world. Or whats going on Basel. I really
think if there is a place that is vibrant in journalism it is in community journalism, because you are
there, because you can do the face to face reporting, you can go out, not just be behind your desk
talking about some expert on the phone, like you can be out on the scene in ways that some national
reporter doing it as a phoner just isnt going to be.
And I always think of it as every story I do, as it having the potential to be both local and national,
that when youre doing a profile of an artist, that when youre telling their story, youre telling a story,
and if you tell a good story its going to attract readers regardless-of-where they are. I mean how
many times have you clicked on some viral story in Facebook about some guy in Alabama saving his
cat or some guy in you know New York doing whatever, like theres a real power in storytelling and I
think sort of untold power of community journalism is being able to be there. And so its getting out,
not just being behind the desk its not just doing the phoners, its meeting people and making sure
that your stories reflect your profound knowledge of having been in the place.
Schouweiler: Theres a local outlet. Is Alan Berks here? He and his wife, Leah Cooper, another
playwright, founded Minnesota Playlist, and they do the most innovative interesting critically sort of
meaty theater and performance criticism youll find, and its for profit and theyre making a go of it
because theyve enlisted the community of actors and performers who have a stake in something
coverage like that, much like Veken, theyre not drawing them in specifically on the back of that
content, theyre offering them a service, theyre offering them a place to put their head shots and
audition announcements and advantage of having this high-level critical conversation, but to me like
the huge success that theyve had and other platforms like them is actually enlisting their community
members as stakeholders, whether thats regional or a community of interest, because I think
Hyperallergic has been great about galvanizing a community of interest.
Gueyikian: Right and I think weve figured out how to create a model that works for individual
artists specifically in New York and LA and Im going to spend the next few years in how to revert
that and make a model that might work for local community journalism or community publications
where sponsors are interesting in reaching those communities right now. Those communities are
interested in reaching whats happening in New York and LA and sponsors are interested in reaching
those people but I want to figure out how to flip it and to see if sponsors want to reach audience
around the world and around the nation.
McAnally: That kind of gets to the heart of our model and why ads dont really work and why we
never started there because it was in some ways starting at that opposite place of starting in small
communities, so in a sense like our entire model was we would be working in a community that we
would ask whats important to your community and thats what we would cover and they would kind
ofthere would be a back and forth and exchange there. But I think that we actually underplay the
value of small communities, like advertisers are looking for a mass market, but a lot of the most
meaningful work, there might be five people in the room, and Im not interested in an art world that
is kind of catering to this mass audience that kind of an advertiser is going to look for, you know, and
I think that theres kind of at the heart of that a really problematic model of, you know, its why
museums commercialize, its why galleries are looking for this populist theme and it all gets to this
question of what can we value and can we value a small one and can our model accommodate that
and I think that thats really important. Its why certain things move to be monolithic in that process.

Audience Member: Thank you. Im going to stand up so you can see me because I realize its hard to
deal with disembodied voices. My question goes to that word community that you were just talking
about. My name is Bean I am an art critic. Im also the Editor in Chief with Daily Serving. Wearing
both of those hats I totally agree that paying writers is really important. But Im also an artist so if
you want to talk about getting paid. Buy me a drink. Lets go. So my question is as people who are
communicators and people who have outlets for our voices what do you think is our responsibility,
perhaps an ethical, even a moral responsibility, to talk about the fact that artists are not getting paid
because we have parallel tracks, were talking about writers not getting paid and artists are talking
on their own track about artists not being paid and I wonder if you think that overlaps and whether
we have a sense of community and solidarity.
McAnally: I have to say initially yes, thats one of the main kind of tracks Ive been thinking about is
we sometimes think of publishing and arts publishing as a separate sphere and I really do think that
it works together, you know, it is about the work that artists are making and the galleries taking risks
on them and then us as writers and publishers working with that and responding to it, but taking it
all seriously and I think there is a sense of solidarity. I think thatI think that its building structures
that work, because obviously they arent there. You know, if we keep talking about this, theres more
money in the art world than ever and its not going to artists and its not going to art writers, well,
then theres something wrong with that picture, I think.
And our approach has always been to sort of look around, who is there, whos with us, whos
complaining about that fact, and then start there, because, you know, working inside the system to
date has not gotten us very far, I think.
Bell: And a think a lot of the reason, you know, a lot of writers will agree to write for low rate or for
free is because they view their writing in the same way you visualize your visual arts. Its what you
do, and you cant not do it and youre willing to do it at your level. Or whatever the stake is. So I think
theres definitely solidarity there. I dont think we really answered James question about the value of
writers, but the same way that writers, great novelists down to art criticism, you know, is a
contribution to culture and society, you know, artists are, you know, equally so, and yes, there is, you
know, a necessary value that is not recognized by the status quo, and we just, you know, have to find
thatI mean were not really answering questions here, were just sort of talking about it, but
Miranda: I guess coming from a news background its like sort of looking at the angle of howI have
been following the debate about, for example a living artist getting paid to help out produce like a
survey or retrospective for a museum, because you hear the story about like the artist and the
museum installing his big show and hes the only one not getting paid. Curator is getting paid, the
museum marketing director is getting paid. Everyone is getting paid except for the artist under the
idea of well, like, this show will give them exposure, but you know, is that artists time there
valuable? So that is a story Ive been kind of following it like in terms of covering it, I also work for a
general audience thats not necessarily an art audience, so its like I always need, for stories like that I
need a little bit of a news hook to write about them. Im interested in writing about them, but for
example theres been this whole case going through the courts in California theres resale law that
when a work of art gets resold in California, like an artist gets a cut of that resale. That law is now up
for question. I forget where it is but it might be shot down.
As a result a lot of people sell their art in other states so that they can cut the artist out of it and
theres been this whole question about should artists benefit. Its always like I always need that little,
given the platform I write for, I need kind of somethingI need news essentially. That its a harder,
its harder for me in the position I currently have to just write the big picture questions like should
artists get paid? Its a great question, but my platform doesnt necessarily lend itself to it. But I do
follow it and I especially think of it in the museum setting where artists will devote weeks of their
time to installing a show and if theyre not a commercial artist theyre not going to reap any benefit
from it whatsoever and in the mean time theyre sacrificing pay.

Schouweiler: At Mn Artists, we see a lot of solicitations for donations in the pipeline. People having a
silent auction and what not.
Audience Member: Back to the pay issue, Im wondering if getting paid by the word is an outmoded
way of looking at things. Because Christopher Knight said one of the things that the Internet does is
open up space. You dont have to worry about column width. And yet isnt interesting that art writing
online is short. Im a big fan of Hyperallergic and your columns are short and tight and to the point. So
how can a writer make any money if what were asked to do online is you know, condense down?
Gueyikian: We actuallyI think you could do talk to Hrag about this, but our editorial team prefers
shorter pieces that are more accessible and I think sometimes its harder and takes longer to write
than longer pieces and so we actually prefer that writers work on shorter pieces and I think we work
with them to really hone them and focus them a little more.
Audience Member: And I appreciate that so thats why by the word doesnt really apply.
Miranda: I mean theres one. Like there has been the flat rate method, that can sometimes work.
That can sometimes work pretty well, especially if somebody wants a short piece, but that for
example requires an intensive amount of reporting, so they want the 600-word piece, but boy, Im
going to have to work the phones for it then a flat rate makes more sense. So yeah, its not a perfect. I
dont think we have figured out a perfect system for how to bill and Ive done for example like photo
essay driven things where Ill choose a bunch of artists we have them photographed and then what
Im writing are essentially very large captions so in that those cases Ill negotiate a flat rate ahead of
time, because obviously the amount of work that I put into it is not reflected in the word count.
Audience Member: Thank you. I just wanted to bring it up.
Schouweiler: I could put on my editors hat for a second and the whole by-the-word or even flat fee:
if Im being really candid with are you, its more nuanced than that. Because not every word is worth
the same to me. Because there are a lot of factors that go into that. Its not that its not valuable but if I
have to spend a tremendous amount of time cleaning up copy that isnt ready to go or close to ready
to go, that costs me something. That word is worth a bit less to me than somebody whos super
dependable, turns in really well workif Im going to have to fact check everything because there are
sloppy details, that costs me something as an editor, and so I guess if I had a tip to give, it would be
sort of to echo what Carolina said, write about a number of things.
Cultivate a sort of diverse number of subjects, some of which may pay better than others that youre
comfortable writing about, and even if you cant always get paid what youd like to get paid to write
about the thing that you love, like cultivate your expertise in that, and make your copy really clean,
check your facts, link your text, make it easy for your editors, have nice pictures, you know, think
about the medium for which youre writing, and Im going to be way more inclined to bump your pay
by 10 or 20 bucks if I know like youre going to give me a really well developed piece thats ready to
go that I know is going to be engaging and get me traffic so it kind of cuts both ways. Its still like the
bar is too low, I think, but, yeah.
Miranda: Yeah, I mean Ive worked as an editor, thats why I felt comfortable. Its like turning stuff in
on time, lets start there, you know, just turn it in on time. What is it that we dont understand here.
Like. So I felt like oh, I always turn in my stuff on time and its generally relatively clean. I kind of felt
like after working as an editor for a summer, like oh, I can ask for a little more money thats OK.
Schouweiler: I think we have one more time. One more question.

Audience Member: Yeah, its a question specifically for James. I love your anti-profit model and that
youre trying to do something else. Youre trying to do something different, and I suppose its a
romantic notion in a way, but how do you look forward toI mean youre bringing in people that you
know, people you want to share that information with but long term whats your sustainable model I
feel like if you didnt want to do anymore you and your partner, it would just dissolve. And I would
feel betrayed if I was working for that. So its great on the one hand, how do you look forward with
that?
McAnally: I think thats an interesting question because it is completely kind of in the editors hands
of that sustainability question. I think that ultimately we are attempting to build an alternative, you
know, and talk about sort of alternative spaces and they do ebb and flow but some lasts. Weve set it
up to be profit agnostic is a way to think about it. We do bring in money at this point, we do start to
sell ads, we do get some grants, things like that that can bring in I guess a question of sustainability
within finance. I think the important thing for us is that as we return to it, that money will never
dictate the model and I think that thats the difference, and I think that in living in a community
around working with an art world that is so saturated with profitability and kind of money changing
the terms, essentially, of what is possible, that I think thatI think that theres always a community
thats willing to keep that going, and I think that if it succeeds, something that I always go back to, its
about the broader field and a broader way of working succeeding.
I think that thats how I talk about it in terms of Temporary is if we last, then thats one example, but
if a kind of way of working takes hold, then thats an entire different conversation and thats
something that I would be proud of and I think that sort of extends much beyond the kind of site
itself is I thinkI mean weve already seen a lot of sites start in response to what were doing, not
exactly the same model but I think that we are we work with a lot of smaller publishers, theres a
recent partnership we had, we had like 30 Twitter followers or something but what they were doing
was amazing and I think it made an audience but the fact is that it works both ways that were not the
model, the example and if people contribute to our model that means theyre invested in the idea of it
and the site itself is just an example of that, I think.
Schouweiler: Do you think sustainability is really always necessarily likeis that reallyshould
that be the top objective in our minds? Is it enough to survive or should we embrace the idea that
some publishing projects will have a natural life span and theyll rise and maybe theyll involve pay
maybe they wont. I think we get stuck in the idea of its got to live. Weve got to make it survive.
McAnally: I think thats why everybody becomes a nonprofit. If you start to bring in that term, you
just think that you necessarily have to go down a certain path that it is sustainable, that it is a broader
community is responsible for it.
Schouweiler: The Internet in particular seems antithetical sometimes to the idea of indefinite
project. It really seems to have projects that have a life span and can rise and go away. Do you guys
have questions for each other? Is there anything we didnt cover? A lot. Optimism. I dont think
anybody up here is saying the sky is falling.
Miranda: I wouldnt do anything else. I wouldnt do anything else.

KEYNOTE:
Ben Davis on Post-Descriptive Criticism
Paul Schmelzer: Im honored to introduce todays keynote. When we invited Ben Davis to speak at
Superscript we were drawn both to his political sensibility and his engaging and accessible criticism

for publications including Art Papers, Frieze, the Village Voice, Slate and Artnet News where he serves
as national art critic. We also love the ideas in his 2013 bookseen here9.5 Theses on Art and Class
(Haymarket Press), which was hailed by the way by New York Times critic Holland Cotter for its
smart, ardent, illusion-puncturing observation and analysis on the intersection of art, commerce
andthe elephant in the art fair VIP loungeclass. But little did we know there are other reasons to
invite him: Hes one of us. Ben did his undergraduate degree at Macalester College in nearby St. Paul,
Minnesota, and during that time I learned that he was a docent right here at the Walker Art Center, so
welcome back to your adopted hometown, Ben.
Im particularly excited about his keynote today, as hes using his time on the Superscript stage not
just to trot out some prefab conference talk that he does all across the country at colleges and
universities. Hes using his time here to plant a flag, of sorts. Hell be using his times on stage to name,
define and dig into what he calls post-descriptive criticism. And of course you have plenty of time to
explain what that means.
We hope its the beginning of his further investigations online, and maybe in another book long after
Superscript. We hope you all come back to see the seminal video that was launched right here at
Superscript 2015. So please help me welcome Ben Davis.
Ben Davis: Can people hear me? Yes? Hows everybody feeling? Good. Youre ready? Well, fasten
your seat belts. Its an epic talk. So there I am. This makes it look very official that I have something to
say, so Im going to try and deliver. That was a very generous and kind introduction, and I do have to
say that it is a real rush for me to be back here. People always ask you wherever you go, you know,
how you became an art critic and there is no really good answer for that. There are so many starting
points but one possible starting point I can think of is right here at the Walker where I was not just a
tour guide, I didnt just go through the docent training but I was a tour guide for kids which is a
particular kind of challenge and so you come out of college and youre full of all these heady ideas of
what art is. This is a Robert Rauschenberg from the Walkers collection. And you know probably that
how to talk about this is neo-dada art, or proto-pop art, its about appropriations, its about a collage.
But what the kids see is a big exciting mess and thats why they like it and thats a totally different
way of looking at it and I think everyone should have that experience of trying to explain art on that
level in a way that has informed the way I approach and write about art. And informs some of the
ideas in this talk today about the relationship of image to text.
So there it is. A text slide for a talk about images.
And I should say, Im a visual art critic, and I spent many years giving talks without images until I
actually had an intellectual epiphany that was that was a bit of a paradox or a contradiction that what
we do is very visual. The concept I want to present is post-description. I have to say at the outset that
I am almost a little embarrassed by the subjectby that subject. I have very specific reasons that I
chose it for this talk and for you, but its a kind of aI think its almost like aits a technical concept
that I think that to some of you is going to be head scratchingly cringingly obvious and to some of you
its going to be a little bit repugnant and almost like everything you stand against.
And the idea is very simple, essentially and as I say, technical, that most of the way that we think
about writing about art has been formed in times of relative image scarcity, that is, in print culture
and since this is a conversation about digital culture and its effect on art writing, the digital world,
particularly now, is one of relative image plenty and that may change and I think is changing the way
we think about what an art critic can or should do.
And before I go on I want to say two particular things about this argument and the first is Im making
an aesthetic argument and a non-epistomological argument that is Im not interested in here totally
in having an argument about whether or not images totally capture the reality of an artwork or can

or should or if words do. Or you know, what Im interested in, this is sort of more pragmatic, I think
its true that images are more engages, theyre more am engaging way to describe an object and this
chain of thought began, as I told Paul when he asked me what I was doing here, of working in digital
media for ten years as a writer, critic and editor and there is a pragmatic reality that art criticism
which is in some ways the crown jewel of art writing doesnt do that well. The monographic art
review measured by traffic, it cant justify itself against news or opinion. I mean it really isit really
is the kind of laggard, so I kind of started thinking about what is it, are there habits that we need to
break and things we need to do, and maybe visual art criticism needs to be a lot more visual than it is.
Maybe were inheriting patterns of writing and thinking that we need to rethink. And the second
thing I wanted to say about the talk that I think is important is that its descriptive, not prescriptive.
That is, Im not saying that we should do this, Im saying people are already writing in a new way and
thinking about images and text in a new way. People in this room are. And what I am saying is I dont
think thats totally theorized or thought out yet.
I think that it bears more thought and deliberation than weve given that problem so far or that Ive
given it so far and this is my attempt to think it through for myself in a certain sense. So why is it a big
deal if ideas of description change? Well, first of all, because description is it the cornerstone, if you
take a class on art, it isit is and such things exist, it is the cornerstone of what you will be taught is
that good art criticism is good description. My first editor said to me is clear description is the most
important thing, and this is a very recent guide to writing about art. Very first thing she says you
need to do is clear description.
And thatsthe meaning of thatwere moving into a world where thatthose terms areeven as I
was planning this presentation, I saw a friend of mine who writes for New York Times posted on
Facebook, this is Michael Kimmelmans review a new Whitney and she already described this as a
post-descriptive review. I think its important to look at this and so its important enough that I am
actually going to click out of my own the prison of PowerPoint to show you what it looks like. So here
you have a bigI think you guys may be taking up the bandwidth, but you have a big enormous
image. There are glitches in this new world and then you have a big pieces of large text and you have
these like animated graphics. Giving you a sense of the geography, zooming you around here, flying
over the city, you arrive at the new museum, and more text. Then you have this amazing graphic
where you fly into the new Whitney through this 2 dimensional woman, look out through the
window, transforms magically into real New York, and you get a sense of the view, and then theres
and then it goes on like this. Here is this sort of strange serial-killer-like tracking shot taking you
through the new installation.
And on and on and on. Now, as interesting as that is, I would say that I think its still relatively
primitive. As absorbing as those graphics are, I think if you read whats going on there, it still
essentially reads like a text that was written separately from the images, that there was a text written
about this Kimmelmans text and then they layered a bunch of very elaborate graphics into it so there
are really two ways of thinking about what the critic is doing there in one place. And I think that
there are these timeshere we are. Its a little bityeah, there we go, there are these times in art
history where you do see there are two systems of thought that collide with each other, so in the
early Renaissance for a long period, for instance, people were learning to use perspective, but theyre
still painting halos on figures in these 2 dimensional flat forms so that the halos blocked the view of
the people behind them.
So you can see two systems of thought. In the early days of photography photography was being
thought of as art they thought they had to make paintings. You had to treat the surface in a very
painterly way and these forms have charms of their own, but you can definitely see two different
forms of thinking wrestling with each other. And my argument is that thats the kind of world, weve
been writing in on the Internet about art. Not until now, because I think its an evolving form, but I
definitely think there are new forms of thinking that are occurring. It would be after all very strange
if we had thought through all the implications of writing on the Internet after all the Internet is not

that old. This is the New York Times admitting the word to film into the vocabulary a quarter century
after the invention of film and they essentially say well, people are using it weve got to use it but we
think this film thing is probably a fad. They say the vogue of the moving pictures is surely at its height
and will last until the great actors return to the stage.
So just some history. Now I want to do a little history on the history of this problem.
So the rhetorical name fortheres a Greek word ekphrasis for what we do, where the idea of art
criticism as describing works of art comes from. The literary description of a visual work of art, the
attempt to evoke its properties, is called ekphrasis, and thats a Greek word but the thing of course is
the Greeks didnt have have exact images of the world. Pliny the Elder in this passage when it came to
botanical art they couldnt get it good enough to be scientifically accurate so they fell back into
descriptions of the world. That didnt prove to be exact enough, either, and it really hampered their
knowledge of medicine.
But we live in a different world. I like to point out that art criticism was we know it as we trace to
probably really picks up steam there in the 19th Century, I like to point out the figures, the big figures
of art criticism is Charles Baudelaire in France or John Ruskin in England, both it would have been,
they both would have been in the same high school class with Marx and Engels, like they were born
at the same time, so the art criticism was born of a fast-changing capitalist world where standards of
taste were happening and you needed someone to step in just as the criticism of modern art was
born of the same system of capitalism and all of the industrial things that come out of capitalism and
photography being one of them form new ways of thinking most notably art history is the product of
the invention of the illuminated slide lantern. You cant have a real art historical thinking, an art
historical pedagogy without the ability to photos that compare things. Nevertheless, images until the
last quarter of the 19th Century, were relatively rare. And criticism was steeped in ekphrasis and here
is a classic example from John Ruskin which Ill read to you in its entirety. This is about a Turner
painting, The Slave Ship:
It is a sunset on the Atlantic after prolonged storm; but the storm is partially lulled, and the torn and
streaming rain-clouds are moving in scarlet lines to lose themselves in the hollow of the night. The
whole surface of sea included in the picture is divided into two ridges of enormous swell, not high,
nor local, but a low, broad heaving of the whole ocean, like the lifting of its bosom by deep-drawn
breath after the torture of the storm. Between these two ridges, the fire of the sunset falls along the
trough of the sea, dyeing it with an awful but glorious light, the intense and lurid splendor which
burns like gold and bathes like blood. Along this fiery path and valley, the tossing waves by which the
swell of the sea is restlessly divided, lift themselves in dark, indefinite, fantastic forms, each casting a
faint and ghastly shadow behind it along the illumined foam. They do not rise everywhere, but three
or four together in wild groups, fitfully and furiously, as the under strength of the swell compels or
permits them; leaving between them treacherous spaces of level and whirling water, now lighted
with green and lamp-like fire, now flashing back the gold of the declining sun, now fearfully dyed
from above with the indistinguishable images of the burning clouds, which fall upon them in flakes of
crimson and scarlet, and give to the reckless waves the added motion of their own fiery flying. Purple
and blue, the lurid shadows of the hollow breakers are cast upon the mist of the night, which gathers
cold and low, advancing like the shadow of death upon the guilty ship as it labors amidst the lightning
of the sea, its thin masts written upon the sky in lines of blood, girded with condemnation in that
fearful hue which signs the sky with horror, and mixes its flaming flood with the sunlight,and cast
far along the desolate heave of the sepulchral waves, incarnadines the multitudinous sea.
They do not write criticism like that anymore, its beautiful, its evocative, it attempts through the
force of rhetoric to evoke the intensity of the experience of this painting. It is clearlyit is dense and
difficult and complex, involved passages clearly the product of a culture where people would spend,
oh, I dont know, 3 to 5 hours listening to a political speech, that was a normal thing and where
Shakespeare was popular entertainment and not boutique entertainment, so but nevertheless, it is

beautiful, it is amazing, it is a work of art in itself, and I doubt any of you unless you know this
painting actually have an image of it in your head and this does that job far better and theres a detail
and theres another detail, and theres another detail.
So theres a lot to say about what happened with pictures, with photos, with art writing in the last
half of the 19th Century, the early part of the 20th century but Im actually interested with the
purposes of this talk with how recent really the dramatic changes in how we think about how art
writing relationship to images is so I went to the New York public library and I found the oldest
issues I could find that seemed to be withinseemed to me to be legible as an art magazine so this is
the Art News annual from 1956. And on the inside, inside flap, the colored plates every colored plate
is like theyre advertising that its a really special thing that there are color plates in this thing. The
editor emphasizes that they have exciting color plates and how that makes this particularly luxury
product, a really exciting product you have in your hand and heres what it looks like inside, still a lot
of black and white illustrations but then these glossy inset photos.
Now, 1962 is an important year, magazine history in the United States, National Geographic in
February 1962 becomes the first all-color magazine published in the United States. Same year, 1962,
June, 1962, Artforum publishes its first issue in San Francisco, later moved to Los Angeles and New
York and this is that first issue. Heres what it looked like on the inside, ads in black and white, theres
table of contents. Heres the opening critical salvo critics pondering then as we do now, why are we
doing this? And heres a passage you can see here he lays out the tasks of art criticism and theres our
old friend description, the very first thing that he mentioned there is the descriptive task that of
telling what the work looks like, a most difficult exercise in objectivity. As it absolutely would be
given as this is what the layout of the reviews looks like.
So you have these on the left-hand always separate, on the left-hand you have these fairly inscrutable
low-quality black and white reproductions of the art being talked about and then on the right side is
dense blocks of text and then more of that with the same images on the facing page and then a lot of
stuff thats like this. So as you can imagine, description not just of absolute necessity there, if you
haveif you want to like evoke what an art, the visual experience of a work of art.
Now, leaping ahead ten years, 1972, is the year of John Bergers classic seminal Ways of Seeing
documentaries on the BBC. This is an important reference to me. Im curious how many people in this
audience have seen or read ways of seeing. Almost everybody. Thats great. Youre a great crowd. So
it says right there on the cover, seeing comes before words. Its the very, very first words of the book
version of Ways of Seeing. Famous first words of Ways of Seeing.
And yet the interesting thing about the book is that the images in it are quite bad. Its all about
looking and the excitement of the image, and actually for that matter, he talks a lot about the
ideological impact of the introduction of color photography and yet the book itself is quite poorly
illustrated actually and theres a reason for that, a good reason actually is that Berger was committed
to making it cheap and accessible to the widest number of people and in this period theres still a
pretty hard opposition between detailed color images and which would make it much more
accessible and these kind of reproductions.
Jumping ahead another ten years back with our old friend Artforum. I dont mean to pick on Artforum
its just a convenient object of study that represents a specific way of thinking about art but here it is,
heres what it looks like on the inside. The ad is now in color, heres the reviews, the review is still in
black and white, and the images have moved off of the facing page and is now on the same page with
the text. But theyre still siloed up there. Theyre in their own space that floats above the text
throughout the back of the book and the reviews and this is what that looks and then theres plenty of
pages, still, 1982, that look like this.

Cut forward again another decade or so and this is actuallywhat most blew me away this is after I
graduated from college, after I worked at the Walker, this is what Artforum I guess looked like when I
started professionally writing about art and you have much more colorful illustrations, this is the
front of the reviews, you have a clear hierarchy where the important reviews by the important
writers are colorfully illustrated and then shortly thereafter theres the ditch where they put the less
important reviews with the less vibrant illustrations, much less vibrant illustrations and you can see
that the text is encroaching a little bit more on the image, as well, but its still basically the same
thing. Its sometime in the middle as far as I can tell. I havent actually looked at exactly the moment
but its in the middle of the 2000s when Artforum goes all color. This is a Paul Chan on the cover. And
this is what it looks like you have these inset tiled images that are now, theyre in color throughout
and theyre actually much more integrated into the text, but still relatively discreet, right, and
modest.
Now, and so and that really is it the trajectory, right? You go from low quality to high quality,
essentially, in some sort of way and you go from images thought of as completely separate, image
being more and more embedded in the text. Now, at the same time all this happened, of course this
other little thing is happening, the Internet, and is becoming a thing. This is the magazine I worked
for for many years, Art Net magazine which is depending on how you count it the first or one of the
first online art magazines. Talk about different systems colliding. Heres what it looked like in 1997
when it was launched, this is a review of the Whitney Biennial, you have this great typewriter font
clearly designed to make the web look like a typewritten thing and for that matter its presented as a
magazine. Its not, you know, this is well before the term blog even existed. Ten years later, this is
what it looks like.
This is me reviewing the 2006 Whitney Biennial complaining about the use of text, that labels were
out of control, there was too much text mediating your experience of the art and this is me two years
later, reviewing the Whitney Biennial in 2008. Now, when I look back at this now, and keep in mind,
this is not that long ago, this is what, 7 years ago? When I look back at that its almost like looking at
another world its hard for me to even imagine putting together an article like this. For one thing, the
title is crazy. Rave on? What does that mean?
I look at my own archive now and I remember vividly being at Art Net magazine and having
consultants who would come in an see, you know, it would really help you if you put like the word
Picasso in the title. It would be really helpful for an article about Picasso and were like were not
going to name the article theres a new Picasso show at MOMA, that doesnt make any sense and
thats exactly what you have to do and now everyone has sentence style, declarative news headlines
because thats very important with Internet search, and then the other thing, and this Art Net
magazine was already a technical dinosaur at this point.
This is akin, I think some of you who have grown up with sophisticated blogging platforms that say
that we cranked this out with a chisel on stone is that we didnt have any sort of back-end CMS
(content management system) to do this, we wrote this stuff to Microsoft Word and hand it had to a
designer and who put it online for us so you get these two columns. But we had no control over
design and those things thought about totally separately and thats where things stood in 2008. Well
get to examples of whats going on now later but I want to emphasize how recently it was that people,
me included, still were thinking about the web in a relatively print-based way. You know, as if were
just taking what we do on theon in a print magazine and putting it online and thats the key access
of what we do. So part two.
So the interesting thingan interesting thing for me about this topic is that this is not a political
topic, like as in my introduction I said you know my book is about class and political art, so this is not
a political topic, not really. It has political dimensions, but on the other hand, I think there would
probably be less argument about it about I were doing, there would be more consensus about it and I
think that talking about, you know, whether or not we need to describe works of art, we should just

use pictures actually touches some key nerves for people, the very core about what people think
about this is my former boss, Walter Robinson, Superscript tweeted the topic the subject of my talk
out and I see him responding, sorry buddy writing about art is thinking about art and begins with
looking and he certainly is somewhat right about that now I want to touch through a couple of
theoretical touch stones, think a little bit about why, why this is such awhat are the kind of
resonances that makes it such a touchy, touchy issue at this particular moment, as I think it is?
I wrote, last year probably one of the most read things that I have ever done is an article I wrote last
year about Instagram where I tookbecause people care an awful lot more about Instagram as a
means of expression than art, but I took John Bergers theories about how classical art and images
work in different ways and applied that to the way the images function on Instagram and it became a
very big hit for me, got picked up all kinds of places, including the Entourage actor, Adrian Grenier,
reposted this visual comparison I did between Kim Kardashian and a Spanish nude and posted it on
his Instagram railing against inequality and this became a celebrity news story. Some colleagues and
I got called into the Instagram offices where they wanted to pick our brains about ideas for stories.
So here I wrote a Marxist critique of Instagram, invited me in to talk about it. And one of the things
that staggered me, that was flabbergasting, that they said to me is very casually, they said, well, one
thing that we want you to know is that you dont need staff photographers anymore. Theres no
reason to hire a photographer anymore. All you have to do is make a hashtag if you do an event, and
then its all free on there, as long as you know where to find it you just like harvest the bounty of
Instagram for your uses.
So theres a lot of angst about being a writer at this conference about writing, but you know, spare a
thought for the photographers, because as a profession its disappearing pretty fast. This is the two
years ago, Libration, the French paper published an issue completely without images in solidarity
with photo journalists, saying the profession is going away, precisely being crowdsourced turned
into an amateur thing, writers are being given iPhones and so on this is what their culture section
looked like without images and actually I found about this on this very good podcast called This
Week in Photo that I listen to that has a very good discussion of the implications of this maybe better
than anything Ive heard from the point of view of writing.
This guy Alex Lindsay says that the interesting thing is that most of you who are bloggers, we
naturally write, take photos, think about those articles figure out what were going to do, we are
moving from one type of media journalist to another type, a media journalist is going to be able to
take those photos, theyre going to get really good at photography but they are also going to
understand how to do creative writing and narrative writing and news journalism and there will be
one person who understands that, and then Frederick Van Johnson whos the host of this show coins
this term the multi-mediographer, which expresses something very accurate.
It becomes so ubiquitous and cheap, becomes so pulped that you actually, we live now, things are
becoming just one expressive medium that you kind ofyou pick different things just to express one
continuous thing. Youre just like collaging together different types of expression and its all one form
of writing or expression. Thats the way I interpret this concept of the multi-mediographer. Now,
there is a reason, I think one of the reasons why is theres a long history of art criticism being about
the design of thecelebrating the image as a absorbing, celebrating the absorptive property of the
image but theres also an important critical tradition, theoretical tradition of thinking about how to
dispell the absorption of the image. I think this is one reason why people they feel this is an invasion.
In 1957 Roland Barthes writes Mythologies where he talks about theres a political analysis of the
way images work in society he talks about how the language of power is what he calls mythology to
take one thing out of context and fill it up with another meaning and make it become the natural as if
it were naturally signified something else. And one of the examples he used precisely this magazine
cover from 1957, of this young black soldier saluting, presumably the French flag and he points out

well, theres obviously one meaning of this, the clear meaning of this which is a real person, but on
the other hand is he clearly being made to do service for another thing?
The message of this is really clearly a whole other mythology about the French nation, how the
French nation is a great empire but its a progressive empire, and all serve under it equally, and how
it discriminates against nobody. And this comes from Paris Match, which is a fairly genteel text, but
this is a very political point though thats happening in 1957 when the French occupation of Algerias
coming undone, its quite a bloody conflict, The Battle of Algiers, if youve seen it.
So the point is that this is all about how through images power naturalizes itself and Roland Barthes
sees the job of the mythologist. Thats what he calls the person who unpacks these and debunks these
things. As using language to take you out of your natural enrapturement with these things. With all
the ideologies that have been stuffed in them. Now, that was a prettyI think that was a prettyI
dont know if thisbut the point is that in I think this is aI think because images have become so
present now, you know, this was the new thing. Color photography, color magazines was a relatively
new thing in 1956, now were swarmed with images but people are very image savvy. This is actually
a common form of writing where people sometimes take a little piece of pop culture out of context
and captions it in such a way that it becomes allegories for things and this is a kind of like peoples
mythology in action. The point is that if the project in Barthes day was a debunking, I think people
now are naturally cynical about the image and recontextualizing things.
I guess this is one of my favorite examples of modern mythology, this is the hipster cop, a police
officer who had skinny ties and skinny jeans and was sort of a darling of the media and obviously this
functions exactly as mythology in Barthes sense. Hes a real guy. He becomes a media sensation
because he represents the funny side of power. This guy knows it, hes interviewed in GQ and he
talked about the semiology of his fashion and his clothing and of course people responded to this
immediately with a variety memes.
People are savvy enough to be natural mythologists in Barthes sense. You know, most of this stuff
with the response is kind of an empty cynicism, but I think there are some, this is my big example
that actually symbolize power in the police state and constitutes a form of image criticism. The point
is that there are new forms of criticism with images that are already being born and already sort of
vernacular.
Vilm Flusser, a Prague-born media theorist, writes in 1987 this book called Does Writing Have a
Future? This is the opening page. I think its amusing that it begins with Superscript and the book is
weird and problematic in many means in ways that I wont go into, but its loaded with quotes about
the relationship between text and image and the evolving nature of it.
One of the things he says, one of the arguments he makes, first of all he makes what he calls
electromagnetic culture or something, were moving towards something else, were moving towards
essentially a post-literate society but the bulk of the book is going back and looking at what
alphabetic or articulated language has does. He says before books you had images, right,
hieroglyphics or ideograms. And these are pictorial ways of looking about the world and alphabetic
speech. This is the quote: One writes alphabetically to maintain and extend a level of consciousness
that is conceptual, superior to images, rather than continually falling back into pictorial thinking as
we did before writing was invented.
And so theres this idea that we havethat a form of thinking and expressing yourself that forces you
to order thoughts, articulate them in an order, actually produces a space for critical thinking at a
distance from an image and that is precisely that and formed the foundation for a lot of ways of
anything not just about art and criticism, but a whole number of things and that, as he says, the rise of
a more picture-based universe of a post-literate world it leads us to a new mode of thought that can

be anticipated but not yet perceived. All in all hes pretty ambiguous about it, so as I say this is a
little bit of a problematic text for all kinds of reasons (that I wont go into here that we can talk about
in the Q&A), but I think it does articulate a certain anxiety about whats going on with the rise of an
extremely image-dominated culture. An anxiety that was articulated to me very well is this article
from the New Yorker a few months back.
This guy, Emerson Spartz, who runs sort of a BuzzFeed clone, they do like funny listicles and stuff
called Dose, I believe. He says very clearly in his article that hes not interested in politics. He doesnt
find the news interesting because he thinks the presentation is boring but I asked him if he had any
advice. He says, If I were running a more hard news-oriented media company and I wanted to
inform people about Uganda, first I would look it up and find out exactly whats going on there on
there. Good advice to start off. Then I would find a few really poignant images or story lines ones
that create a lot of resonant emotion, and I would make these into a short video, under three minutes,
with clear, simple words and statistics. Short, declarative sentences. And at the end Id give people
something they can do, something they can feel hopeful about. So some good ideas about audience
engagement there but also clearly lowering the bar for what it means to think politically. And I think
part of that sensibility is in the air and that makes people really anxious about this.
Heres BuzzFeed, their article. Making mythology of the Marxist critic Walter Benjamin turning him
into an inspiration pinup great quotes. Not including interestingly my favorite quote: Mankinds self-
alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic
pleasure of the first order.
But you cant be perfect. So there is a way, I think you could say that the looping animated cat GIF,
this is a cat on a book, by the way in some way can stand as an allegory for the return to a kind of
looping mythical thinking primal thinking thats you know, thats outside ofthats beyondthats
almost precritical in a way. Its viscerally youre kind of frozen in this kind of limbo of pleasure and
Im not going to take that too far because as I say I think that were learning new ways to think about
these things. I just wanted to show you this GIF.
Now, I want to talk about forms of contemporary writing that forms, contemporary forms of talking
about art, where I think were going, essentially. So I first began to have a lot of these thoughts not
thinking about my own practice but thinking about how contemporary artists were engaging with
images on the Internet so I was teaching my students, this is Artie Vierkant which is what you would
maybe call a post Internet artistthis is one of his image object images that blur the line between
installation shot and some sort of abstraction so you cant really tell whether its a real object or not.
And he wrotehe wrote this, you know, its become a touchstone, this manifesto called The Image
Object Post-Internet that I read and he says:
The architecture of the Internetan arrangement of language, sound, and images in which imagery
is the most dominant, immediate factorhelps facilitate an environment where artists are able to
rely more and more on purely visual representations to convey their ideas and support an
explanation of their art independent of language. This is a crucial point of departure from recent art
history, as arguably it marks an abandonment of language and semiotics as base metaphors for
articulating works of art and our relationship to objects and culture.
So thats a horrifying statement to me as a writer that was my first thought when I read that is this is
like basically images explaining other images and its cutting out me out, cutting out the critical
middleman. I also think itswell, I also think its a little confused he doesnt seem to know what
semiology means. But my second thought was well, maybe I can work with this. Maybe there are
forms of criticism I can come up that actually are a critical intervention into languages that use
images against each other in order to create a form of criticism, so you know, this was my little
experiment.

I called it my Instagram art reviews in that I would use the structure of Peircean semiology, which
is a three-part sign where the first thing, the object would be the work of art and then I would find a
second thing that you know, an association maybe to represent it. You know, theres an association
that it produces in my head. You know, this looks like that. And then the third is the third aspect of
the Peircean sign is the interpretant. Theres a signifier and a signified but then theres also a
relationship between the two, they mean something together and I thought with those three things,
maybe you can take images and create a form of writing with images, and so Ill show you my modest
experiments. This isthis is a Richard Serra show at the top at the Gagosian Gallery and then theres
comparing it to the experience to Caspar David Friedrich. And heres my third image of a stock photo
as kind of signifying the industrial sublime or something like that, so you can see that heres the
comparison it makes me think of and heres what I think about the comparison.
Heres a detailed a painting by Raqib Shaw, which is kind of like fantastic glittery paintings and then a
Frank Frazetta painting, the Conan the Barbarian artist, so Im comparing him to pulp art, and then
third is a stock photo of chintzy cheap gems, its like the idea here is it looks like pulp art and
therefore I think of it as cheap razzle-dazzle. And heres the one that started it all, The Girl with the
Pearl Earring compared to this famous National Geographic cover and I guess what I think the visual
comparison is clear but I guess what I was trying to get at in this loaded subject matter is I think the
visual appeal of both is that they are made to seem a little bit otherworldly.
Now, this was an interesting experiment for me. I learned a lot doing it. There are many others of
varying degrees of success. I learned among other things that its very hard because as it turns out,
coming up with meaningful comparisons of images, thinking of images writing with images is just as
difficult or more so than writing with words and I would freely admit, however, that it is a bit of a
wrack as an experiment, I mean I dont think might as well just put an image there that indicates that
well, making this comparison Im a little bit confused about how to represent what I think about that
comparison.
Nevertheless, I think youre going to see a lot more of this kind of thing. Not exactly this kind of thing,
but forms of thinking with the image inside the image, critically about and within the image. Because
as I say, images have become just another expressive material for people. And there are lots of
examples. I think people in probably in this room doing interesting experiments with this that I dont
know about. Carolina [Miranda] was reminding me before about this, that you know, the Getty does
Game of Thrones recaps. I just picked out one.
The Pelican Bomb which is a New Orleans art website and publication does this series of visual
essays. This is one that takes off the history of the reclining female nude. So it starts with Ingres, the
Grande Odalisque. And then this is presented all in a stacked ribbon in the original piece, but they
walk you through a sort of a history of this theme. Now I think its interesting, I would say its still
very primitive, though. Its essentially on the first two levels, you know, their relationship of
comparison of difference and sameness, and but it doesnt make a critical argument and the reason I
picked it for you is because I think it brings me back to Ways of Seeing and people always remember
because Bergers arguments are so clear, they remember the written parts, the famous parts about
the popularization of Walter Benjamin or his section on the male gaze, but there are vast sections of
that book that are just images, that are simply visual essays, and I think, actually, more sophisticated
than that.
Heres Chapter 2 which takes us back towhich leads in this famous chapter of the male gaze and
you have this juxtaposition of images. Heres a woman working in a bakery and behind her are
celebrity shots and heres a glamorous woman in a car with people looking at her. Heres a whole set
of complex situations between you have this at the top Picasso and Modigliani and this pinup and this
kind of ecstasy and looking at histories of how sexuality is expressed. You have this voluptuous pin-
up here and this emaciated Giacometti with this sort of violence of the gaze and you have these like
hyper-sexualized advertising images and over here a Dutch still life, so creatingtalking about how

the language of making objects desirable are being applied to literally treat women like objects of
consumption.
So thatsthats all, I mean thats all image essay and I think it is notits murky, you know, and I
think he wants it to be. I think he wants there to be significant comparisons, but also room to breathe.
Thats part of what the book is about. But I also think if you go through the book, in some ways I think
that the most sophisticated form of navigating between images and text is maybe that I know, maybe
this book, which was produced 40-some years ago, if you look at the wayand he also takes off from
Grande Odalisque and heres him incorporate it into the text of the book. Heres he uses details of
paintings to show how images can be constructed out of them and he useshe has a sophisticated
way of looking at details of painting and how words, the relationship with their words and the
descriptions, transform them. So heres, this is a landscape with birds flying out of it. Look at it for a
moment and then turn the page. When you turn the page, it says this is the last picture that Van Gogh
painted before he killed himself. It is hard to define exactly how the words have changed the image
but undoubtedly they have. The image now illustrates the sentence.
So this is a fairly sophisticated way of addressing the new problems for us that are emerging for us as
we write online and part of that this is an analysis of how images function and hes using image and
text in an elaborate way, in an involved way.
Come back to Turner. So this is not for me a question of escaping images. Or escaping textuality. My
argument is as I said at the beginning, that we live in a sort of hybrid state, you know, there are
different modes of thinking. And the function of description is of course always partly analysis, you
know, youre picking out the significant things you with the to describe. My argument is once we
disarticulate those two things, we think about the problem, what it means to to describe around
images and within images in a different and more productive way.
Heres another text about this same description of this same painting by Thackeray. He describes it
very differently and he services what is only implicit in Ruskins description about the painting which
is a painting about slavery. An abolitionist painting inspired by an incident where 133 slaves were
thrown overboard because the slaver wanted to collect the insurance money, and, after all, Turner
himself accompanied this painting with a poem that explains the meaning and ends with hope, hope,
fallacious hope, where is thy market now?
So Flusser ends his book, Subscript, in counterpart to Superscript, that we need to go back into
kindergarten and we need to relearn how we think about basic things. And I began with a story of my
time as a tour guide here at the Walker, and Id forgotten ways of seeing has been a very important
reference for me as a book and Ive forgotten that the TV show is different than the book and actually
the first episode ends with John Berger showing art to children and sitting with them as they
describe a painting, and his conclusion is that they see it because they havetheyre free of some of
our habits, they have a different way of seeing it. They and this is a very hopeful for me this is a very
hopeful thing and I want to say that I picked this topic because Ive been to enough art journalism
conferences to know that gloom is in the air and there will be a lot of angst about money and so on
and the state of the profession, but I think that you need to disarticulate the question of the
economics of writing about art, and the secondary question, which is about whether we have ideas
we believe in and whether you have ways of presenting art that excite us and feel real and lively and
contemporary. Theyre separate questions. They interconnect their separate questions. So this idea of
thinking through the present and the potential of the present in a new way I think is a very optimistic
conversation that this, complete with its typo, you know, complete with the typo where you really see
text breaking down relation of images is a hopeful image for me, its about new its about new
starting points of people to have the opportunity to do something new, I think thats a very exciting
conversation to be a part of.

The question of a post-descriptive criticism or post descriptive criticism, if such a thing exists, is not
simply a that applies to art critics of course. Art criticism is about engaging the visual so it may be
paradigmatic mode and that means that the kind of solutions to the question of how image relates to
text that people come up with potentially at least have a wider relevance to culture and thats not
something you can say about everything that we talk about within art, which is sometimes very
arcane. New ways of seeing, I think create new ways of writing and new ways of writing about seeing,
and its on that note that beginning, I think is a good place for me to end this conversation, and turn
the conversation over to you. Thank you very much.
Audience Member: So a couple of presenters today have used emojis in their presentations, so it
kind of begs a question like when we have a unicode standard of an agreed upon definition for an
image how can we use that to modulate written information? Does that make sense?
Davis: Youre asking me? I mean I thinkI dont know if I have an answer to that. I think thats an
aesthetic and intellectual problem. I think its a moreI think emojis are a more interesting thing
than people give them credit for, you know. Its people thinking with images finding essentially
creating new signifiers for agreed upon you know, new languages, I think its a tremendously
interesting topic, probably the subject of a lot of unreadable dissertations at this point, youre behind
the curve here.
Audience Member: First of all, thank you for your talk and for being so well researched. I want to
address something that is a potentially troubling take away from your talk and thats that post
descriptive means post verbal. I think as writers, you know, theres definitely the understanding that
we need to work with images, we need to incorporate images in our reviews in whatever we write,
but replacing words entirely with images is a kind of different project altogether, so I guess Im
wondering, is that your assignation for the future of art criticism or would you want description to be
replaced by a discussion of context, politics, ethics, social issues, the kinds of things that artists are
concerned with in the studio? Is that you know, I guess in a way what Im asking is what is the
function ever an art critic or an a writer in you know, a broad way.
Davis: What is the function of an art critic. Well, there are different questions here that are mashed
together. Part of it as I said at the beginning is this is a practical talk. I mean I actually wanted to do a
talk here that was practical, theoretical, you know, that the pass-through theories of images and
theories of language and I think this is like tremendous practical relevance and I dont know about
you, I mean there isthe problem with images is not the only problem with reviews, I dont think,
but I do find myselfthis is a cliche about Internet writing, but you know, scanning reviews, I mean I
write them, you know? This is a little bit like my students when, you know, when we do critics and I
ask them to look for ten minutes at their peers art. And they cant do it you know, and I say you spent
months in your studio and you cant even look for ten minutes looking at your peers art.
I do the same thing with writing. I spend a lot of time trying to find the right words, and I find myself
scanning through things, tell me what you think about this, why should I read this? You know.
Theres some function of description that can be done better by image. Image I think thats obvious,
and that I think that there are intellectual hangups that people still have because were still inheriting
models of how to write from the past and I think a new model thats not post verbal but that treats
images and text on a moreon more of a same plane, that willI think thats just happening. I dont
think thats not like me saying that, I think the people are doing that. I think it raises a lot of
questions about, you know,thats what I was trying to say about the political vectors of this. I think
this raises a question where it was mentioned earlier in the earlier in the day, you know, lots of visual
stories with no thought in them. Thats a thing. I mean thats a thing that there is demand for,
actually, is to just kind of give yourself up to the idiocy of the image. The argument Im trying to make
is we have to be, to use a really corny word is we have to be dialectical about this. Right now it seems
to me that there are two kind of big positions playing out there are people that are running madly in
the direction of the visual and another one people saying no, no, were holding out for the word and I

think we need to think through critically the problem about relating the image to the word in the
newwith the new reality. So I think thats a critical problem, right? I think that enlivens the task of
the critic is, because its not just describing something out there but thinking through the
presentational problems of what writing is.
Audience Member: Thank you so much for your talk so earlier we had the reference to the Flannery
OConnor quote about not knowing what you think until you find yourself reading it and you yourself
have referenced this sort of pedagogical situation and I find with my own students they have no idea
what theyre looking at until I force them to delineate exactly what it is theyre looking at so I guess
Id be curious to hear your comment on the kind of pedagogical value of ekphrasis even if its
something that may not persist into the final form of professional criticism.
Davis: Yeah, I mean I think, yeah, Walter is you know, in a certain extent, right, the tweet, the angry
tweet from my former boss hes saying, you know, thinking about art is writing at art, that begins
looking at art and describing it or something like that. And that is to a certain extent correct
pedagogically I think, and I thinkthe thing is thats a different question than, you know, the
question of how youdoes, you know, do you need todo you need to re-describe things and there
are some things, you know, to say, you know, it looks as if a bird clawed its way through white paint
on the surfaces of this canvas is like a beautiful sentence thats Frank OHara writing about a Cy
Twombly but it doesnt actually do the duty of telling you what it is. Its a separate thing that youve
produced and that separate thing has its own value and Im not sure I total want to ditch it. I just
think theres a problem here that we should think about.
Audience Member: Yes, thank you very much for your talk. When you talk about the separate thing
that you can produce, I loved your Peircean little chart, and how itits almost to me if Id seen those
things without your descriptions Im sure I would have had different reactions to them. Its almost as
if you were creatingyoure creating something yourself. Its like you are the artist yourself. It made
me think of Warhol perhaps being thats what he did. I mean he wasnt creating art so much as he
wasyou could almost say creating a form of criticism but Im curious what you learned from that
practice. I mean obviously you thought a lot about it, what made the images when they werent
successful and what didnt.
Davis: Im glad you find them interesting I sort of gave up on that experiment and I was excited to be
able to use it in some kind of way here. Iwell, I mean the hardfirst of all, yeah youre inventing
new forms of agreed upon structures signification, I just think it can be done. I think through images
you actually can produce forms of thought. The things I learned from it were two: One is that, you
know, the real problem thing, there is no problem in finding comparisons, you know? There is no
problem, its the cheapest form of criticism, actually to say this looks like that. Its absolutely theres
difficulty finding meaningful comparisons thats where the third term comes in there, thats why I
think I like that little block because I think it does express something, so where the third term comes
in that you produce a thought really, and what I found and I think you probably all accepted that
when you look at those Instagram art reviews, that the third term is extremely vague, you know,
because imagesthe trick there is finding images that are enough of stock images that they already
function as words, or that theyve already become processed into essentially a signifier and then
those are, you know, its pretty simple to find, you know, frowny face if the point of the comparison is
that youyou think it makes you sad or things like that, but to produce complex senses of them
requires kind of a new image lexicon.
The other thing that I learned about it, which this is screamingly obvious, but worth saying, is that its
not impossible to produce thoughts about something using as Artie Vierkant says producing images
for images. If you were going to review a show in this format, you could do it it would take like 100 of
those things to produce a series of thoughts where you could compare, you know, different details
within something to different objects and build that up into a significant thing, so as it turns out,
actually just old fashioned writing is very efficient for some things, you know, thats one thing that I

guess its a good point to make is that part of the point is that there are some things for which images
are more efficient, and more engaging and there are some things, actually, like writing is more
efficient and I think were just in a moment where we need to clarify what those things are, because
theyre putting pulped together pretty quick.
Audience Member: Thank you. I wanted to thank you for bringing in John Bergers way of thinking
about Superscript. And when you brought up the Van Gogh, where Berger talks about the image
being the illustration for the writing, I thought it was really to think about how much power the word
has once and also looking back the at those Artforums where are those artworks becoming then the
illustration for the writing? You know that, in some ways counter to what youre saying, maybe
words still have a lot of power over when youre looking at something and you read about it, that it
alters your way of looking which is also what hes talking about in Ways of Seeing, but and then
perhaps to think about is it also going towards more analysis or more the content of the writing
going more towards media making or maybe looking in ways that arent in the description but
engaging in the artwork differently.
Davis: Well, either side the power of the word problem well Im a writer so Im just going to tell you
that I believe in the power of the word. But as for the second piece of the question, what was the
second question again?
Audience Member: Well, I guess thinking about if descriptive writing is less pertinent.
Davis: Right, I did have something to say about that, yes. Well, look so there is a pragmatic lesson
that just you know my process as a writer and writing about things, when I first got my first job
writing about art at artnet magazine magazine, I look back on it as kind of a golden age in a way
because I had very little supervision in a way. I got to write about what I wanted and what I wanted
to do was write reviews, and my boss gave me Walter gave me tremendous trust and so on. And what
happened over the course of the years I worked there is you just start to realize that the reviews
while they serve a great purposedont get people nearly as interested as something a larger,
argument, analysis, news, things like this, political commentary. Theres justthat isand so then it
does make me think thatI mean in some ways Im trying to think, you know, how criticism can
function in new kinds of ways, taking advantage of new capacities, but the other argument you can of
course make is that the form of the review is just a historical product.
Theres no reason we have to be writing this way. There are other forms of writing about art that
well discover and find and maybe it is you know, more emphasis. I do find myself just hungering for
whats the point. Tell me what you think about this. So maybe it is, maybe thats thats the solution. I
dont think theres one solution. Thats the thing. I think that there are hundreds of solutions, exciting
moment in a way. I have some excitement about whats going on right now because itstheres like
clearly new stuff on the horizon, new ways of thinking about things, new ways of doing things. Im
not going to be able to do a lot of them. Everyone here is and so its just very a privilege and honor to
be here in front of you and I hope we carry this conversation into the future. Thank you very much.

Saturday, May 30, 2015
PANEL PRESENTATIONS:
Connectivity and Community
Claudia La Rocco, The Performance Club

One: When the Walker asked me to talk about connectivity and community, I remember thinking I
probably wasnt the best gal for the job. I expressed my concerns that I hadnt given much thought to
the subject, that my response to the phrase arts journalism and criticism in a digital age is typically
a scrunched-up face. I write a column for artforum.com, I publish poetry chat books, its all part of the
same mess, but of course I said yes, a freelancers gotta eat. Months later when I asked if there was a
particular mandate I should keep in mind I was told, were very much looking to avoid one-size-fits
all canned TED Talks, and later when I told a fellow writer I was having difficulty approaching this
topic, she emailed back Connectivity and community are the lies of our age, how would anyone
actually feel connected via the Internet? A week or so before today, I asked Twitter what it would do
if it had to give a talk on community and connectivity. I received one response. From the writer Marit
Case, whom Ive never met. She wrote, Handwriting is still important.
Two: One of my early articles for the New York Times was a 2005 profile of the choreographer Arthur
Aviles who after an impressive international career as a dancer had been working to establish an
inclusive performing arts center in Hunts Point, a South Bronx neighborhood that has not historically
been all that interested in the arts or in embracing feminist or queer perspectives. Roughly ten years
into his project the center was both humble and thriving. Decidedly site-specific and grassroots, it
wasnt, in other words, anything the New York art world would pay attention to, unless it happened
to fit a flavor-of-the-month whimsy. No one will ever say hes made it in the Bronx and Im fine with
that, Arthur told me. I feel satisfied with the career Ive had. This is the next step to come back
home and develop a dance community. Referring to the drive that many choreographers in the
Bronx had to make it to Manhattan, he said, They want something bigger, which I understand. And
then he added, I want something small, something respectful.
Three: My first substantial journalism gig in New York was at the Associated Press. Back then the AP
was still headquartered in Rockefeller center. Its venerable history announced by the ten ton Isamu
Noguchi sculpture entitled News that adorned the front door. Entering the office it was hard not to
feel, if only fleetingly, that one was doing something important and useful in societyunless, of
course, your job was as an online editor. The multimedia desk where I worked wasnt even housed in
the same building as the rest of the organization. Im not sure if I was paying enough attention to
grasp the brilliance of the department charged with connecting AP to the worldwide web being
marooned or perhaps quarantined is the better word in its own building.
But I do remember one reporter saying to me, oh, yeah, you work at that desk whose purpose nobody
else here knows. Theres nothing so symbolic as geography. AP Digital was like an island of misfit
toys populated by rookies, jobbers, and a few actual multimedia specialists whose reactions to APs
rather impressive ineptitude in the face of a technological sea change ran from disbelief to disdain.
I worked part-time on that desk for several years, years in which attitudes about the online operation
from other AP folks didnt so much shift as expand to include the irritated belief that digital
initiatives were the only ones safe from chronic cutbacks.
Meanwhile, I scanned the Internet on my numerous desktop monitors, tried not to make any
intensely bad mistakes in the headlines I spent most of my shifts composing and wrote for the arts
desk whenever I could. I realized I wasnt a journalist. I began to think of criticism as a Trojan horse.
Four: I started the Performance Club in 2008, while working as a cultural critic for WNYC public
radio. WNYC had gotten a big chunk of foundation change with the mandate to promote online
community. With the initiation languishing and the foundation demanding results, WNYC ordered its
contributors to drum up proposals for its website. Mine was the Performance Club which I imagined
as a book club for live art so people could take part in the discussions through monthly social
gatherings around performances while also having conversations that would continue on my blog
forming an archive of discussions and debates. My proposal was responding to two things that had
been frustrating me for a while. One was that I would take friends to the live art I was then writing

about and in spite of being smart and knowledgeable in other fields of contemporary culture, they
would come out of these performances and say I dont know how to talk about this stuff. The critical
minds they would use to read any other sort of text were not being activated. At the same time,
conversations with my colleagues, the actual critics, often tended toward the petty. Little clusters of
us marooned in lobbies throughout New York. Spending intermissions making these hierarchical
assessments. So-and-so was better than so-and-so. This work used to look better than it does now.
I was interested in the possibility of creating a third space. If we brought together people who are
already intensely knowledgeable about live art, and people who were curious, but felt they had no
way to talk about it, I wondered if we could collectively create a more fruitful conversation.
To put it another way, I like talking with smart people. Its one of the only consistently good reasons I
can think of for getting out of bed in the morning.
Five: Trust your boredom. Thats one of my favorite one-liners in Jonathan Burrows book of one-
liners, A Choreographers Handbook. I appreciate its get out of jail free insistence and just now it
seems important. I had assigned sections of the text to my students earlier this month and prepping
for class, cramming on the train as usual, I was stopped by these three words. Its not that Im bored
exactly by the idea of connectivity and community but it makes me restless, my answers to it feel
small, preordained. As if we all assume we know what were talking about. As if alienation isnt the
right answer, as if technology actually lessens class divides.
Six: The Performance Club I want to emphasize was something I proposed because I had to propose
something. In an area I had never considered as an actual thing. Fostering online community.
I couldnt show up to this meeting empty handed and so I concocted several half-baked ideas,
thinking one of them might stick long enough to impress my producer. Such is the lot of the
contemporary arts freelancer, busily racing along as one colleagues husband put it, on the hamster
wheel to nowhere. I wasnt expecting the thing to actually stick. Had I expected it to stick Id like to
think I wouldnt have saddled myself with the P club nickname, something that another colleague
later said sounds like a cabal of urination fetishists. But I digress. Having almost never been in a
club, I found myself running a rather successful one. People showed up to performances and stayed
out for hours after to talk about them.
Despite WNYCs terrifically wonky web infrastructure, people also left smart comments on my
attempting to be pithy blog posts. The club became known around New York and beyond, even
spawning other like minded ventures. I liked this network aspect of it which didnt yet seem
oppressive. Also the improvisational nature of it, the thinking and writing out loud. It was a good
moment.
Seven: A journalist friend and I were wandering around the streets of San Francisco the other day in
search of a good midday drinking bar. The subject of Twitter came up and we agreed that there is
often a direct correlation between feeling terrible and being on it. Another day I was visiting an
editor at the San Francisco Chronicle which is about a 50-minute walk from what everybody calls the
Twitter building. A guy got in the elevator with me as I was leaving the third floor and when I asked
him which button he wanted me to push, 1 or 2, he said there is no more 2. Then he clarified it no
longer belonged to the Chronicle. I asked him what was there. The usual he said a bunch of hunched
over 20-somethings plugged into their laptops, in other words the same old story.
Eight: Whats the best web infrastructure for fostering responsive arts journalism that encourages
valuable substantive conversations between writers and readers? Thats one of the questions were
meant to answer.

Im not sure what the best infrastructure is. I do know Ive never worked with it. Every system Ive
become part of has come with some or the of disclaimer that the technology is outmoded and/or in
some way not up to the task of being truly interactive and the assumption is that interactive means
lots of traffic, lots of linking, liking, reposting, etc. In this I see a strong parallel with the idea of the
traditional audience member as passive, as if anything that happens below the surface cannot count
as true engagement, writers business busying ourselves with numbers. We are wholly beholden to
the quantifiable. There never appears to be an easy or good way to make these systems better. This
seems like a very old human problem, the fashions change but not the body. The status quo lets us
distract ourselves with the pretty idea that we have found alternatives and we comply, giving it all
away. Two other questions posed for this panel: How does a platform create a sense of community
around the ideas it presents? And how can the online intersect with the in-person?
The Performance Club was always conceived of so that anybody could be a member. It was free and
open to the extent that those things actually exist.
It was up to individuals to decide how they wanted to interact with the idea of the club. There were
people who read everything that was online but never once came to an event and there were people
who would come to the events religiously. They ranged from practitioners, artists, funders, writers,
and people who worked in art spaces to WNYC listeners who have no particular connection to the
arts. Most of these people were lovely. Some were much more at ease in person than online and vice
versa, with myriad ways of performing and presenting themselves. A few made demands that only in
retrospect presented themselves as inappropriate and creepy. I found the live gatherings both
exciting and exhausting it. It became clear that in creating the P club I signed up to be a social
sculptor, someone who had to shape and care for public space whether one person showed up or 35.
This very particular sort of caring felt the same whether the space was physical or digital.
Does a platform create a sense of community any differently than any other system? Is it ever the
platform really that makes the difference outside of extreme examples, a technological ineptitude or
dazzlement? Running an online anything seems to be a lot about being a good host. The onus is on
you to make your guests feel comfortable, to try and head off trouble at the pass or to set up collision
courses if thats the sort of party youre interested in. And for the guests, the question is do you want
to be in a room with anonymous bodies, the pleasures and perils in in that or do you want to be at the
dinner table, jockeying for the best seat?
Nine: in one episode of Girls, Lena Dunhams character meets with a publisher whos interested in
publishing her book which is in limbo after the death of her last publisher. The only catch this new
publisher tells her is that We dont do e-books, wed want to put it out as an actual book, you know,
that you can hold. I hope thats OK with you.
The camera cuts to Hannah, theres a pause and then she breaks out into high pealing laughter. Are
you kidding me? I mean, thats the best thing Ive ever heard. I just said yes to an e-book because it
was better than, like, a notebook.
In another another of the many exchanges I have with colleagues while procrastinating on these
remarks, I told a friend who edits an online publication that I didnt know what to write, in part
because my perspective is firmly writer-based and P club aside I dont think I do anything differently
in print versus online other than structural things like making use of hyperlinks. She messaged me
back I find that you do write with an online sensibility for print, your style and tone. I think thats
one of the things I like about your writing. I was curious by how pleased I was at her response as if it
granted me some sort of currency or legitimacy, and at the same time I had no idea what she meant.
My pleasure made me slightly queasy.

Ten: When I left WNYC in 2010, that was the end of the Performance club or thats what I figured
until the following year when I was approached by two former members who convinced me to
relaunch with their help as an independent entity. This new iteration of the club received a Creative
Capital Warhol grant in 2011. On the website you can still find the following proclamation. We
intend to build the club into an independent multifaceted real time and web based center for
interactive discussion forums involving audiences artists and other writers, as well as an
informational hub on the NYC performance scene. I made good on this officious grant language for
about a year and a half, hosting monthly events and online conversations. I paid contributors and
curated conversations. I joined Twitter.
Eleven: Earlier this year, I was guest curator for dance space projects platform 2015. 6 weeks of
performances workshops and readings entitled Dancers, Buildings, People in the Streets. The main
performance spine featured arranged marriages of artists from disparate experimental traditions in
New York. Two of these artists, Caitlyn Gilliland and Will Rawls, decided that instead of a studio
practice they would create a social media one, wading through the pop cryptic world of text
acronyms and emoji to find a common language of artistic desire and mediated intimacy. What they
finally created consisted of a staged reading of this dialogue. The audience seemed split between
those who found it intensely moving and those who wondered why they didnt dance. One critic
wrote their bodies seemed as well matched as their minds, so why not dance together? If they took
yet another step and explored partnering it would have been worth 10,000 words. Theres always so
much anxiety around language, the violence it does to nonverbal forms, simultaneously how
inadequate it is.
Twelve: Some time ago I got an email from the Warhol Foundation asking for numbers. They were
doing an internal review and were looking at how past projects were faring. I remember when I had
the blog at WNYC. Some days I used to feverishly check my stats. A lot of fretting was involved. The
Warhol request was not unreasonable and it came from folks who have been unceasingly supportive
and understanding, minor miracles in the foundation world. I cant remember if I answered that
email. It appears I may have deleted it. There didnt seem to be any way to answer without sounding
defensive for dismissive. For example, the sentence I dont measure success through site visitors is
obnoxious on so many levels, where even to begin? How do you explain that you junked the entire
concept of the book club for live art in favor for building a space for criticism of art for weird little
chunks of writing that most people will have zero interest in? Is there a way to say that the island of
misfit toys suits you more than the mirage of inclusivity? That youre worn out by the evangelism
game artists and writers are supposed to play. I have no appetite for convincing anybody of anything.
Also for lasting, we dont last. Why should the things we make be any different.
Thirteen: Im so uninterested in anxiety around criticism. It just seems like a given.
Fourteen: I ended the Arthur Arviles profile with his quote about wanting something small and
respectful. A reader emailed me to say I loved the kicker and I hope you realize that the fact that
they put a refer on the front page of A & L means the top guns like it too those two impulses, the
romanticizing of the humble effort and the desire to be widely seen seem as the crux of many a
present-day difficulty and weirdness, just think of the slow blogging movement. Its so tempting to
make a fetish out of the small and local. Its so tempting to measure your worth in social media likes.
Both of these things are themselves so obvious and off stated as to be embarrassing to mention.
Fifteen: When I was running the previous version of the Performance Club, I began noticing that at
our monthly outings I no longer watched shows with the same eyes. I wasnt there in that alone in the
crowd capacity that the traditional critic of live art feeds on. I was watching with a communal eye in
connection to the now very specific bodies around me, bodies for whom I felt responsible. Is this so
different from the imperceptible transformations that occur when your office is enveloped by the
Internet? Theres something profound here which I will but draw a circle around for you to ponder,
Maggie Nelson writes in The Argonauts. All those bodies hunched over their machines. Im back to my

own stupid self, Jonathan Burrows writes in his handbook. The computer as compositional space and
gathering place, studio and market, room of ones own and rooming house, the critic as cyborg,
writing alone in a crowd. Thank you.

Ayesha Siddiqi, The New Inquiry
So when I was first asked to speak on the subject of community and connectivity, the broadness of
those prompts reminded me of how much time we spend completely enmeshed in them and how
much that living in it keeps us from really questioning exactly what our relationship to these subjects
is, and when I thought about it a little bit, I realized that its implications captures everything from the
tension between DYI and indie for content creators, publishers, as well as the tension between
establishment media and whats called new media, the tensions between corporations and the
surveillance state, and howwhat was described as shifts in power or empowerment for typically
marginalized voices has really been just a masking of new vulnerabilities. So the first thing I wanted
to talk about it is that DYI versus indie notion.
Over the past few years weve been living in this moment, that seems really optimistic. That seems to
encourage everyone to do it yourself, because you can now, right? Anyone can start a blog, start a
zine, start a publication. There seems to be a greater ease with which you can pursue creative
pursuits, because the infrastructure that you typically needed to have is being provided for you
whether through an app or website committed to that.
But what we have instead is the fact that DIY is no longer indie. Those two no longer mean the same
thing because youre absolutely foreclosing on your independence by pursuing DIY projects and by
that I mean you dont any more own that which enables your project.
So even for a publication like New Inquiry, for example, were just as vulnerable to the platforms that
produce and host our content as we were hoping to avoid being vulnerable by trying to not be a
corporately backed or a grant-based publication.
And while you no longer need to have, say, websites or offices that can host the infrastructure, what
instead youre giving up is the opportunity to own that which is enabling you and thats not a
problem thats unique to independent publications, its something that anyone who uses social web is
a part of. We are a all part of signing up for things that were generating value for, and a lot of the
questions that the subject of community and connectivity raises is labor and its valuation and who
ultimately ends up benefiting from the use of social web platforms.
So for platforms like Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, all of its users are the ones generating value for it,
right? Were essentially running their product for them for free. And in doing so, certainly there are
some obvious benefits, so you know were in this moment that typically marginalized voices have
greater access to the community and connectivity that were here to discuss today. They can reach
each other, I mean theres obvious gains to be had there, but were also increasingly mistaking
visibility for power.
And for these typically marginalized voicesand its interesting, the people Ive noticed at this point
in time that have the most angst around the Internet or the social web, people who work in media
and are like, oh, gosh, Internet is just the worst, right, Twitter is terrible, and of course all of these
opinions are being voiced on the Internet and on Twitter. Theyre typically people that the rest of the
world has been pretty kind to and the people that have almost the greatest investment in these
spaces and spend a great deal of time on this them are people that the rest of the world isnt that
friendly to and it was initially spaced to escape the daily hostilities and aggressions and of course for
people of color, people who arent straight, queer, gay, LGBTQ communities.

These are really vital developments. Our ability to produce and establish community, our ability to
connect, the way its been facilitated for the social web, has in fact changed many lives. And when in
one category I spend a lot of time thinking about is students of color who struggle with mental illness
issues and the ways in which that mental health resources are either completely designed not to
serve them, but actively reproduce colonial violence in the way in which those administrators are
trained to deal with people of color that they may encounter. And how so many young people had
then turned to the social web to generate their own survival scripts to produce ways of coping with
things like depression, anxiety, thoughts of self-harm, and thats a form of quote-unquote life hacking
that Im way more interested in than cutting up an old takeout container to make a plate. Its bizarre
how what the word life hacking gets used to mean and its association with tech pros when there
are people doing far more interesting and innovative work just for the pure pursuit of being able to
move through the world with relative grips on their sanity and safety.
So while those communities are being developed and are being incredible resources and incredibly
empowering which I want to distinguish from actual power I absolutely recognize those benefits and
Im happy for people who have access to these spaces and conversations and can more freely speak
their truths and learn from each other.
This is relevant to, you know, anyone from young people connecting over shared experiences on
mental health communities, on Tumblr or other blogging platforms, or the fact that the establishment
media is no longer shielded from the necessary critiques that people outside of it can offer and how
so much of whats described as Twitter backlash is really the resistance to the historical and still
currently ongoing erasure of voices and discourses and essentially colonial perspectives on culture
writing so Im absolutely optimistic about what it means for media and publishing that a lot of
typically marginalized voices are able to speak out and speak to establishment media and to each
other and theres a great deal of power in the affirmations that that enables and allows.
While all of that is happening, all of the, you know, the visibility that follows those critiques or the
types of thinkers and writers that gain attention arentdont have then the access to actual capital
versus the social capital that their visibility on social web may accrue for them, and its also
important to distinguish visibility from, you know, the fact that what it can oftentimes really produce
is the same socialsame vulnerabilities that their social position, the rest of the world had for them.
So a lot of the writers of color, young thinkers, black women, trans individuals who are creating
content for these corporations, they dont own what theyre putting out there. Theyre entirely
subject to the corporate ownership of those platforms, and theyre also vulnerable to what thatto
all of the harms that that visibility can bring them, whether its routine harassment, a lot of, you
know, whats calledwhats attributed to Twitter or something unique to these individual platforms
is really just the misogyny and racism that exists elsewhere anyway, and the way that those patterns
of oppression replicate themselves, its the same sense of entitlements to the ideas and labor and
bodies and images of people of color and of women only now its on these platforms instead.
And so theres the micro-level of you know, individuals who are then subject to something thats as
unfortunately routine as harassment to being stalked online, from online to their real-world lives,
having their addresses revealed and released, having their pictures taken and circulated without
their consent. These patterns then alsoand those vulnerabilities are also present for anyone trying
to produce independent alternative projects, and what Im seeing with the rise of a different form of
digital DIY culture is the foreclosure of indie culture and that means that sure, it may seem exciting to
have a website that you describe as a magazine, or to kick start a project or to, you know, connect
potential audiences or consumers to the thing that you want to put out into the world, you dontno
longer need the same skillset, you dont need to be a coder, you dont need to be a manufacturer, you
can just use the apps and websites that are now designed to do that for you, to fill those gaps, right?
But that, I mean for New Inquiry, thats not that. We when we first started didnt need our own
payment processing system, Amazon payments existed and that meant complete vulnerability to the

whims of Amazon and the potential that the minute that they decide to no longer offer the service
that our project is built on, we would be dead in the water, and it was only narrowly that we escaped
that reality recently because when I became editor in chief one of the first things I wanted to do was
get away from Amazon and it just so happened that they did in fact decide to end the service that we
were using and we just barely in the nick of time were able to transition to something else.
But there is no real solution to that vulnerability because as anticorporate as you may want to be, you
may be forced to engage in the corporations that are now the intermediators between your
production, your creation, and your audiences and you can see that across social web and so as much
as social web has motivated, propelled real shifts in media and publishing, its producing new kinds
of cooptions and oppressions. So one of the things you may be familiar of is the way Facebook treats
its users and when I talk about community I think about what it means for people to get together
online the most basic sense of the word and what community means to the people that own the
platforms that everyone is getting together at, right?
So capital-c Community means something very different are than Twitter, Facebook, publications like
BuzzFeed or means something very different to them than it does to the people getting to know each
other on these platforms. And the behavior that thatthats encouraged the ideology that gets
subsequently produced, theres a very friction-full exchange there. Its not asI mean people who
are on Facebook arent there with the assumption that theyre you know passive participants in the
maze that this corporation, the lab rats in this corporations maze but increasingly the way Facebook
talks about its users is just that, its a sense that these people can fit into the algorithms we produce
as much as the numbers Facebook uses to produce its algorithms.
And the fact that what you see on your timelines is something that Facebook designs, so for a
publication thats sharing articles, Facebook at its own whims decides what gets promoted, what gets
seen in peoples newsfeed, what doesnt based on the words that theyre into that day and the
number of likes and shares on Facebook have less to do with perhaps that piece of content than the
way that Facebook has decided its going to be presented to you.
Theres slightly different pattern of that same social control that happens on platforms like Twitter
and Tumblr. These spaces were increasingly just shortening the gap between, you know, the cultural
production of cool by the alternative and its cooptation by corporations, and essentially at ever-
increasing rates, teaching corporations to be more efficient at advertising to us, because were with
our communities being so public, inviting them to take even more detailed essentially, you know,
snapshots of the ways in which people are making their community and mimic those patterns in
order to better advertise to us.
So you see on Tumblr promoted posts being designed to look like any other Tumblr post but they
inevitably stand out quite starkly because the language and image style that theyre relying on is one
that was produced and people are familiar with because they made it themselves with references
that are relevant to their own community and its very, very obvious when someone whos not part of
your community tries to do that, thinking of all the slang generated by you know, black teens on Vine
that way way later will eventually move to white and nonblack communities and then a Dennys
Twitter account telling you that their pancakes are on fleek.
So what is cool and not cool has become markedly accelerated and that cooption is not whats
interesting. Advertisers being corny because theyre a day late and a dollar short is only interesting
because its good for a laugh. What is interesting is that within the surveillance state, that
acceleration reveals the relationship that these platforms, which we always forget are just actually
corporations, are you know, mistaken for these bastions of democracy.

When the social web was first blowing up and places that couldnt really be described as digital
natives, places like CNN and other media outlets were quickly trying to catch up investing so many
resources and having, you know, robust online presence, and the subject of community engagement,
you know, became an entire department that media outlets have, what is interesting about that is all
of the voices that make these spaces vibrant and interesting and worth being on, because theyre
offering commentary you wont get elsewhere because theyre breaking news on the ground, that
other outlets are slowly struggling to get at.
At the end of the day, theyre only moretheyre only producing for free all of the methods that
places that have always had money and always had reach and resources are able to use and I think
this is more insidious than simple cooption because the Internet is supposed to be a force thats more
democratic, supposed to be a force that produces more connectivity and community, who is it
ultimately connecting?
And visibility in a surveillance state is not power, and all of the historical vulnerabilities that have
existed for marginalized voices are simply migrating onto digital spaces and all of the exciting and
vital work that people are doing to make their lives a little easier to bypass or life hack all of the
deficiency in you know, their workplaces or classrooms or day to day experiences by connecting or
communicating with each other exist in an ecosystem thats primed for their continued exploitation,
that remains in many ways hostile to them, the misogyny that a female academic might encounter at
a publication or within our department at school is easily replicated by misogyny you encounter in
your Twitter mentions or in the comments section of something you write.
The entitlement to the emotional intellectual labor of people of color that exists in establishment
media and academia is easily replicated by the entitlement exercised over these peoples work
online, and all of the places that we were meant to subvert by being online, by bypassing traditional,
you know, paths that were barred from us by being able to avoid and then eventually make irrelevant
gatekeepers to genres like cultural criticism, those gains have to be seen in light of the fact that all of
this exciting interesting work, whether its done, you know, whether it falls within the category of
cultural criticism, or as I was referencing earlier, communities dedicated to helping each other live a
little bit more honestly in their public realms, or connect over subjects that would be taboo in their
day to day, you know, theyin theyou know, in the long game, these are communities that Im still
really concerned about.
Because all of what can be seen as empowerment, people finally being able to speak and speak to
each other and say what needs to be said, I think a lot of whats called empowerment on the Internet
is referring to stories, sharing stories of their own lives and of each others and being able to just
simply speak. That has not, and I dont see it under existing conditions, translate to actual power.
These are still interactions mediated by corporations. Those corporations and who runs them is still
fundamentally the same asyou know it looks just like power has always looked in this country,
very white, very male, and very removed from all of the communities and people, people of color,
LGTBQ individuals that participate on these platforms, so as much as Ive appreciated the past few
years of all of the rest of us getting to speak and getting to be heard, which is a relatively recent and
exciting development, we havent reached power that is trulythat can truly compete with historical
power structures.
And seeing the same patterns of erasure, violence, entitlement, that exist offline be easily adaptable
and have evolved to online spaces and to see that these communities, whether its someone bullied
by members outside their communities, whether its, you know, TCOT activists trying to search your
address and circulating your pictures because youre a Muslim thats going to bring down America,
which is something that any Muslim who tweets online will hear at some point in their life, thats
something that we havent yet found a way to evolve, and so all of the words that I found being used
to describe this moment in time, and even use myself, things like this is empowering, this is exciting,
or for movements like Arab spring or for movements like black lives matter, have to be understood

within the fact that ultimately these quote-unquote content creators, whether its a makeup reviewer
that you know has an audience of millions online or a Twitter user with thousands and thousand of
followers and has huge reach, they dont own what they put out there, because were all just running
for free these platforms and these are at the end of the day corporations and I think the
understanding of the social web as less an organic and natural digital space that were all getting
together and sort of holding hands around the fire which is kind of the sense for typically
marginalized communities, and the world that these communities have been able to generate, theres
no ownership, theres only again, free labor, and for me, thats not new, and thats not encouraging.
And thats what I hope conferences like this, and the conversations that have thus far been brought to
the fore are able to effectively recognize and intervene in. Otherwise, everything thats exciting about
now is, you know, in a few years, going to seem like a lot of applause for very little gain, for the same
old. Thank you.

Alexander Provan, Triple Canopy
So Im just going to jump right into this without describing Triple Canopy very much, but I will mostly
speak about Triple Canopy, which is a magazine based mostly in New York as well as a few other
places around the world which does various activities all of which we understand as publication in
which we argue should be understood by others as publication.
So whenI also was going to have a more linear presentation that reflected directly on these images,
but I canned that, so Im just going to occasionally scroll through them and I they may or may not
relate directly to what Im saying. So when Triple Canopy first formed in 2007, we the editors were
motivated by the increasing characterization of the Internet as a venue for the unremitting
production of content and by the corresponding feeling among magazines and art institutions that
they somehow had to participate in this production. That they had to solicit interactions, pursue
accessibility, conjure a virtual body of enthusiasts, while also preserving their financial models.
At the same time we were frustrated with the frequent valorization of online forums or social
networks or publications that seemed designed to generate fleeting or inflammatory interactions
among users who gathered because they shared interests or hobbies or political affiliations or
supposedly identities. Were those really communities and not just marketing ploys? If they were
communities, were they to be lauded, mimicked? Should magazines strive to create such
communities or perhaps they could simply be found if you knew where to look. How many unique
page views and what kind of bounce rate makes for a legitimate community? Perhaps we were
anomalous, but as far as I remember none of us considered ourselves to be part of any online
community. I dont think we were interested in creating one, really. In fact we wanted to argue
against the fragmentation of culture, its branded platforms with particular breeds of content likely to
appeal to narrowly and quantitatively defined groups. On the most basic level we wanted to establish
a magazine that would through its rigorous editing, its Catholic interests and its considered
presentation of work address people as sophisticated and unpredictable readers who could not so
easily be classified by profession, age, locale political orientation, ethnicity or consumption patterns.
We wanted to create a space where readers as well as contributing artists and writers could expect to
have absorbing, rewarding, stimulating and even profound experiences that would not soon be
forgotten. This was probably a bit of a fantasy. Or at least this idealism may belie our actual
readership in the intervening years. Nevertheless, I think this agenda speaks to Triple Canopys
orientation. Toward technology and the discourse around it to our concern to how we can create
culture and meaningful bodies of knowledge in what is increasingly a resistant efficient
particularized world.

Culture is also something personal, John Dewey writes in Democracy and Education. It is
cultivation with respect to the appreciation of ideas and art and broad human interests. When
efficiency is identified with the narrow range of acts instead of with the spirit and meaning of
activity, culture is opposed to efficiency.
Dewey saw in the early 20th century an atomization of experience into separate institutions with
diverse and independent purposes and methods. Business is business, science is science, art is art,
politics is politics, social intercourse is social intercourse.
His description of the conflation of culture and efficiency seems twice as true today.
As the line between the Internet and real life disappears, as our consciousnesses are molded if not
overtaken by our screens, we want Triple Canopy to serve as an alternative to tech world fantasies
about crowd sourced knowledge production, an algorithmic cultural creation to a star system
cultural economy that pays a few people a lot and a lot of people little or nothing, and to ossify
cultural institutions that neutralize everything that they survey. We want to support work that
resists and expands to the present and keeps supporting it until it finds its place in the world which
may take years.
We want to keep enlarging our sense of what Dewey called the unity or integrity of experience and
we want to engage the world at our own speed. This leads me back to the question of for whom a
magazine might exist especially a magazine that operates primarily online and so can theoretically be
for everyone and just as easily for no one. Ill talk about this in rather reductive terms, community on
one side and public on the other side and I wont attempt to define community. Maybe we can fail to
do that later. But IllIll briefly distinguish between community and public and explain why but its
helpful to think of Triple Canopys work in terms of public and not community.
So obviously a community may may be foundational to or may arise from the activities of a magazine.
Thats certainly the case with Triple Canopy, but our motivation has not primarily been to support or
dramatically enlarge the community that birthed the magazine and it has for the last almost ten years
sustained it. This has to do with what I said about the atomization of culture and the way in which the
digital economy has come to understand and profit from individuals as quantities of relatable data
points. It also has to do with the way the world community is used. So often used to identify
voluntary non-economic unequivocally good activities rooted in empathy kindness selflessness in
blogging and so often fallaciously. Since we dont have that much time Im just going to continue by
reading an excerpt from an excellent book on the subject. Its Miranda Josephs Against the Romance
of Community.
She writes, What I call the discourse of community, positions community as the defining other of
modernity, of capitalism. This discourse includes a romantic narrative of community as prior in time
to society, locating community in a long lost past for which we yearn nostalgically from our current
fallen state of alienation, bureaucratization, rationality, it distinguishes community from society
spatially as local, involving face to face relations where capital is global and faceless. Community is all
about boundaries between us and them. Boundaries that are naturalized through reference to place
or race or culture or identity. While capital would seem to denature, crossing all borders and making
everything, everyone equivalent. Further this discourse contrasts community to modern capitalist
society structurally. The foundation of community is supposed to be values, while capitalist society is
based only on value (economic value). Community is posited as particular where capitalism is
abstract. Posited as its other, its opposite. Community is often presented as a complement to
capitalism, balancing and humanizing it, even in fact enabling it.
Thats the end of the quote.

The sound that happens when quotes end.


Thanks for that.
None of this is to discounter communities as they actually exist or to discount the power they can
exercise. But it is to encourage wariness of the use of this term, especially I think when it pertains to
the digital economy, which describes a particular kind of value to our expressions and interactions.
Alternatively I want to talk about how a magazine can, through the presentation of work, through
various modes of address and circulation, constitute a public.
For a long time, Triple Canopy has looked for the work of historian Michael Warner, specifically his
book Publics and Counterpublics. Warner draws on Jurgen Habermass analysis of the bourgeois
public sphere but he works to figure out how Habermass model which is built on the universal value
of rational discourse and so widely and rightly criticized can be tweaked so as to allow for a public
sphere thats composed of numerous publics, not a single hegemonic one. To that end, Warner
describes counterpublics as being formed in opposition to the dominant discourse and the norms it
tries to instill.
Publication is a particular form of making public, a discreet set of practices. Not every radio
broadcaster, blog post, exhibition, or pamphlet counts as publication. We can think of to make
public, not just as making something public but as making a public. Which is more complex than
simply making information available.
Temporality is crucial here. A magazine can organize time through the regular delivery of articles and
issues. As Warner writes, A public is understood to be an ongoing space of encounter for discourse.
No texts themselves create publics, but the concatenation of texts through time. Only when a
previously existing discourse can be supposed, and when a responding discourse can be postulated,
can a text address a public. So and maybe its a little idealistic to think that a publication can literally
organize time and situate a reader within that certain notion of time, but this is more or less what
Warner suggests and he also suggests that a reader will recognize ones self as inhabiting that time at
the same time as however many other readers may exist.
So how else is a public formed according to Warner? A public is self-reflexive. People recognize
themselves as being part of a public when addressed as such by a text. Which is to say a public is
form of discourse. A public is composed essentially of strangers who choose to join one another
through discourse. A public can just as well enable one to recognize one self as not being addressed
and so as not being part of it which may lead to the generation of what he calls counterpublics. A
public is made by capturing peoples attention and doing so repeatedly, regularly via the circulation
of texts through time and the expectation that this will continue to happen. Different publications,
whether academic journals or Reddit forums possess different temporalities. Ultimately I think a
public provides a forum for the social world in which it exists through time, through media, and
through this kind of mutual recognition.
This may seem like a rather abstract idea, but I think for Triple Canopy at least it has actually
animated and on a daily basis shaped the work that we do. And it compels us when conceiving of a
publishing platform to ask questions like, how can the platform, the structures and concepts of
publication, support the tools we use and support the people who use them?
How can the website hold activities on the web in print and in person, hold them together and
communicate how they relate? Can an issue of a magazine reasonably include a book, an installation
a single image, an artists edition and a reported essay? Can multiple issues occur simultaneously or
one for a month and one for a year and is the magazine issue the best metaphor for a coherent set of
inquiries in whatever form that starts at some point and eventually ends? How can a magazine

effectively annex various kinds of communication networks and face to face interactions and bodily
experiences for and as publication?
And can a magazine shape a public and resultantly shape our social world?
So this isthese are images of a recent project we did, which is emblematic in a way. Its called
pointing machines, and it wasit began with a long period of research and discussion among the
editors, and was initially instantiated as an installation at the Whitney Biennial and these are some
images from the various paintings and prints and objects that were included in that installation. The
issue hinged on the historic and contemporary reproduction of images and artworks and the various
kinds of audiences and meaning they can attain, through painting, through photography, through 3D
printing, through publication, through Zazzle and so on, and that body of research and that initial
instantiation of the project was used as a prompt to write other writers and artists and scholars and
performers to contribute to the issue over time and then the results of that issue which is still
ongoing are on our website.
And I will stop there. Thanks.

Brian Kuan Wood, e-flux journal
I thought to talk to you today about the latest project that were working on at e-flux journal, which is
a project for the Venice Biennale, a kind of massive four-month publishing project, but its calledits
coming up here. Its called Supercommunity, and of course I thought, like, OK, theres something like I
want to talk about it, I want to show this to you, but then like something about it seems a little bit too
right, you know, to be talking about Supercommunity at the community and connectivity panel at
Superscript, like something is corresponding a little bit too much, so maybe its meant to be.
So Ill start by with just a brief introduction of e-flux journal. We basically startedsorry, Im just
checking the Internet here. Im checking my email. So e-flux journal started in 2008, its a monthly
journal edited by myself and Julieta Aranda and Anton Vidokle. And it started really as an attempt a
kind ofyeah, a kind of really almost desperate experiment in trying to find a way of creating a
discourse or a collection of writing or a kind of language that could address a certain kind of global
spread, that has happened in maybe like the last 10 to 15 years in art, where we basically take for
granted that the community of the discourse of art now takes place basically in most places of the
world. Right?
And so if you take this for granted, though, it really starts to shift the foundations of what you
consider to be an artistic canon or what you consider art history, because in many places in the
world, artists who are working, they have a kind of relationship with art history and what is often
conceptualism, often a history that is based in certain capital cities in the west. A certain relationship
with a canon which, you know, is a little bit too close and a little bit too far, right, where they know
the history, maybe better than many artists working in New York, but then also feel a bit distant from
it, where like the history doesnt actually apply to them, so its like its not your history.
Its a very common post-colonial condition which is installed into the working conditions of many
many artists today. So then how do you create a certain kind of discourse which has a certain kind of
amnesia, which has a certainly kind of visceral directness, right, which also is reflective, and how do
youhow do you to create something that does justice to this new kind of community in art that we
take for granted?

So this was the kind of idea that we had in starting the journal in 2008, and so and since then, yeah,
we startedthere was a PDF version of the journal. Its the journal is basically ten issues a year, its
free, online, we made a PDF version, which is distributed to a network of distributors in different
parts of the world, who basically receive this PDF, and can print it and sell it at whatever they want,
so you know, they receive a PDF, they print it, they can sell it for 3 Euros, they can sell it for 300
Euros, they can give it out for free, its up to them because many people were asking for a printed
version. I dont know if these are kind of boring details about format, but you know, this is what
were working on.
Lately we started e-flux conversations because the journal has been sort just an online transposition
of a paper publication, right, where it just, you know where we are like a printed journal but it exists
also online. So there was very little dialogue, dialogue was usually taking place between people or
privately, so in the last year e-flux conversations became a kind of a, yeah, kind of a discussion
platform, a kind of discussion platform for dealing with a lot of these issues, the issues that we deal
with in the journal but in the discussion format. So this is kind of still new, its about five or six
months now and were trying to understand what this strange community of people who are really
kind of taking hold of e-flux conversations, what theyre actually, like what their character is, because
it turns out that actually, there are like really a lot of smart people out there with really a lot to say.
So it seems to attract a certain kind ofit does attract a lot of like, you know, flaming and this kind of
things that you see on YouTube, that theyre actually very substantial arguments but theyre short-
form micro arguments so its really something that Ive never seen online before so were kind of
listening and trying to see what happens. With this. And what the community tells us.
We also do a series of readers. TheI think its the 9th reader that we just came out, I think 4 months
ago, in collaboration with Sternberg Press, the last book is called The Internet Does Not Exist and this
is a kind of, you know, of course, the title is a kind of a provocation, but it has to do with a lot of the
things that weve been thinking about today. The Internet Does Not Exist, its a kind of like its a
collection of essays from that we published in most of which have been published in the journal, but
as a provocation, the editorial concept of it is really that the notions and the images and the figures
that we have for understanding what the Internet is, havetheyre really just not sufficient anymore,
right?
Like you can imagine some kind of information super highway, like this stuff doesnt really work
anymore and so at the same time, a lot of people think, that for example, if you want to understand
how the Internet functions or how the communities around the Internet function, how this kind of
communication function, you should maybe also good kind of like old school Marxists will say you
should look at the material base of the Internet, right, look at where the servers are and look at how
theyre connected and that will tell you whos in control and how the Internet works and its the State
Department and its the NSA, you know, U.S. Department of Defense, you know, all of this is kind of
true, but it also doesnt explain exactly what the Internet is actually doing to us, right?
What the Internet is doing to us, what its doing to our lives, to our economic lives, to our personal
lives, right, is actually something completely different, so this book sort of wants to depart from the
notion that actually the Internet is something which you have to describe through some kind of other
figures, right? So things like emotional blackmail and things like this, right? Labor extraction, right?
Like what are the figures that we can use to describe the Internet? But of course I mean it just
reminds me, there are also people who are doing really, really important work with the actual
infrastructure, artists. You have someone like Trevor Paglen who is actually looking for the undersea
cables, right, so we still think of actually the information super highway as a kind of abstract notion,
but then like someone like Trevor Paglen is actually diving down to find these undersea cables that
are stretching across the Atlantic ocean, for example, and he knows about like the actual US
submarine that actually goes and kind of kinks the cable to tap into it to monitor the

communications. So this stuff is of course really important, but its also something that is not a
dominant figure that we use to think about how the Internet functions.
So, yeah, so just to tell you a bit about the Supercommunity project, afterI mean basically weve
been thinking aboutweve been thinking about these things with e-flux journal for I guess 7 years
now, and a few months ago, without much advance notice, we got an invitation from the Venice
Biennale to participate as the journal in the biennial and we proposed to do a kind of four-month
daily publishing project as the 65th issue of e-flux journal and the concept of it is Supercommunity
and it deals with a kind of notion of community which haswhich a kind of notion of community
which is not something that we actually want, right, which is autonomous, like a warm
communitarian, it does not have the warm communitarianism that can cozy up mammal style like
everything is going to work it itself out.
Actually it turns out that weve had many mass revolutions, we have a lot of people connected to each
other and actually sometimes it works out it turns into some kind of new fascism, something that we
dont want and we didnt ask for. So this poses a real problem to sort of well intentioned artistic
standpoint, right, where you believe that your work or you are on the right side of the barricade and
the work youre doing is by its very nature improving the world and making the world a better place,
actually it seems that not only are you know, if you look at gentrification, not only are artists the
problem, if you look at something like climate change, humans are part of the problem.
So how do we look at these without being the heroic saviors, so it tries to think in these terms,
through, there are kind of short form, also quite cheerful text here considering the topic. Yeah, but
notions like corruption, cosmos, we have planetary computing, is the universe actually a gigantic
computer? We have Cosmos which is guest edited together with Boris Groy, Corruption together
with curator Natasha Ginwala, Apocalypsis together with Pedro Neves Marques, Political Shine on
surface reflection and bling as kind of a new ontology. The Art of Work, Art, The Social Common,
which is together with Raqs Media Collective, and the section on Cuba, which were doing here with
Coco Fusco.
So I thought I would basically finish by reading you the editorial that wethis is the cats. And Ill
conclude that with. And you can actually you can read along with me. No, please dont.
But with your eyes, please.
Having no body and no name is a small price to pay for being wild, for being free to move across
(some) countries, (some) political boundaries, (some) historical ideologies, and (some) economies. I
am the supercommunity, and you are only starting to recognize me. I grew out of something that
used to be humanity. Some have compared me to angry crowds in public squares; others compare me
to wind and atmosphere, or to software. Some say they have seen me moving through jet-lagged
artists and curators, or migrant laborers, or a lost cargo ship that left a trail of rubber ducks that will
wash up on the shores of the planet over the next 200 years. I convert care to cruelty, and cruelty
back to care. I convert political desires to economic flows and data, and then I convert them back
again. I convert revolutions to revelations. I dont want security, I want to leave, and then disperse
myself everywhere and all the time.
Im not worried about famine, drought, wifi dead zones, or historical grievances, because I already
stretch across the living and the dead. I can be cruel if that is whats needed. Historical pain is my
criteria for deciding the pricing of goods and services. Payback time is my favorite international
holiday, when things get boozy and a little bloody. Economies have tried to tap into me. Some
governments try to contain me, but I always start to leak. Social contracts try to teach me to behave,
but I dont want rights. I want fuel. And if you think you can know me, Ill give you such a strong dose
of political and economic instability that youll wish you never tried.

e-flux journal has been trying for years to give me a face and a name. The editors think they can see
me move in the trees of the Giardini. They think they can find the supercommunity in how plants
experience pain, how humans experience pain, how jellyfish talk to each other, how acacia trees warn
other acacias. They think they can see me in how the world talks to the world.
The editors think they can trace my footsteps by asking artists and thinkers to consider how the
supercommunity assembles through a growing series of themes that reflect the profoundly
contradictory scales of thinking that are currently altering the collective consciousness of
contemporary art, and by publishing these essays, statements, and prognoses in individual
installments over the course of the Venice Biennale.
For instance, they think some artists and writers from New Delhi can see how Ive always rendered
any social contract uneven and unequal. They think I increasingly use corruption as a vehicle for
getting around. They think I helped a bunch of Russians hack the Enlightenment to design spaceships
before the Communist Revolution. They think I extract labor from artists with false promises, when
all I want is for them to stop thinking so much about survival and focus on their work. They think
Cuban artists know something I dont know. They think I build infrastructure out of surface gloss and
lighting effects. They think I mash physics with universalism to build a gigantic computer.
The supercommunity loves a miniaturized version of the world as an idea. From human
understanding the supercommunity harvests protocols for the mobilization of goods, services, and
ideas we didnt ask for: it moves a lot of things around, but never forward. The supercommunity
wants a maximal version of the world that floats any governing idea so long as it never governs.
I grow larger and healthier when forms of international solidarity are stripped of their progressive
promise, and when those solidaries are put to work munching up real estate or vying for control of
towns and villages. I am the alphanumeric calculation of visitor numbers and the force that floats
those figures to source outside infrastructure for the next iteration of the fair. I make language into
everything and nothing at the same time. I can sort you faster than you can recognize your own
image in the mirror. And in fact, I will replace your image in every mirror.
Think of it this way. I need to attend international exhibitions to update the methods I use to sort the
communities of the world. The world is not yet in alignment with its own communitarian desires.
There are certain areas where resources have pooled precisely because those resources cannot be
used. They function like banks in which the money is safe because it cant be spent, because in many
cases the knowledge, content, talent, human minds, or natural resources moved away a generation or
three ago.
The supercommunity sources internationalist good intentions to match those resources to the talent
that floated awayto seek refuge in another country, another national pavilion, a yacht moored in
Riva Dei Sette Martiri, an artists incessant doubts, or an exhibition boycott. The supercommunity
discovers the places where these errant resources hang in limbo, and patches them back into the
venues where they didnt know they always belonged.
This is what makes me bigger than any political demand you ever thought you had. I have a lot of
work to do for the Biennale. I have a lot of work invested in the Biennale. Dont bother with choosing
me or not choosing me to represent you. I am the supercommunity, and you are only starting to
recognize me.

PANEL DISCUSSION:
Connectivity and Community

Claudia La Rocco: So as Alex suggested were going to start with failure. We thought wed start with
a discussion of terminology. Last night at dinner and as I think all of our talks reflected, we all have
varying degrees of ambivalence about the language assigned to our panel, the phrase one of you
uttered the phrase being against a language of metrics and boosterism. So we thought wed start with
some words, community, connectivity, responsiveness, value, what are the politics of these words?
Are they adequate? Are there better alternatives and do they create a false consensus? Have at.

Ayesha Siddiqi: I mean I think certainly for the corporations with departments dedicated to so-
called community engagement, the issue false consensus is very, very real and relevant to them but
theres also so many people using the Internet for whom community is a word that is newly available
to them, describes a very novel experience, because theyre able to find peers where they didnt
elsewhere and the ability to transcend geographical and even although not to the same extent
economic barriers towards connecting with each other.
I mean think of say, you know, members of diaspora, first generation immigrants, the queer kid in a
very conservative high school, these are people for whom the Internet has been remarkable in terms
of giving access to community, communities that are in the process of being built. But again, as I
mentioned before, thats a conversation that cant be divorced from the existing and you know,
definitions of community that were all sort of grappling with and what they mean to different
people.

Alex Provan: And I didnt mean to demean the genuine feeling of connecting with others in a
togetherness that we associate with community, and I mean I thinkI wish there were another word
to use as a substitute, but I meant mostly to differentiate community as a discursive construct that is
often used quite imprecisely if not irresponsibly, and thatthat is of course not the same thing as the
kind ofthe feeling of community that youre describing.
And I guess what I mean and what this book I mentioned speaks about, I mean its a kind of
anthropology of community, one thatthe most extensive study in book is of a queer theater
organization in San Francisco and shes primarily interested how this discourse around community
shuts down and creates certain kinds of exclusion which are generally concealed in our usage of the
term.

Brian Kuan Wood: Yeah, it seems that the kind of bad-faith use of these terms has, even though on
the one hand one can criticize that theyre being used disingenuously, but at then at the same time it
seems to be a lot more interesting to start to see them as being completely structural, right, that these
are actually the protocols that we arethat we can only be following. This is like something that we
were thinking about with thewith like the Politics of Shine issue in January and then in the part in
the Supercommunity issue, where advertisement and like a projection of purpose and advertisement
of what the community is or could be, this is the onlyis the only way to actually exist, right, like the
opposite of, you know, inflating yourself or seeming bigger than you are, trying to market yourself
the opposite of this is like some kind of obsolescence or this is at least how its felt that we will just
simply disappear if you dont kind of project your image forward.
And the question is, really, like what kind of like strange communal dystopia does that contribute to?
I mean with this I always thinkI me I think its also very important to approach these questions on
many different scales where also there is a strange kind of parity between the way like that marginal

groups operate and the way that if you go up to higher echelons of power, that the way that actually
power functions, like marginal practices are being used on, like, on vastly different scales and I
always think of this
La Rocco: Can you give an example?
Wood: Yeah. And I always think of this Dutch like brilliant Dutch designers, Metahaven, who are
great researchers and always kind of stumble upon these extremely large scale phenomena, like they
did a text on state branding where they basically beautiful formulation where they said, actually,
mostits like also has to do with the question of the state we were talking about yesterday, like
basically if you look at tourism advertising for like Greece or Spain or something, everyone knows the
logo for Espana, like a circular thing, like you have it embedded in your mind, right? But these are
actually more recognizable to us than national flags, so I remember who can remember the Spanish
flag? Like I kind of can, but I can really remember the tourism logo, right, so this kind of marketing,
this kind of marketization, it has such powerful effects that we somehow have to find ways to take it
very seriously.
Siddiqi: You just said a few things like one that marketization of borders, right, has implications for
the ways that communities are policed because then it relates to the way that those borders are able
to be cooperated and replicated and re-instituted by places with a great deal of more power what you
said about the inadequacy of the term community and the necessity for perhaps needing new
vocabulary to address the different types of community at work, I think it might be productive to
compare the word community to the word public, the various sorts of public settings.
At dinner last night that was one of the things we talked with was the ability to to be in a moment
which we have ever-increasing public and more dialogue, whether its a culture of TV criticism in the
age of shows like Mad Men or Breaking Bad or the ability for marginalized voices to sufficiently
antagonize the racism or the misogyny of establishment media and while theres an idea of an ever-
increasingly active public sphere with ever-decreasing amounts of power, so a really active public
sphere that has no power.
Provan: And this relates to what you were saying about visibility in a surveillance state, right?
However much agency and presence you might have within the public sphere, that mightthat could
very easily have no political effect or no possibility of achieving any political effect. Theres not a
direct influence.
Siddiqi: Well, it was positive political effect, because theyre certainly seeing policies beingthat
were produced with respect to the political effects of these online engagements, so the ability of I
mean state agents have always been able to, and have to infiltrate various political organizations, but
Im thinking of all the cases that a Facebook status has led to the harass and detention of people, so
whether it was recently a black man who expressed dissatisfaction with the police on Facebook and
it was perceived to be an active threat against a cop and he was charged or the student in England
whowhose academic research at a university on terrorism was interpreted to be, you know,
researchers becoming a terrorist and he was put in jail and those are not uncommon.
There have been a lot of people whove you know, been met with significant, like, you know, state,
political repercussions for the things that they have expressed or shared online and the ways in
which those expressions can be used as evidence against them and so thats just one of the ways in
which the social position of anyone is replicated on theirwithin their online presence and its
stillwe are not escaping the policing that state does, and were not escaping the borders and
cooption that corporations always practice on us when we do what were doing differently online.

La Rocco: And I also think that theres this incredible dislocation, right? The differences between
how we use these technologies and then how we view how others are using them. I think of, you
know, all of the incredible and ferocious shaming of people whove said things, you know, that have
met with disapproval on various social media and this idea of how can anybody do this, you know,
how could anybody be so stupid as to do this, but of course were doing this all the time, and theres
this way in whichyou know weve been talking about various speeds and what are the speeds at
which we want to exist, and one of the things that occurs to as being related to that is thetheres a
way in which the ability to improvise is being completely leached out of our culture, because
everything is so quickly, both set in stone and decontextualized.
We were just saying that right after our talks its fascinating to look through Twitter and see all of the
ways that weve all been misquoted or taken out of context and that thats immediately but thats
something of course that we also do all the time to other people, so theres this idea we think of the,
you know, the state and the corporation as an abstract and an other, but its as you were saying its
absolutely us. We are the appalling supercommunity.
Wood: Yeah, I mean with this this seems to come also, it seems to come with like a profound
dislocation of notions of public and private that used to be quite clear, where we dont really know
the difference anymore betweenyeah, I mean also on different scales, between like also on private
feelings and between interior feelings and outside world, almost like some kind ofyeah, almost like
in like a Russian novel or something, where you have a hard time distinguishing between grand
narrative and personal and private emotions but then also just economically or politically public
sphere and private sphere are intermingled to the point where it becomes very hard to sustain this
moral division between public good or you know, private self-benefit. And in a way its kind ofit
can be almost like liberating to just kind of like, you know, chuck these notion, because theyre really,
if you look at how most publics were constructed formally, it really came from the state, right?
Publics are usually confined by nation, and theyre usually subsidized by states, and you know, I
mean.
Provan: I think publication and circulation of media has a lot to do with that. I mean, not to go back
to Michael Warner, but he has another book called Letters of the Republic which is all about the
formation of an American national identity, not through coercion of the state, not through, you know,
some sort of false consensus, but rather through the development of communication networks, and
through various documents and publications through which people could recognize each other as
readers and therefore as part of a public, which, you know, in certain ways preceded the constitution
of a nation.
Wood: Right, right, Michael Warner is really important for this as a queer theorist, right, because
queer theory, hes writing about counterpublics, because as I remember in the essay, at least it is
actually antagonizing and working against a public consensus, so in a way, like queer thought is so
interesting for always having trouble with the cleanliness of the division, if you want to for example
even just in queer politics, like if you want to bring the queer community above water, you just
equalize gay marriage and then you have taxpayers and everybody can be a nuclear family like in the
Jetsons or Leave It To Beaver style.
Provan: Are we entering the Jetsons period finally?
Wood: Maybe Jetsons is a bad example. Its a really important debate within the queer community,
like, are we supposed to actuallylike are we supposed to actually be, do we want to be accepted
and normalized under these terms? Wasnt there actually something about deviant practices and
there was something to be defended in being marginal. Maybe we dont want to be a part of the
public in these terms. Maybe we want to have our private culture.

Siddiqi: I mean what youre saying about the porousness of the membrane between public and
private, immediately for me provokes the questions of erasure and entitlement, because dissolution
between public and private and the way its carried out on the web, how many of you have seen
articles which are essentially a series of tweets captured and aggregated so this popularity of
aggregation as a form of content creation and publication to various outlets and there have been a
number of very well funded established media outlets that entire sections that are populated by
exclusively through aggregation, and of course what and who theyre aggregating is not something
that is compensated, it goes back into the patterns of the exploitation of the people who are newly
accessing public spaces, spaces in which theyre able to speak and participate.
But again its not on equal terms, it is again an exchange that is normalizing free labor and what
Iveyou know, the way I see people talk about this use of, you know, to use a particular example of
tweets in this particular way, is its a bit unsettling, because you know, oftentimes youll hear the
argument, well, its publicly available. Its right there. You posted it so you must, you shouldnt be
surprised then when people then share it or take it outside of the, you know, to use the word the
community in which it was shared, so if youre having a conversation online with the community of
your choosing, that is not necessarily to say thatto welcome outsiders, people who are necessarily
not part of that community to come in and take what youre putting out there for their own ends and
purposes, and this has real consequences, because I mean the people who are aggregating that
material in those tweets are generating sites of revenue for themselves, those pages filled with the
uncompensated words of others are creating revenue through ad clicks for all of these outlets and
whichever outlet that may be, I mean
Provan: Huffington Post especially.
Siddiqi: Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, theres no one who hasnt been guilty of
doing this. But the argument Im repeating again is if its publicly visible, we are entitled to use it, I
mean its a bizarre like replication of rape culture logic of visibility meaning that if I can see it, Im
allowed to take it. And that to me is related to the question of borders of community and how theyre
maintained, how theyre policed and who gets to really own them and enact them.
So all of the people I secreting and establishing interesting, necessary, vital vibrant communities
online, the borders of their communities is not something that theyre able to exercise control over
and their exposure to not just violence and harassment from others, the but also exploitation in more
subtle, but perhaps no less violent ways, from people who are trolls, right? I mean thats another
word that gets used very often, but has a range of meanings of what constitutes trolling, because
thats a way of antagonizing communities.
La Rocco: And the question of context becomes so important. Thinking about performance pieces
that get replicated online. Theres been in recent years an explosion of technologies that can really go
a bit further in terms of capturing, you know, live performances and on the one hand this is great,
right, because these works can be disseminated and everybody can see them, and on the other hand,
you know, a lot of works, if you take them out of their very specific context of whos in the room, who
is the community that it is initially for, they become something else entirely.
I remember performers in a particular group being really upset that they had been recorded, and
they no longer own that image, right, and then the image gets, you know, edited and put up as a clip
on YouTube and it becomes pornography, because its the context is stripped away. And I think that
was awe were talking about this last night, right, the what is the sort of the tension between
wanting to control the work that youre making and then this, you know, this drive for dissemination
and for circulation.
Provan: And its especially easy to control it if nobody cares about it.

La Rocco: Yes.
Provan: Which is why most of us probably havent had so many problems in this regard.
Siddiqi: I mean I guess what were talking about I guess is the attention economy, right?
Wood: I always think of, I mean also with the public and private kind of thing, I always think of this
reformulation of the gated community, in terms of as a kind of productive principle for marginal
groups that Marjetica Potr, I think shes a Slovenian artist, she described the kind of model of the
gated community that was being used by marginal communities in the Amazon to resist the
corporate like resource extraction, and but she described it as this almost like a certain kind of like a
panopticon or something where on a very in a very basic way, you have your security is ensured
through like a one-waythrough one-way visibility, where you can control who enters. Like you can
leave and enter as you like, but you control who enters. So you can see out, but no one can see in. So it
becomes actually like a technology of opacity of protecting yourself and maintaining a certain kind of
amount of control over what you do.
La Rocco: I wonder how you each relate to that and with the particular, you know, publications and
organizations youre involved with, and yeah, just how you navigate.
Siddiqi: How we navigate what? Sorry?
La Rocco: Navigate, you know, the desire to control your work. If that is a desire, to have it correctly
contextualized with understanding that, you know, what the economy is that were in, and the, you
know, the need or the pressure to have everything be circulated, be disseminated.
Siddiqi: Right.
Provan: And thats been a big issue for kind of something that has an animated concern for Triple
Canopy. I think we started by looking at various magazines from the 60s and 70s, which were new
media projects at the time, Aspen was especially important to us, and like Aspen, for instance, was a
magazine in a box that was delivered to your door, and within that box, you could find foldable
sculptures, records, films, texts, and it was in some ways an exhibition packaged as a publication, and
it made a very convincing argument for an expanded notion of what the magazine could be and for
the various material supports that can constitute a magazine, and it alsoit also I think opened up
new relationships between authors and readers and publishers and editors, and not by coincidence,
Aspen commissioned Roland Barthes Death of the Author and published it in in the box with these
various media and to encounter that text now in a reprinted in a collection of essays is kind of
travesty.
But it has this additional force within that environment. So we started with this idea with a highly
regulated environment in which to encounter works of art and literature. And we, you know,
developed a platform which made it especially difficult tofor that work to travel elsewhere. You
couldnt print anything, the pages were organized horizontally, so to copy and paste an entire essay,
you would have to scroll from slide to slide to slide and go through the same manual operation many,
many times and generally people dont even have the attention to read something for more than two
minutes, much less to spend five minutes copying and pasting so that was an effective and somewhat
antagonistic move that you know, probably diminished our readership.
But you know, nevertheless, we havelike we care about developing an issue over a period of a year
and a half, and were very insistent on certain pieces responding to other pieces in certain ways,
whether or not that is how they will be encountered by the majority of readers, which is why it is
especially surprising when a project that we publish becomes extremely popular and starts to

circulate in an entirely different environment that we have no control over whatsoever. Which is not
to say that that is regrettable at all. It is just notat least initially it was not part of our calculus.
I was also curious how you thought about Performance Club about the kinds of discussions of live art
that ensue after the performance ends?
La Rocco: Yeah, well it used toI guess the initial iteration of the Performance Club existed in what I
didnt realize until yesterday it was was a golden age of comments on websites before they migrated
elsewhere. It was astounding to me how immediate the conversationhow immediately the
conversation began and how strong and thoughtful it was, and it was quiteit became very easy to
see that there was no community that I had created, right? It was just there already and it wanted, it
wanted a place to go to. And so I sort of got lucky with what I built.
Provan: But that also happens at a time when people are interested in these particularly vexing
questions about how to represent and preserve and circulate performance, and its not like you
establish this as receptacle for videos and increasingly realistic representations of an experience, of a
performance in the time and space, right?
La Rocco: I think when it comes to performance that Im a hopeless luddite and I just think you have
to be in the room. Its fine to watch a video but its not the thing. It may be the same way a PDF
printout of something you made. Its not the thing, right, its just a facsimile.
Provan: I think it also has to do with how you imagine something being received in five years, ten
years beings and maybe valuing that over its immediate reception.
La Rocco: And just thinking about the ways in which you know, the ways in which I understand
things that happened in the past performance, thinking about, you know, visual art and performance
in particular. Its through writers, you know, its throughunlessI mean most of the time you
know, I understand, you know, Marina Abramovics walk across the Great Wall because of Cindy Carr,
you know, and not because of the detritus that was at MoMA as part of her retrospective. And I think
the conversation around ideas within performance was always more interesting to me than you
know, one of the constant criticism of my criticism is that I dont give enough description, which I
also thought thatI was very happy with that criticism.
Wood: On the issue of distortion. Speaking as an editor its really terrifying to have things munched
up and changed into other things because you want a certain amount of control and precision. Like,
there is this, but then on the kind ofin terms of like the way that image and texts circulate online, I
think its something that in a way, at least for the journal, it was something that we never thought of
really so much formally or as something that happens formally or technologically, but maybe we kind
of preempted it by thinking of in terms of this kind of like global distribution of discourse, right? So
the distortion that we originally saw waswasnt so much likeit was like a kind of original
distortion.
Provan: The premise of distortion.
Wood: Yeah, in the actual foundation, like the canonical foundations that actually that has been
already scrambled, and so the question is like how to actually speak about art in a coherent way
granted that the shared references are already kind of so fragmented that automatic consensus cant
be taken for granted. Of course, this is a kind of, you know, this is not something that exists so much
in like in New York and in the US in general, of course, because the canon in this part of the world is
kind of subsidized by institutions and which strengthen the idea of this kind of clear lineage, and
progression, but this isbut in many place this has already been distorted and unrecognizably.
Mangled. Corrupted.

La Rocco: Herestheres a little bit of a belief that were not being positive enough. Our public.
Provan: You may have gotten the wrong panelists.
La Rocco: Yeah, sorry. Sorry, you guys.
Wood: This is positive.
Provan: This is just being here, being negative together is so positive.
Siddiqi: None of our critiques offer a rejection of anything. Its mostly inspired for an idea to have a
better status quo than the one were trying to address here now.
La Rocco: I guess I would ask thiswell, I mean its beautifully, the language is beautiful, the
sentiment is not beautiful, but you said that visibility in a surveillance state is not power and I
wonder if you wereeither of you two would have thoughts as to what is power and what does true
ownership look like? You know, is it possible? We are getting questions about the best web platforms
for creating community in a positive way
Wood: I think its really important as Ayesha was saying that yeah, suggesting which is like that even
though in spite of all of this distribution of agency, that thelike still and this is really, really
important, like still the centers of power are still really the same, like the police are the police and the
government is the government, right? And but then with this, I always think of this thing from 2010
that was kind of like a weird pilot project, maybe people might have heard of this in the UK that
David Cameron did called Big Society, which is kind of a strange thing for one of the conservatives to
do.
Provan: Theres no such thing as society.
Wood: But then you flip it.
Provan: There is such a thing as big society.
Wood: But then you flip it and you make it bigger, so now after his predecessors.
Provan: Zero times 100.
Wood: Yes, exactly that. There is no such thing as society, suddenly now there is, no, there is society
and theres a big one, but what was it? There is basically a kind of conversion of the functions of
government into a social network, it was like the welfare state turned into Facebook where you
know, rather than having schools and hospitals and these kind of like silly old-fashioned things, right,
you have the government functions as you know, where also the government has to give resources,
then you start to the government actually tried to kind of like roll back its role from a
supportingsomething that supports with resources and supports as a kind of like weird telephone
operator that basically patches people together, so it administers to like big website and it was a pilot
project, I dont think it was actually implemented but I think he was kind of testing the waters to see
how wacky things could possibly get with this where basically if you break your leg or something,
sprain ankle and I need a doctor, they will find you a doctor, where you say if I want to learn
something, I want to learn particle physics why, Big Society will find you someone in your
neighborhood who can teach you about particle physics, right.
La Rocco: That person always exists in ones neighborhood.

Wood: It so profoundly liquidate the traditional function of the state which is to administer and
manage like the resources of the people, it converts thatit converts that so profoundly that it
actually starts to become kind ofthats then thats Jetsons, and Manchester isnt getting any funding
from London and starts to scratch its head and says what is the contract that is holding us together if
no resources are changing hands.
La Rocco: It also assumes a certain privilege of who would be hooked into these networks to begin
with. I mean it made me think about something I heard about, you know, how in Detroit many people
have like ambulance plans like that if you were in an accident, that you have somebody that you call
to take you to the hospital, because the ambulances dont work, which is, you know, you can get a
you can get an $8 cup of coffee, but you cant get an ambulance.
Wood: Yeah, but these are basic life functions, also, that the state performs. They cant be deferred
toyou cant Facebook your ambulance, like, so then the why question is then how to like return to
ethical questions of how power is supposed to operate, when there are all ofwhen the terms have
changed so much, and where the terms have changed, but also the kind of the way that the ethics, the
way that the ethics have changed around them.
Siddiqi: I think the thing thats changing is what types of labor and the types of labor that are making
these platforms valuable, their interpretation, because I dont thinkI mean that lack of power that I
was referencing was actually a reproduction of the same social vulnerabilities that people experience
offline, right?
So when youre talking about public and private and racial entitlement, where power still is, and isnt,
I mean as much as these corporate platforms produce their own ideologies and condition certain
behavior, Facebook especially doing just straight out experiments on its users and trying to elicit
particular emotional responses and making various industries increasingly independent so its not
just your DIY project thats dependent on say Instagram censorship rules or say if WordPress decides
to shut down one day and the work that you may have been putting on there for years disappears,
etc., its also the sense of entitlement to ownership we also practice as individuals and who were
taught to expect to feel power over and so as much as different types of people are using these
platforms, they are not at all in the same boat and by this Im talking about neither obvious examples,
a woman online has a very different experience than a man.
A woman talking about American foreign policy and she is wearing a hijab in her avatar has a very
different experience online than anyone else. A lot of American foreign policy pundits who are white
and/or male, theyll have their name or something in their Twitter bio in Arabic script its like a
popular trend to do. And its so funny to see that when its such a like, you know, bullshit hipster
gesture, and all of the people for whom, I mean ofagain, like a person of colors experience online is
conditioned by being a person of color.
So as much as there is a new distribution of agency, the social vulnerabilities are the same, and the
storytelling and the ability to own narratives by producing them yourself from within your own
community for your own community, makes more salient the things that are going to make you a
target, and so your racial, national background, your sexual orientation, and so thats what, as much
as we call out the corporate seats of power, weits useful to also recognize the ways in which we
participate in those power dynamics, because again, we are also doing, that the entitlement we may
feel over the image ofyou know, I was thinking about this on the last podcast I recorded was about
this, the entitlement we feel over black images, right? So when you look at the trends of sharing
communicating via memes and GIFs and vine, right? So you are how many times has the reaction GIF
or the meme in that conversation been of a black entertainer, from say a reality show or a rapper?

And the particular entitlement of that culture product, you know, by everyone else, thats not really
new, thats part of a tradition in American culture, and is replicating like very longstanding historical
relationships towho the producer of culture are and who are the people that ultimately gain the
benefits of it. And just thinking about how much that entitlement to the way we use, you know, pop
cultural icons as personal avatars, the very grim juxtaposition of that to, you know, the country in
which thats the norm, we dont have a comparable ability to, you know, empathize with that black
pain. I mean if we did we wouldnt have as many police shootings as we do, right?
So its this, I think so many of the things that digital culture makes visible are existing facets of our
society and culture. And whats new now is our ability to more effectively intervene in them because
its not just a racist newspaper, right? Its us on Twitter. And I think in carrying that relationship to
the circulation of imagery and the ways that we talk about these things is just as useful as calling out
the, you know, ideologies and practice by the corporate platform owners.
La Rocco: Should we take questions.
Provan: Yeah, I mean maybe that we could talk briefly about something else, but Im just curious
about howhike, we could talk about the circulation of images and words in terms of how in a
concrete situation power might be exercised. I mean I think it might be useful to talk about what,
Olga was describing earlier in terms of the Tania Bruguera situation because its a very
straightforward metric for figuring whether or not anything that we do has anything to do with what
we can do with exercising power in a meaningful way. Of in this case we cant know what will happen
in the coming weeks and months, but that is, I think that to me is at least a more tangible, if not more
meaningful way of understanding what kind of power we might possess and whether its worth
anything.
Siddiqi: Well, I also want to use the same thing you did in your presentation, you made a really great
point about not treating community as alike to mean exclusively like positive. To have positive
connotations and I would want to do the same thing with power, right? Its not that these things dont
have power, its that they have a particular power and it may or may not be used for good.
So think of the Je Suis Charlie phenomenon and Charlie Hebdo and how that became and people
who were unaffiliated tweeting their alliance with an outlet that was producing commentary that
aligned with a longstanding active state agenda and the ways in which, you know, so manyso much
of the theater of solidarity and protest, that Je Suis Charlie and Charlie Hebdo and the response
produced to me, to me it very clear the through lines I think you alluded to before, between borders
of state and culture and marketing and I mean Im thinking that among the responses was all of these
various heads of state standing in solidarity with this racist publication and saying that the way
thatand the way that the stakes were, you know, incorrectly framed to be that of freedom of
speech.
Wood: Freedom of expression.
Siddiqi: Exactly who was advantaged in that conversation, because the participants spanned various
seats of power or lack thereof, but the actions were firmly within
Provan: Thats why I think its useful to talk about people organizing everything and speaking in
order to achieve a very specific end. Rather than in order to, you know, enrich a spectacle of
solidarity.

KEYNOTE:
James Bridle

Paul Schmelzer: In introducing todays keynote speaker, Id like to begin with a quote. The cloud
renders geography irrelevant. Until you realize that everything that matters, everything that means
you dont die is based, not only on which passport you possess, but also on a complex web of
definitions of what constitutes that passport. In the new battles over citizenship, those definitions are
constantly under attack.
Thats James Bridle, London-based artist, writing in his Walker Artist Op-Ed last July on how the
response to terrorism by some governments means the redefinition of the terms surrounding
citizenship, including in the UK and elsewhere, full deprivation of citizenship for individuals with
suspected links to terrorism. In the ten months since he wrote that, Bridle has continued his
examinations of the evolving nature of citizenship, and just yesterday he launched a new project that
continues exploring the relationship between citizenship and the cloud. Co-commissioned by The
Space and created for Southbank Centres Web We Want Festival, Citizen Ex, available at citizen-
ex.com, is software that allows you to see your algorithmic citizenship. That is, it shows you all the
places your browsing data passes through whenever you use the Internet. That is, countries
governed by laws, including some that might involve your dataand you dont know that youre
passing through those locales.
As the project website states, Citizen Ex calculates your algorithm citizenship based on where you go
online. Every site you visit counts as evidence of your affiliation with a particular place and added to
your constantly revised algorithmic citizenship. Because the Internet is everywhere, you can go
anywhere, but because the Internet is real, this also has consequences. Citizen Ex is a timely example
of the ways Bridles work, which encompasses art-making, criticism, and writing for outlets including
the Guardian, Wired, Domus and his own site, booktwo.org, engages with the contemporary. I use that
term deliberately.
At dinner last night with James, the term political art came up in relationship to his work, and its
not a term that he prefers to use, but you can see why people do. He has addressed through his
projects things like surveillance and technology all the way to the US Covert Drone Program. One of
his projects you may have heard of Dronestagram. It basically simulates a drones-eye view, pairing
Google Earth images of locations of verified drone strikes with news accounts on those kills. To my
mind its something of a disruptive technology, because its this place where the rest of us are putting
photos of our dinner, or kids, or our cats, or our parties, and here hes reminding us of what our
governments might be doing in these covert drone wars. He simply says hes responding to the world
around him and the one we live in through creative meansrather than dealing with political art. Its
just the world we live in, its his sensibility that he uses in approaching this world.
And thats what our next panel is about. Artists as Cultural First Responders is about how artists
are using the Internet and technology to respond to this moment through art, through writing,
through platforms of other publications and institutions. Im not sure thats all hes going to talk
about in his keynote because hes doing double duty: hell be on the following panel, and hes also
giving the keynote right now. I welcome him to our stage. Thank you.
James Bridle: Hi. Thank you very much for having me, thank you very much for that invitation, thank
you very much to the Walker for bringing me all the way here, its my first time at the Walker in
Minneapolis in Minnesota, and its wonderful. And thank you all very much indeed for being here. Im
not really gonna talk about any of that. Which is weird because its exactly what I came here to talk
about, but the last six months, year, Ive been really focusing on my own work, Im just making stuff
and putting it out there which Im very lucky enough to be able to do at this moment in time and I
havent actually been writing too much about it or actually engaging like with criticism outside my
own work, but Im both like a bit bored at giving like artist talks, even though I will do a bit of that,

and also kind of really wanted to respond to a lot of the stuff thats been discussed over the last 36
hours which means Ive basically been writing this on the fly. So it may be all over the place.
Its definitely going to be discursive at times Ive felt like Ive been live blogging the other speakers
who have been really excellent. I just dont want to repeat it. Thats just enough apologies now so Im
going to get on with it. Im heard as you heard a writer and a journalist and an artist and a number of
other things. I feel like Im mostly speaking as an artist because it gives you that permission to speak
about other things or to speak in a slightly different register but I want to talk to my colleagues in
criticism and journalism as well because I think were all in this together to use a to use a horribly
tory phrase. No, Im just going to shut up and talk.
Lets start with these. Has everybody seen these? Has anyone seen these? If you spend a lot of time on
Google Maps like I do, you may have encountered these things. They areyou will see them as
images. Theyre planes in flight. But theyre specifically captured in a particular way. I call them the
rainbow planes, and I found them as I was kind of hunting around Google Maps for various reasons
and then I kept finding more of them and then I started actively looking for them because I think they
are extraordinary, they are beautiful and strange and emblematic of Im not entirely sure what, or I
wasnt but they spoke to me in a certain kind of way so I figured you should just obsessively collect
them and keep talking to them and try and work out what on earth is going on here and it took a
while and it ended up getting to by various round about works work I was doing in satellite imaging
in other contexts and stuff but ended up getting there and what the rainbow plane is its an artifact of
satellite mapping. Its a glitch. But like all true glitches, its not just a mistake its kind of an
opportunity to look through into the underlying systems that produce this image, because it is a
glimpse intoits not a mistake, it is a fundamental result of the way in which this image is created
and constructed.
The rainbow plane iswhat happens is satellites dont have cameras on them, right? Were getting
increasingly used to satellite imagery, its kind of extraordinary, its kind of amazing, you can take out
your phone and scan through satellites and scan the entire earth s surface its kind of like having a
superpower but were not looking at photographs. What youre looking at here is an image thats
constructed out of data. Satellites have a sense about them that records radiation across the
electromagnetic spectrum and it extends beyond human version, as well. Theyre recording the
infrared and the ultraviolet. Theyre seeing in wider spectra than we are and they record red, green
and blue separately when they make these data images and when they reconstruct those images for
humans to be able to view them, they overlay the red green and blue and so occasionally you find in
these satellite images these artifacts which are produced by fast moving objects because the red,
green, and blue have been kind of stuttered by the fact that this plane is flying very, very fast indeed.
And so when this image is constructed, it leaves this extraordinary kind of rainbow. But in that, you
can see how the satellites see, right? Its a reconstruction of the world through the eyes of the
machines. Its a moment at which we can see how technology has a way of seeing the world.
But its also to me emblematic of something that were trying to learn from it. Something that the
network is kind of trying to teach us, which is a new way of saying alongside or through or within
those technologies. This is like John Berger again, right? We were there yesterday and I want to pick
up from where from what Ben Davis was saying about, because I think its really important we figure
out whats changed since these kind of statements were made.
Berger made these statements 40-odd years ago and even this, which is right there at the beginning
of Ways of Seeing. In Dziga Vertovs film called The Man with a Movie Camera was made 40 years
before that and hes already talking about this kind of machine vision. Hes already trying to
understand whats changed in this kind of human vision of the world and what it means for us and so
if weve got anything new to talk about here at a conference which is entitles Arts Journalism and
Criticism in a Digital Age, then the key to that has to be in the second half of the sentence, right?

It has to be changed whats changed in those 40 years. And Berger was talking about the eye a lot. But
I want to talk about networks and the difference in images that is produced not just in distribution
and assemblage but out of the way of construction and the way that construction is kind of shared
now amongst many of us. Ben asked the question yesterday about how many people have seen Ways
of Seeing. How many have read it? How many have seen the film? Thank you, and Bergers thing of
constantly looking deeply into paintings and seeing the details and stuff. So how many of you when
you go to the galleries, really peer at the surface paint? Thank you. How many of you have viewed
source on a web page? Thats a good number and how many people write code? Still, thats a good
number. Thats really good. Ill be honest that was better than I was hoping for. Its unfair that last
question Im biased towards it because I trained as a computer scientist its and kind of my default
position and theres a lot of noise at the moment to teaching everyone to code and as if it will
magically save the world.
Computer science in that sense breeds a certain myopia, I believe. It can be a useful myopia, it
teaches you to break the world down into structures and processes, into small discrete steps to make
them understandable. That kind of analysis is kind of useful to address other large and complex
systems that we may find ourselves embedded in, but Im not sure that teaching everyone to code is
the best solution. You shouldnt have to be a plumber in order to take a shit, right? You shouldnt
have to fully understand everything. But plumbers do have a general knowledge of management of
water resources which is knowledge that may perhaps be seen certainly useful to us as well and we
should possibly pay attention to those fields of knowledge.
I want to go into a little Bergeresque wonder. I want to introduce you to some friends of mine. I call
them the render ghosts. You know them, right? They live in the unbuilt buildings all over town,
youve seen them. Ive been really fascinated by these images, these renders, these constructions for
some time for the roles that they play in the world for the way theyre constructed and consumed.
For me theyve almost attained, particularly living in London was overrun with this stuff, theyve
basically become public art.
And Ive been kind of studying them and trying to learn their techniques and in particular Ive
become fascinated with the people in them, as well. You watch them long enough and you see these
same people going about their day and becoming familiar and theyre deeply weird, these images,
right? Theyre supposed to be the future, this place were going to inhabit, but theyre full of this very
odd juxtapositions and strangeness, like the potentially toxic plants which are going to fill up these
privatized public spaces. Theyve always got children playing in them because its supposed to be
about a the future, even though its a future that were never going to inhabit. And in fact theyre
never going to inhabit it, either. They have to move out as soon as the buildings get built. They live in
relationship to the future in just as precarious of a way as we do. And sometimes you can kind of
catch them looking back out at you. Sometimes kind of hopefully, sometimes slightly more fearfully,
you can even watch them despite everything, falling in love.
They spend a lot of time on balconies.
They really love their balconies and they like to party up there. And it seems to be very important to
them.
But a lot of the time these images are also as I had said deeply revealing about the world. This is one
of my favorite ones. This is just around the corner from my house in London where theyre happily
building a new chain of designer outlet stores in one of the less lubricous parts of London and this
render is overlaid on top of a real street and this gentleman on the mobile phone in the pin striped
shirt is added to the real image as are the German luxury cars and the 4 wheel drive in the
background and just in the background you can see an actual local slowly kind of being blurred out of
existence by the overlaying of this stuff.

They can also be quite strange and interestingly beautiful. This is an image by a visualization studio
called Picture Plane which have become friends of mine who have taken an incredibly detailed
approached to this, even in fact using for example the sky is from 18th Century landscape painting as
the background to their renders of these new housing developments in south London. The care and
attention they seem to put into these things, I wanted to work with them and I warranted to look at
ways in which this particular approach to image making could be possibly turned to other uses. I
worked with them to construct a series of spaces, and very specifically I wanted to look at spaces
which werent made visible in other ways. The Dronestagram project which you heard before was
very much a project taking an event, an occurrence, a thing that was going on in the covert drone war
for which images were not available and finding those images in another context and making them
available, to kind of fill in gaps in imaging when images are not provided in these circumstances, that
lacuna is often you know, very revealing about the nature of the event. But of course we have the
technology to address that now, we can intervene in that kind of image-making process.
I obtained planning documents from a number of sites that related to immigrant detention, judgment
and deportation in the UK. This is an airport outside London where people are deported in the
middle of the night. Its actually a private jet terminal, so in the middle of the day you have celebrities
and business people flying out and in the middle of the night they use it for deportation but its an
entirely private place and theres no way to take photos there but plans are available at your local
department office. This is the courtroom in central London where special immigration appeals are
heard. No photographs of this space are available, but its possible to sketch in there which is what
we did. And whats interesting to me is not just that its possible to recreate this image but its
actually possible to portray this architecture.
Whats interesting about particular court is its used for the provision of secret evidence. Secret
evidence is a provision under UK law where evidence can be provided to the court without the
defendant being allowed to know what evidence is being presented. A court-appointed mediator is
allowed to see the evidence, but the defendant nor the defense team are allowed access to it and this
form of secrecy takes a form in the courtroom itself. It solidifies as architecture because you have this
curtained-off witness box on one side, actually a partition here which allows security personnel to
watch the court without being visible from the public on the other side. So you have the
infrastructure and the architecture of the place, but that is also rendered invisible and made visible
to us by the technologies. Likewise you can represent various realities which we dont necessarily
have access to. And this representation is regularly denied by power. And this is that particular
airport at night. This is the detention center near HeathrowAirport where people are kept.
The thing thats also odd here I think that Im not representing the individual stories of detainees and
migrants themselves as important as though stories are, because what Im trying to address is the
kind of unaccountability and kind of ungraspable vastness of the system which produces this which
through me I have to talk about through architecture and infrastructure, because again, to me as a
scientist I see complex agglomerations of architecture and infrastructure and I see the laws and
social processes that produce them.
But through this kind of process of journalistic investigation, academic research, artistic impression
and the deployment of the new technologies, some possible way of seeing the world anew is made
possible.
Back to those figures, the render ghosts.
Who are they, where do they come from? Do they know theyve been kind of rendered into the
network in this way and digitized, distributed and spread around the world. I dont think they have,
and so I wanted to tell them. And find out. So through talking to architects a lot, I found these banks
of images. These are a sample sheet for one of these collections of imagery, in fact one of the very first
ones, because what I discovered was that for a long time there were only a couple sets of these

available. There was a particular set of a few hundred figures that had been shared around because of
all the Internet almost all practicing architects architecture studios and if you looked carefully you
saw the same people, like this suit guy recur endlessly and endlessly again around the streets and Id
see them also all over the world.
This is that same image set called business people. See the bloke in the white suit at the bottom.
Here he is visiting the Whitney. This was actually on the boards outside the museum and he looks
like hes about to throw himself off but hes waiting for it. I said, I wanted to know about these people
and ask them questions and understand what was going on. And so I set out to find them.
And theres a thing thatso I went to do some research about the origin of these images. This is
rendersearch.com which was not successful, I discovered that they were based in Albuquerque in
New Mexico, so I started running targeted Facebook ads against people who lived in this area, trying
to locate them this way. I was also trying to understand this company that produced them, because
they werent answering my calls which I thought was rude. They did once actually and then they
hung up on me. And so I went to Albuquerque, and there was no one at home, but I was there, so I
was running like more local newspaper ads, putting up signs, all this kind of thing. I really have no
idea what Im doing at this point, right? This is where the obsession with the network takes you is
you dive really deep into it and what happens then was that I actually met a guy at a bar as you do,
who turned out to be a local investigative journalist as you do, who had a load of state tax records on
his phone as he did, apparently and what he told me was that in fact this company had only formed in
the state subsequent to the release of the images and that they were not in fact from here at all and
thatas in fact, everyone in New Mexico had been telling me since I arrived, these people are not
from here, they dont look like New Mexicans theres something wrong in every way.
So I was in Albuquerque where Id never been before for this purpose and Id never seen that telly
show so I had no other kind of frame of reference to be here there. I was figuring out what to do so I
decided to take a couple of my favorite render ghosts on a road trip. We went out into the desert, and
I took them to Los Alamos which seemed like a sensible place to go if youre trying to understand the
Internet. Which is kind of essentially what I was trying to do, right? This is what a huge amount of
this kind of work has been about for me is that Im trying to build some kind of sensible and useful
model of the Internet that can I use, right? We had that mention of the cloud earlier. The cloud being
like this incredibly dangerous metaphor that kind of hides the operation of huge systems behind a
kind of veil of like you dont need to worry about this, its completely fine, even though you are
engaged with it all the time and its not some magical distant far away place but something that
surrounds us totally at all times and were constantly accessing and affects every moment of our lives
apart from sleep but theyre trying to get in there, too.
So this is what Im trying to do, Im trying to understand the Internet so I can operationalize that
understanding and use it. And Los Alamos seemed to be a useful place to be. Its one of the historical
birthing places of this kind of thing. Its not entirely true that the Opernet was developed in response
to the development of the bomb, but the connection between military technologies, the Cold War, and
previous to that kind of aiming systems that developed the computer, the Cold War development of
these distributed networks, laterally things like you know kind of XBox Connect and these visional
based systems that came out of warfare, they all kind of originate in this big bang at Los Alamos for
me so it seemed like a useful place to go and you have realizations going out in the desert like that
and you figure out things and what I figured out there was what I was looking for was not a better
description of the Internet like going to a place that is kind of completely pointless because the
history isnt there, the history happened and the history is all around us and the history is something
that is now becoming completely widely distributed over all of these things.
The history of the bomb and just like the kind of history of the Internet but I understood that I was
understanding that as a metaphor through the Internet, that my understand of the Internet actually
allowed me to understand that. And thinking about how to use the Internet to understand everything

else, that actually I realize Id been trading myself as a computer scientist as a person on the Internet
to actually use that understanding and apply it to lots of other things.
So likeI was going to spend the rest of this talking a bit about criticism and the Internet. Which I
could go that way, as well. Ten years ago, in my capacity, another previous capacity as a literary
editor and a publisher I was attending a lot of publishing conferences weve all been there and we
were all involved in a lot of the same kind of conversations that it feels like weve been having here.
About the changes that have been wrought by these technologies and particularly by networks and it
strikes me then and it strikes me again now, that this perceived crisis is not like some horrible
visitation from the outside, right? It hasnt been forced upon us by devious programmers or even in
fact by large corporations that have definitely seized the ground now. But what it brings to us it a
kind of a moment of clarity when we first perceived the ongoing catastrophe take my favorite things,
books, and how they exist in the network.
All of these publishing companies, theres less of this now thank goodness but one of the big fears of
the early predatory Internet was piracy, right? Was this horrible fear that something was being
stolen from us, because it was really about that, right? Underneath all this talk about lost revenue to
publishers and this kind of thing, the fear of piracy is a fear of the loss of control of the text and the
meaning that kind of comes from that and the authority which stems from having control of that
meaning. And its like kind of fear of kind of an other control of the text in many ways.
And this is my favorite example of that happening, right? These are two copies of a novel collected in
Peru by my friend Andrea Franckie who runs a thing called the Piracy Project, which kind of collects
this sort of thing. Because Peru is at such a great distance from the central Spanish literary
production, which is unsurprising still in Spain, theres a lot of piracy in that part of the world. These
are both pirated editions of a best-selling novel published in Spain, and it takes a long time for it to
reach the end of the supply chain, and so it gets incredibly pirated because its popular.
These are both pirated versions and theyre also different translation, the texts differ, characters
have different names in various places, like the thing has become unstable, and this is what happens,
that piracy and that instability is what happens at the periphery, but the periphery is everywhere
now. Like theyre still senses of gravity and that stuff but the network has shifted that relationship to
some extent. But also this is what happens to all texts and what has always happened to all texts. All
of them disintegrate and disperse, are written and rewritten and overwritten and become the
property of those who discover them and are appropriated and re-appropriated and
misappropriated, nobody has control of this process and nobody has ever had control of this process.
The difference that has been wrought by digital technology in this example is not that its destabilized
the text but that it has revealed the text as always being utterly and fundamentally unstable and
digital technology has given us a place to see that truly and properly for the first time. You see the
same effect in online forms of knowledge production, as well, take Wikipedia, take the fact that
Wikipedia articles are assembled of these agglomerations of professional and amateur writers, they
can contain all kinds of inaccuracies. They never conform to this mutual point of view. But like, so
what, right? What the hell ever has? I dont believe that that was ever the case. This is a printout I
made many years ago of a single Wikipedia article, right?
The changes, I printed out the change log of that article. One of the brilliant things about Wikipedia is
you can see every edit thats ever been made to an article, and so actually the difference in Wikipedia
and when you do that, you get a 12-volume set of books which is the size of an old school
encyclopedia. And this is visibly distributed system unlike these previous encyclopedias, with
Wikipedia, can you pull it apart, you can see its previous versions, you can trace some of the IP
addresses of the contributors, you can see when its changed by someone who works for a
corporation or whos you know, an IP address within the House of Representatives around election
time.

You can see when that article was hastily compiled in response to a news event or something, you
can see when its been built up carefully over time over many kind of sources, all of that kind of stuff
and all that is visible to us. Its a creation of something that is if not totally visually and appreciably
more democratized and accessible not only in terms of its writers, but in terms of its readers, as well
and thats made, again, startlingly visible to us and the construction of the web is also the
construction the discussions that we have on it and even the fact that its co-constructed by those
technologies is visible to us as well.
This is a list of the top 30 editors of the English Wikipedia. All the ones highlighted in yellow are bots,
right? Theyre software systems. 20 of the top 30 Wikipedia editors, the ones that make the most
edits are software systems, theyre automated little programs that go around Wikipedia editing
things, adding dates, correcting punctuation, all this kind of stuff. Im not asserting that theyre
making changes to the factual history of the world by doing this. But they are assisting us and theyre
kind of working alongside us, and they are co-creating with us this representation of the world. But
again, because of the way in which this is done, that is kind of visible to us.
The other big thing that people are upset about in the publishing world in the last decade has been
like this idea of attention, right? The fact that people are you know, suddenly all turned to kind of
jelly brains who arent paying attention anymore. This one really annoys me as if before the Internet
people were all perfect students who all sat there quietly and read the book from cover to cover, and
again, this is bullshit, right? And we know it is from our own experience. But yet we kind of persist in
kind of complaining about this, as though its something thats been produced by the technologies
rather than something thats always been with us thats been rendered incredibly clear to us. The
Internet didnt cause it, it revealed and potentially accelerated it, as well, but thats something thats
emerging from your latent desires, it feels like to me. And it should be said really clearly this is not
true just for attention, but for opinions, as well.
And I think this leads very follows very much from what Ayesha Siddiqi said earlier on that the
Internet didnt create legions of misogynists and racists and homophobes and it just turned over the
rock and gave them a massively horrifically amplified voice. Its like a Naked Lunch. You get say
everything at the end of the fork. And as depressing and distressing as that is, it also makes those
attitudes visible and undeniable and potentially actionable in ways that they simply werent before.
I like this term used by the architectural theorist, Keller Easterling, which is disposition. She says that
technology has a disposition, that it is encoded with certain kind of beliefs. And propensities to act in
the world. But she also uses that disposition, uses a very careful analysis that uses that very kind of
politics of technology to emphasize that it is something we can construct and hedge around that it is
merely one kind of particular vector in the world and that if we persist in believing that we are kind
of hostage to the dispositions of those technologies, then were just like, you know, were simply
going to be acted upon by them rather than kind of engaging with them.
And a lot of the analysis that Easterling does is this kind of analysis, which Brian referenced earlier, I
think, quite well and referenced the work of Trevor Paglen which is quite close to the work that I do
in his materialist Marxist analysis of the Internet which traces these kind of paths.
I dont think its an entirely redundant analysis for a number of reasons, because its not so remote
and abstract now. None of this stuff is. Its not about noting that these cable lines really exist or that
they follow pretty much the patterns of colonialism and connecting the nations back to the sites of
old Imperial power. The presence of that information on the network makes it far far more
addressable, understandable, its possible to link it more directly to whats happening in the world
than it was before. I kind of have to believe that, because otherwise we have to just kind of have to
junk the last 50 years of technology, right?

Learning about how images and data systems work and networks actually function also for me
permit forms of critique. These systems, regardless of who directly bit them, not ignoring that,
because its important to know a little bit how, but understand that they exist in the world and that
theyre here to educate us, not merely to be opposed, we can choose what to learn from these
metrics, right, the negative reviews, the response, the audience to those kind of stuff. We can choose
what to learn from those results. We can redesign them to better suit our needs. We can also avoid
them in ways that were not possible before. Like we need these kind of examples in order to provide
our counterexamples and this visibility of systems, not necessarily of people, is incredibly important.
Im sorry to pick on Hyperallergic here, but after all the discussion of ad networks yesterday I kind of
had to check on this and its really important to remember that this is the reality of the funding and
support models and networks which were discussing whenever we talk about how stuff gets paid for
on the Internet. Theyre predicated on surveillance networks being you cant have ad revenue on the
Internet without these kind of networks and I think theres a parallel to a kind of James C. Scott
analysis of legibility when it comes to previous forms, institutional and state arts funding because we
all know weve had to conform in certain ways in describing our work in order to receive certain
fundings or weve had to present in certain accepted forms of art in order to get this and this is just a
more insidious form of that kind of conforming.
Conforming as a kind of surveillant body as kind of identifiable and trackable. So on top of these
networks we built these other systems that would make that surveillance and those actions visible in
turn. Because something critical about these technologies is that they cut both ways. This power is
not new but its no longer invisible. It has to be written down in order to be enacted by the machines.
Weve been training ourselves a mode of analysis that comes from the network and its increasingly
impossible to ignore the deep tectonic underpinnings of these structures and thats precisely why
were capable of having discussions about things whether its zombie formalism or racial and gender
representation. Its why were talking about floundering materially short of money, short on self-
esteem, because those things have been foregrounded by the actions of these technologies, and
theyre impossible to ignore.
As the historian Tony Judt said in a very eloquent warning to non-historians and to those who said
that history is over, he said, by ignoring history youre like a person walking around an old house,
you can pretend the rooms are empty empty but youll keep bumping into the furniture. You cant
pretend ignorance about this stuff anymore. The same is true of the network and the reality it
presents to us. The network has kind of flattened out time, its substantiated an addressable history
and its here to teach us this stuff.
But I kind of want to go further than that, as well, into justIm actually finishing well ahead of time,
thats good. I want to go further beyond that just kind of building up those kind of layers, because
thats where Ive got to, right? Thats the kind of analysis Ive been doing and thats where I feel good
about this kind of stuff that its possible to address these things and build on top of them and
understand the technologies, and therefore understand the world is the precepts of that, right?
But I want to go further than that into what feels like uncharted territory, because Im trying to figure
it out. Because there are deep and serious problems with that approach, as well, and on which they
underlie it and they can be understood possibly through this framing of the network, as well, because
its not enough just to point at this stuff, right? Its not enough to point at pictures or images or
aesthetics and their deployment and the material frameworks, you kind of have to go deeper, I think
into the ontologies of the discussion itself. Which are also being revealed. As I say in my own work
Im kind of thoroughly guilty of this. In making the invisible visible has been the guiding principle of
my work.
This series of work, the drone shadows, illuminate a particular use of a technology and they make
visible its inherent visibility, as well, and it tries to raise questions about why that particular form of

invisibility is so pervasive, not just in politics and the technologies of politics and warfare but in the
technologies that we use every day, the social technologies, the noumenal networks of the Internet
itself. The danger as Ayesha pointed out earlier is that of mistaking visibility for power. Its a really
good phrase that Im stealing already as you can note. Visibility without reconfiguring the underlying
power structures is kind of just yelling, just showing off after a while, right? The difficulty Im starting
to think is weve also fallen into a kind of trap about how we think about those oppositions, one that
has a long history but one that has been reinforced and illuminated by the technologies, because this
discussion of visibility and invisibilities doesnt just happen in the margins. Its happening at the
height of international discourse and state conversations that are actually the kind of the central
issues of our time.
Take the struggle thats occurring between state and non-state access and privacy. The central
paradox of the debate illustrated by these two delightful logos is this weird thing about how the NSA
and WikiLeaks essentially share the same vision of the world, right? Both of them believe that there
is some kind of central dark secret at the heart world that if we can only bring it to light it will make
everything better. This is the ontology of big data, its the bad lesson were learning from the
technologies. Its this belief bounded on metrics and databases. That seems to align so closely with
enlightenment ideas of just the general increases knowledge that slips through our critical defenses.
Its the bad lesson to learn, its the wrong lesson. Its the opposite of the lesson of the confusion
around piracy or the destabilization of text and knowledge that is what the networks are actually
trying to teach us and its weird that we are stuck within that and a lot of that has to come from
analysis para, I think, and how its captured the ground of this discussion very, very successfully on
both sides and the problem occurs, I think, in art discussions and in art criticism, as well, in particular
I think the need to kind of place artworks and events into a kind of discernible and authenticated
lineage, to see everything in terms of histories and movements and manifestoes which to me is a
form of sense making that have been largely discredited by the network.
Even the places that criticism cannot or has no right to go, if its honest about its own position and
capabilities. Visibility and transparency are the baseline but theyre not the goal. Theyre
acknowledgement to the situation but they are theyre not what we should always be striving for and
to quote Tony Judt again the job of the historian (or in this case the critic) is to take tidy nonsense
and make a mess of it. An accurate mess is far truer to life than elegant untruths.
Andre Breton in the Surrealist Manifesto, which I came across the other day and struck full force by
the statement made 100 years ago that we dont seem to have learned from at all: If in a cluster of
grapes there are no two are alike, why do you want me to discuss this grape by the other, by all
others. Our brains are addled by the incurable mania of wanting to make the unknown known. To
make it classifiable. Im not saying that Surrealism is the answer now, merely noting that this sense
is not new and we can reach back more than 100 years to find arguments for it engendered by not
dissimilar technologically produced societal change, we just dont seem to be very good at
implementing it. And as a partial apology for quoting two straight up white men. Ill also quote
Cahun, who stated that realities disguised as symbols, which for me, are new realities which are
immeasurably preferable. I make an effort to take them at their word, to grasp, to carry out the diktat
of the images to the letter. Trust the evidence of your senses and your ideas.
Trust the images and the sensations that you gain from the network because you have direct
experience with this. Those things that were told about the authenticity is dying or the authority is
not present in the network anymore or that people dont pay attention and theyre not thinking so
widely and clearly anymore, those arent true and we can deny them from our own experience. Stop
bumping into the furniture, in short.
The job of art for me is to disrupt and complicate, renew and criticize these networks by representing
and building upon them. But the idea that visibility or making visible figuratively or not, is a way of

solving the world is troubling. Demanding that things here make sense, fit into recognizable, even
newly fashioned categories is a recipe for determinism, fakery, failure, and violence. The reason for
the rise in discourse around the representation is that they directly challenge this revolutionary
process. The frame cannot contain them and the center cannot hold. This is also the job of criticism. It
has to make the same demands from the same position of understanding the material.
I dont see how criticism can function without making the same level of demands and responding to
the same challenges as art itself. In a form of solidarity, but also for its own survival. It needs to
acknowledge both its place in the network and like the network, its political position in reproducing
and occasionally opposing the situation. It needs to account not for the power but the fundamental
uncertainties and instabilities of a world which is not radically new, which has always been with us,
but we we can no longer ignore. Thank you very much.
Audience Member: Your example of the airport thats used as both the celebrity and the detainee,
deportation center, just made me think about privacy versus secrecy, and how theres a tension
between those who are allowed privacy and then those for whom secrecy is used sort of as a weapon.
Just wondering if you talk about that a little bit.
Bridle: Yeahso youre right, those ideas of privacy and secrecy, theyre not fixed things. Cant be
kind of awarded like badges and they cant be kind of reconstructed. Theyre negotiations and theyre
positions that are negotiated from positions of power or otherwise. I think one of the most
ubiquitous things happening around privacy online now is that it requires this huge buildup of
knowledge in order to achieve it for one self and if you dont have the knowledge or the power to
kind of buy it so youre kind of at an automatic disadvantage. But both of them privacy essentially, is
the right to privacy, the right to those things is essentially the right to freedom of action, that you can
do the things that you want to do.
And surveillance curtails that in all kinds of ways so privacy is the thing that frees you from that.
Theres a reason those things are under attack, right? There are structures that are deliberately
attacking them. But those are not necessarily like addressable to single actors, particularly in these
kind of very large network systems, because I get really careful when I say we built the Internet but it
was largely constructed by white men in Southern California. But there are uses of the Internet to me
like speak to all of our desires, that yeah, this is something that we, more generally than that, have
built for us that were tryingthat is trying to teach us something that were trying to understand
and if the actions that its talking are like offensive to us, are like aggressively attacking things like
our privacy, then thats something that weve kind ofthat aligns with other desires, that means
thatIm expressing this terribly badly, that is a kind of fundamental result of some of the other
things that we wanted out of the system in different ways and it comes out not fully understanding
that system? Different levels. I dont know if that made any sense.
Audience Member: Hi, I think that was a great talk. You did not meet any of the render ghosts; is
that right?
Bridle: No, still havent. I think theyre in Vegas.
Audience Member: Is this continuing?
Bridle: Im planning to get there the at some point, yeah.
Audience Member: I know you hadnt really figured out but do you know what you will do with
these people when you find them?

Bridle: I want to ask them Im slightly terrified obviously because it will get weird but its that part of
that trying to understand. Its just saying of what is your experience of this having happened to you,
because at the moment they are unfairly and slightly sort of aggressively ciphers for me like of all of
our experience so I dont think its going to be helpful necessarily to find them and ask them that, but
theres like many of these projects, the things that you find out on the way are somewhat valuable, as
well, but when I see them, I will simply ask them like did you know this was happening? Do you know
youve been to these places and what does that mean?
Audience Member: I think theres an interesting hookup you got with Eric Crosby here if you get a
chance to talk to him. Hes got something interesting, the Walker has something interesting coming in
a common direction there. But I want to ask you just simply, could you connect the dots between
your training as a computer scientist and how youve ended up in the art world?
Bridle: Yeah, sure. I took computer science kind of under duress, because they dont let you study
arts and sciences properly like as a dual thing at least in the UK, you kind of have to pick one of the
two worlds which is stupid and retrograde and ridiculous, but I was interested in the Internet
because it seemed to be the new exciting shiny thing and it seemed to have some kind of
meaningfulness and I mistakenly thought you got to be on the Internet by doing computer science
which turns out to be entirely wrong.
I studied artificial intelligence that turned out to be wrong, as well, but by the time I finished that I
hated computers so much that I went to work in traditional book publishing, which is why I was at
those publishing conferences and its why I was yelling at those publishing conferences because it
seemed that everyone there was also there because they hated computers and was afraid of the
Internet and seemed to see computers as being kind of and the Internet as being inimitable culture
and was kind of destroying it and in reaction to that I started to get bag back into technology again
and I became like the E-book guy and going to these conferences and yelling at people that maybe
they should not be afraid of the Internet because it was quite important but specifically I got
interested in what was happening to books in that process.
Like, what does it mean for them to to become digital? What does that do to the book? You know,
how does it become kind of ephemeralized, where do our experiences of literature kind of reside
when you cant shut the book and put it on the shelf and theres so much of that bound up in culture
and our own experience of it that the books just need an extraordinary place to study that but then
you get what happens to the literature, as well, what happens to the form of that, as well, and you
know, these become places in which to study the effects of the network. Sorry, when I say the
network, I mean like the Internet and us, like the complete thing.
Like the effect of that on culture and therefore on us. Thats just where I was studying it and because
there werent things to point at, I would start making things, like those Wikipedia books and that
slowly got kind of through various routes ended up in the art world. The other thing being a project
called the New Aesthetic, which was a kind of ongoing look at around why didnt stuff look new
anymore? Broadly. That was not particularly an art project, but I was using examples from all over
kind of technological processes but it turned out to be a term that seemed to be incredibly useful to
people in all sorts of fields, particularly in the art world where was mistakenly called a movement.
But if it became something that was useful to people, then brilliant. It same a sort of self-fulfilling
thing in itself. There was a lacuna in the conversation that it kind of filled. Thats why Im here today.
Audience Member: I just wanted to hear the story if you have a minute, mind finding the first
rainbow plane. If you can can remember the first time you actually came across it?
Bridle: No. I cant remember. I spent a lot of time on Google Maps. Like a lot. Its kind of the default
thing to go out and search for. So, yeah, I really cant. The moment I realized what it was was when I

actually came out of the Drone Shadows Project, because Itheres a weird thing about the drone
shadows, which is that theyre these huge physical full-size installations that take a full day to install
so that I can photograph them and put a picture on the Internet because thats where they get seen
and Im completely fine with that so they are precursors to digital images as much as physical
installations which is not uncommon these days and I did one in DC a couple of years ago and I got a
satellite picture of DC. It cost about $400 to buy satellite imagery and even then it turned out it
wasnt like high res enough to be able to pick up my drone shadow.
But when they deliver satellite imagery it comes in this arcane image, it comes in these different
layers, and it turns out those different layers are actually the different, the results from the different
sensors, so if you calibrate it right you figure out one of them is the red layer and one of them is the
green layer and the blue layer but theres also a layer thats entirely clouds because they just use a
very narrow frequency that doesnt penetrate water so theres a whole set of satellite imagery thats
just pictures of clouds so I had to learn how to process satellite imagery. Not quick all the time but in
doing that I was I was like, ohhhh, thats what this thing is, and thats always a good thing. So thats
the story.

Marisa Mazria Katz, Creative Time Reports
Creative Time. So Ive been with them for four years. And you know, there was something very
natural you could say, inevitable about launching a platform for artists to weigh in on news at
Creative Time. Its an organization that has been commissioning artists to engage with urgent social
and political issues since its founding four decades ago. So for instance, I like to look at this project.
Its a real inspiration for Creative Time Reports. So this is Gran Furys Kissing Doesnt Kill, Greed And
Indifference Do. The Creative Time project was produced in 1989 at the height of the AIDS crisis in
the United States. The political art action appropriated advertising and media strategies to spread
information about AIDS and its social ramifications to a vast audience by pairing the pieces message
with an image of three interracial couples, both same sex and heterosexual, kissing, the image
appeared on postcards that were circulating through mass mailings and on posters affixed to New
York City buses.
So how many of you know Creative Time, show of hands? OK. So for the very few that dont, just a
little bit of history. I want to talk about what our mission is. Which really underscores that artists are
important to society, that artists should be weighing in on the times in which we live, and that public
places, and public spaces are places for free expression and creativity. Now, with all of this in mind,
Creative Time Reports genesis came about when our artistic director and president Ann Pasternak
began asking questions. Questions like, if Creative Time believes the idea that artists matter in
society, and if we want them to impact how we think about todays most pressing issues, what are the
public spaces that would truly magnify their voices? Where should they be participating? Where is
public dialogue happening?
And the answer we arrived to was online. So we thought now if were going to work in this vein, it
entailed expanding our definition of public space, beyond shared physical spaces, and entering into a
dialogue with news media.
So we incubated this idea for a full year before the sites launch in October 2012 and we decided it
was going to be established and rested on several pillars, first that we would work with artists all
over the world. And this really entailed me leaving my desk, so you know, every month or so I was in
another country and several of which were you know, Tunisia Hungary, the United Arab Emirates,
and Kenya. This wasnt just to meet potential contributors but also to engage what does it project like
this mean what does it mean for an artist to weigh in on the news? Than they confirmed early

suspicions that a monolithic approach just wouldnt work. The pieces we featured had to be as wide-
ranging in form subject and language as the contributing artists were diverse. It also meant
cultivating a deep sensitivity to geo political situations that have the potential to make our artist
correspondents vulnerable. For instance, if an artist wished to remain anonymous, we pledged that
we would hide his or her identity.
So this was one of the first pieces that we did with an artist that made such a request and this piece
was published on the eve of the 2013 elections in Iran. We also knew that if we were going to
successfully weigh in on the news we had to be timely and we had to publish pieces that we were
certain would align with the news cycle.
So how do we, a staff of more or less two, sometimes three, you know, compete with megalithic
media sites? We came up with a few strategies. First, we wanted to always stay abreast of upcoming
events that have the foreseeable potential for life-altering consequences, like the 2013 Kenyan
elections which came 5 years after a vote that sparked violence resulting in over 1,000 deaths.
We also wanted to unearth approaching anniversaries that resonate often bitterly with those who
mark them like the 20th anniversary of NAFTA or the one-year anniversary of hurricane Sandy. It
also meant consistently taking on issues that are significant, no matter the month, like global
warming, race, surveillance or immigration. We would ask ourselves, which artists are most poised
as Howard Zinn wrote in his book, Artists in Times of War, to think outside the boundaries of
permissible thoughts and dare to say things no one else will say. The second critical component of
Creative Time Reports was cultivating partnerships with major publications that would then co-
publish our pieces, thereby distributing artist personal perspectives and critical interventions to
thousands or even millions of readers.
So our first such partnership was with Foreign policy magazine which was based in Washington, D.C.
and the occasion was the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken by Muslims as one of the five
pillars of Islam. The photo essay was by the Saudi artist Ahmed Mater, who showcases the rapid
transformation of a sacred city now flooded with multimillion dollar real estate developments and
these are just some other photos from the photo essay. This is a hotel that was recently built that
overlooks the Kaabah. This is a gas station that he often frequents or sees on his way home to Jeddah.
A year later, one of our more memorable piece, David burns op ed on the effects of soaring, sorry,
whats what it looked like in foreign policy. David Burns op ed on the effects of soaring rents on
creative life in New York. Went viral through our partnership with the Guardian and what was
amazing about this afterwards is that the Guardian asks us to become part of their comment network,
which means that we basically are in constant dialogue with them about upcoming pieces that were
about to publish and very often they will take them and republish them. So since for foreign policy
weve partnered roughly with 2 dozen publications including Al Jazeera America. This was with a
story about a photographer whos been documenting the lives of migrants whove moved from all
parts of China to Beijing and live in bomb shelters beneath buildings, often illegally, and then weve
also worked with the New Yorker. This is Sylvia Plachy photo series, images that she took from the
first Gulf War.
So aligning ourselves with such outlets we initially released content as responses to the news. But
this was hard for us, because it left us nipping at the heels of a fluctuating media cycle rather than
determining our own publishing rhythm. So the shift in our strategy kind of came about, in 2013 with
an artist weve all been mentioning today, with Trevor Paglen. He approached us with the idea of
photographing the National Security Agency and other US intelligence agencies.
So the project required a tremendous amount of legwork. Even when we secured clearances from
each agency, which was the National Geospatial Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office in
addition to the NSA. We still had to find a helicopter pilot who was willing to fly above these
institutions. One of which was located in a restricted flight zone. So I accompanied Paglen on the

shoot and created a short film that, together with the text written by the artist, explains the impetus
behind the project. The piece that resultedits called Overheadwas co-published with the
Intercept which was founded by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill.
So Im going to show a little film about this. Its the one that I was just mentioning its about 3
minutes long and its so much of what Creative Time Reports is about is we step out of the way of the
artist within we let them speak, so I felt it was important that you hear a little bit about how this all
came about from Trevor directly. If you could play the film, please.
Trevor Paglen (on video): One of the things that is happening in society right now that I think is
quite dramatic is a real shift in the way that we understand what is a relationship between the state
and citizens, what is the relationship between the state and people in general, and that is something
thats really changing as a result of new kinds of technologies that have been developed, new ways of
surveilling people, and new ways of storing data, quite frankly, and so I guess thats where my
interest in these institutions comes from, is just trying to understand how theyre influencing the rest
of the world and to try to help develop a vocabulary, a kind of visual and cultural vocabulary that we
can use to begin talking about this kind of thing. Its very difficult to talk about something thats so
abstract, so I feel like part of my job is to try to point at something, to try to make an image that can
be a reference point for a larger conversation.
When we imagine organizations like the NSA or the CIA or the National Geospatial Intelligence
Agency, I think we tend to think about them as being very separate from the rest of the state and very
separate from other civic institutions, and to a certain degree thats true. These are secret agencies
they have classified budgets; most everything that they do is classified. At the end of the day,
however, these are not so dissimilar from your local library, and we have no problem going to the
local library and saying what policies we want, what hours we want them to be open, have something
to say about what the rules are. And we dont feel that same sense of ownership over the agencies of
the intelligence community and I think we should.
What I hope is that these images will be first of all helpful to people to just try to wrap their heads
around what some of these agencies are, to just point to them and acknowledge the fact that theyre
there, that they exist, that theyre doing work. Beyond that, I hope that they can contribute in some
small part to a wider cultural vocabulary that we can use to try to see these institutions, to try to
understand them, to try to think about what it is that they do. And to try to think about the effect that
they have on the society around them.
Mazria-Katz: So this piece debuted as I mentioned before with the intercept, but it came on the day
that it launched, it was a really big moment for us to be part of this endeavor. And there werethe
ripple effects were just staggering and we really took note you know, so in addition to the press
coverage that the project got, Paglens images have illustrated stories about surveillance in
newspapers and TV broadcasts around the world. Human Rights Watch used his photo on the cover
of a damning report on US surveillance and the journalist Tom Engelhardts book, Shadow
Government, used the image for its cover. So realizing that our most impactful pieces are often the
ones that take the most time to conceive and execute, we recalibrated our approach to how and when
we published.
As a result of this thinking, we slowed down on how often we published and in a sense, we found
ourselves working more along the lines of Creative Time, ensuring that our artists are grounded in
communities they cover, to avoid the ubiquitous art world and media world in general pitfall of
parachuting in to report on a crisis and leaving before any substantive work has been done. The
slower pace essentially allows us to work with more integrity, to fact check all the more rigorously
and take time to massage ideas that are still forming.

Simultaneously, weve cultivating new paths for expanding our out reach and Creative Time Reports
added several regional editors this past year, from Istanbul to Nairobi to Vancouver, we see these
editors as our eyes and ears in cities around the world. Not only bringing new artists contributors on
board, but also deepening our sensitivity to local conditions. The first such piece we did was with our
editor Sheyma Buali who is based in London, Sheyma helped us usher in this piece from Lebanese
cartoonist, Karl Sharro, just days after the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Creative Time Reports strives to present artists engaging with pressing issues in an expanded range of
forms punctuating news feeds and home pages around the world, with unexpected stories and
images. We hope that our signature mix of art, activism and journalism will become an increasingly
visible and trusted source for unconventional forms of expression with real political impact. Thank
you.

Dan Fox, frieze
So, Id like to begin by playing dumb. Ive been worrying about this phrase artists as cultural first
responders ever since the invitation to take part on this panel arrived. Worried because, Ill admit, I
didnt really understand it. I turned it over in the light, tried to gauge the weight of it. I tried to work
out what it was made from. I sensed that it might be something about artists as citizen journalists,
perhaps, or Trojan Horse activists bravely storming the bastille of social media. But still, my initial
sense was that it made me feel uncomfortable. It soundedand heres where I have to apologize to
my lovely hosts at the Walkerit sounded melodramatic. For some reason I could not help but read
the term first responder literally. Artists, vital though they are in our societycrucial though they
are to our understanding of each other, to making the world a more interesting placeare not
paramedics, theyre not firefighters, coastguards, or law enforcement officials. (Although some
paramedics, firefighters, coastguards or law enforcement officials may well be artists.) A painting of a
fire engine is not going to put out the blazing inferno engulfing an apartment block or rescue a cat
stuck up a tree. A 3D-printed sculpture of your left hand isnt going to dig survivors out from the
rubble of an earthquake or taser an innocent man.
I could have pressed the curators for more clarity, but instead I decided to consult higher authorities.
According to the United States Homeland Security Presidential Directive No. 8: The term first
responder refers to those individuals who in the early stages of an incident are responsible for the
protection and preservation of life, property, evidence, and the environment [] as well as
emergency management, public health, clinical care, public works, and other skilled support
personnel (such as equipment operators) that provide immediate support services during
prevention, response, and recovery operations.
Now, I know it seems willfully obtuse and pedantic to continue pursuing the literal meaning of this
term cultural first responder but in doing so I discovered that the exercise of trying to find parallels
between the real-world definition of first responder and this creative context began to raise some
intriguing questions. First of these might be about protection and preservation: is that what artists
really do? What does it mean if the interplay between platform and content (to quote the
description of this panel discussion) is a question of prevention and recovery rather than
innovation, say, or critical intervention, or creative destruction. What ifto come at this from an
extremely paranoid angleartists are not the first responders, but the emergency incident itself,
and that the first responders are not nice, cuddly creative individuals but those involved in the
actual development of new technology platforms, plundering methodologies from art in order to
monetize them, turn them into some time-swallowing new app?

Lets say the artists are the responders. What incident might they be responding to? The Homeland
Security directive refers to the early stages of an incident. This is something that other people
during the course of the conference have already spoken about, so excuse me for repeating it. Given
the topic of the digital age that frames this conference, we can assume on a grand historical
perspective the incident to be the bracing Internet revolution weve been living through for the last
15 to 20 years. If thats the incident, then it was only a small handful of artists that rushed to the
scene at the early stages, anduntil recently,they were quickly abandoned. Think, for instance,
about how quickly the art world in the early 2000s became embarrassed of 1990s net art and
media lounges in museums. Think too, how the art world for a long time remained insulated from
many of the changes being brought to the arts at large by the forces of social media and file-sharing,
and essentially remained analogue in what it produced. In a 2011 essay for frieze magazine, because
Ive got to get the advertisement in there somewhere, curator Lauren Cornell described how unlike
other industries, such as music and publishing, the art world wasnt forced to react to cultural shifts
wrought by the Internet because its economic model wasnt devastated by them. The quality of
Christian Marclays The Clock (2010), for instance, isnt dependent on YouTube votes or the extent to
which it circulates virally, and nor can one download and install a BitTorrent of a Rachel Harrison
sculpture. The principles that keep the visual arts economy runningscarcity, objecthood and value
conferred by authority figures such as curators and criticsmake it less vulnerable to piracy and
democratized media. (I would like to qualify that slightly, by making clear that were speaking in
broad brushstrokes here. Technology changes, and will surely come and bite the analogue arse of
artists sooner or later. The stickier reality is that what we call the art world means many things to
many people, and your experience of its conditions differs depending on where you are positioned in
relation to it in terms of geography, economics, race, gender and sexuality.)
But back to the topic.
At risk of plumbing the depths of my own crass literalism even further: what does it mean, then, to
entertain the idea that in recent years artists have not proven themselves to be cultural first
responders, because there was no urgency for them to be so, but maybe second or even third
responders? Maybe artists should not be first responders anyway. Theres something a little self-
aggrandizing about assuming artists should be on the front line. An artists work may well be more
valuable in the space of reflection, in mulling things over, assessing the situation across a longer
period of time. On the front line, they might just get in the way.
We also need to define what we mean by artists. Visual artists are the only creative workers who use
the word art in the title of their own professionwriters, actors, critics, dancers, musicians,
designers, film directors; theyre all artists too, but the appellation tends to get owned by visual
artistsa bit like the way the country of America takes the name of two continents and owns it for
itself. As were in a big institution which dedicates a lot of what it does to the visual arts, I assume its
visual artists to whom were referring in this conference but I think its artists in the broadest sense
whom we should be thinking about here. This is a broad generalization again, but conversations in
the visual arts sometimes have a tendency to refer to other creative disciplines as if they exist as
picknmix sources of inspiration, or areas for visual artists to study occasionally in order to critique
them, as if only artists are capable of having deep insights into what other people do.
Indeed if the incidents to which creative people are responding are the technological and
concomitant social changes brought by the Internet, then maybe its musicians, publishers, writers
and filmmakers we should be looking to as the first responders, for its their means of making a
living, of distributing and valuing their work, that have really drastically altered in the past decade
and a halfthey should be here at this conference because were all in this together. That said, a part
of me cant help but think that to call any artists cultural first responders is to buy into an older
Romantic myth of the artist as seer, soothsayer, oracle. The True Artist Helps the World by
Revealing Mystic Truths, as Bruce Nauman put it sarcastically. But words associated with the arts
also have slippery meanings today, changing valences. For instance, in our lifetimes, the word

creative has migrated from being a nice, friendly adjective into a noun, a common job title in large
technology businesses developing platforms that many of usartists or otherwiseuse daily. What
does that mean when we ask who gets to set the agenda for the interplay of platform and content,
or talk about media inventors who create altogether new modes of storytelling, makers who use
online means to critique institutional power?
Some of the more powerful media inventors and makers are deeply embedded in the very
institutions that need critiquingnot museums and galleries but government agencies, Silicon Valley
corporations and tech start-ups. They are the ones spinning new modes of storytelling about the
world, positioning themselves as disruptors whose creative technologies are going to make the
world a better place. I could be wrong, or simply stuck in my own little corner of the art world, which
is quite possible, but I dont see that many visual artists or arts writers making entirely new
communications platforms that will revolutionize how you watch video art or call your grandma on
her birthday. That might shift generationally, as more people understand how to take control of the
engine mechanics, rather than being stuck with the given functionality of the software offered to us
by the tech industry. Or maybelooking around at how many of us are glancing at our various
devices in the room andsorry, Ive lost my placeusing platforms designed by technology
companies they have no dialogue with or control overcultural first response is nothing more
than trolling conference speakers on Twitter like a child sniggering at the back of the class. At times I
feel that the best first response might be to switch off your devices, throw them out and go live off
the grid. We dont all have to be making art that engages with technology; its still fine to make a
painting. You can still write art criticism using all the tools that tech provides, but its still an option
to write a long essay and publish it in a book made from paper.
The idea of a first responder implies responsibility and authority. These days were all reviewers,
weve all got an opinion about that exhibition, TV show, restaurant. But that assumes certain
freedoms. I know artists who do not live in countries such as the US, and this is something Marisa
spoke about very eloquently, artists who live in countries where being a first responder is
impossible for reasons of censorship or harshly conservative cultural attitudes. There are critics who
are more worried about being arrested the next day than whether they should accept a flat fee or be
paid a dollar a word for their exhibition picks of the week. So we come back to the issue of second or
third response. A second or third response might mean building a second or third layer of meaning,
of encoding, onto what an artist makes, and that could be for reasons of security as much as anything.
(Think, for instance, of how playwrights living under the Soviet Union used surrealism or science
fiction in order to talk about their political situation.) Secondary or tertiary response might also
mean taking a step back, responding slowly. The speed of opinion in the digital age demands instant
response, instant punditry to news events, and the arts arent insulated from that. Ive been working
as a critic since 1999 and in that time Ive felt the pull of the Gs, seen the pedal hit the metal; I have to
get my review of the new Whitney Museum, say, or Venice Biennale, published within nano-seconds
of the doors opening; there is now an assumption is that art critics have to go at the same speed as
news reporters, sports journalists and gossip columnists. But the one question we dont ask often
enough is what speed should be of the essence? A reflective review written slowly, published a
couple of months after the event, can be just as valuable than the snappy one published in the heat of
the moment. (As Yeats observed, the worst are full of passionate intensity.) Life doesnt reveal itself
to us all at once, and neither does art. Making thingswhether its a piece of online art, an essay, a
movie or a dancetakes time and there is value in refusing to live in the fast lane.
Lets quickly remind ourselves of the legal U.S. government definition of first responder: they are
responsible for the protection and preservation of life, property, evidence, and the environment. Is
the question we should be asking ourselves not one about making the new but valuing the old?
As the conversations weve seen over the last two days have demonstrated, there is a sense of
embattlement amongst some of us. The general tenor of the conversations this weekend has been
that we are trying to protect and preserve something; striving to preserve imaginative, thoughtful,

constructive responses to culture; defending a space in which you can live a life of the mind, a life of
the creative hand, from the douchebags who have turned the world into such a harsh economic
environment. On the other hand we need to ask what is worth protecting and preserving that doesnt
just shore up all the old structures.
If youll excuse me, Id like to swerve sharply off the main road for a moment and head in the
direction of big, clunky, boulder-like metaphors and some hastily conceived ideas. Just latelyand
because this is the sort of nonsense that fills my mindIve been thinking about a movie, made for
TV in 1985, called Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. The film is set in a United Kingdom run
by a small handful of media organization and corporations. TV sets have no off switch, and the
corporate oligarchy monitors the personal lives and data of every single citizen through the TV,
which feeds a non-stop diet of reality-style shows voted for by viewers. A popular journalist named
Edison Carter, played by the actor Matt Frewer, has recently been employed by one of these media
companies, Network 23. His job involves running around the city chasing news stories using cameras
that provide a direct feed to the TV network: he is a first responder in real-timejournalist and
producer all wrapped up into one. Carter has discovered that the network is pushing a form of
subliminal advertising called blipverts that cause seizures and can kill people who see them. In the
course of gathering evidence he suffers an accident, running his vehicle into a low-clearance sign
(which, in the UK, are marked Max Headroom, an abbreviation of Maximum Headroom). Network
23 thinks Carter is a goner, but worry about their ratings, so get a young computer whizz to
download Carters personality and create an artificial intelligence avatar of him to cover up the
disappearance. Unfortunately for them, the avatar is broken; it stutters, glitches. The Network gets
rid of it, and it falls into the hands of a local pirate TV station, who tinker with the avatar, semi-fix it,
and create a new kind of TV show host called Max Headroom who makes sarcastic comments against
a floating backdrop of vector graphics. In the meantime, Carter awakes from his coma, and uses Max
as a diversion, allowing him to ultimately expose the Network 23 honchos for the crooks they are.
Whats this sudden tangent got to do with artists as cultural first responders?
Well, for one thing there are the superficial parallels in the plot between our present and those 20
minutes into the future; citizen journalists, social media, uploading news straight to the network.
Were all broadcasters now. Arts criticism is a branch of arts broadcasting, but writing has always
been broadcast. Secondly, in Max Headroom theres this idea of the artist as a gremlin in the machine,
a renegade that infiltrates more powerful media forces, cleverly providing a meta-commentary on
the system. (Following the movie, the Max character went on to host music TV shows and appear on
a record with the band the Art of Noise.) Its a romantic idea, but as I mentioned earlier, now that
larger business forces use the language of the creative artsof disruption and subversion and
viralityin order to innovate new products, maybe its an outdated look. To be inside something is
not necessarily to critique it. Printing out Instagram photos and hanging them in a gallery isnt
making work about the Internet, its just ice-skating across the top of it.
On November 22, 1987, two television stations in the Chicago areaWGN-TV and WTTW
experienced a broadcast signal intrusion; the stations were briefly hijacked by a masked figure
dressed as Max Headroom, filmed in front of a rotating piece of corrugated steel, emulating the
moving digital environment that Max lived in. To this day, nobody knows who perpetrated the
broadcast intrusion, nor really, what he wanted. But it represented, however briefly, a situation in
which the means of distribution were seized. There are obvious parallels today in hacking that I dont
have time to go into now. But this train of thoughtfrom Max Headroom to the broadcast signal
intrusion reminds me that our present relationship to the Internet is merely part of an older story of
the relationship between artists and the media and screen culture.
Two quick examples. Between 1973 and 1977 Chris Burden produced his TV Commercials he
bought advertising space on local television Through the Night Softly, Poem for L.A, Chris Burden
Promo, and Full Financial Disclosure. Through the Night Softly was a performance where Burden

held his hands behind his back and crawled through fifty feet of broken glass on Main Street in Los
Angeles. Even earlier, in 1971, the British artist David Hall made his seven TV Interruptions: seven
short films broadcast on Scottish TV with no explanation or contextual framing. Did anything change
in the ways TV affected us? No. The traction that art has on the world is by and large small, slow,
incremental. The second, third, fourth response.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, when the movie was made in 1985, the technology did not exist
to produce an actual A.I. avatar. (Or at least it was beyond the budget of this TV production.) When
actor Matt Frewer played Max Headroom, he played him dressed in heavy latex make-up and a
fiberglass suit. He was flesh and blood human, using analogue technology to play a digital character.
Theres something about this layering that reminds me of our present situation: your social media
handle is nothing but a prosthetic, you are still flesh and blood. The digital age is still also an age of
bodily functions and bodily needs. As James pointed out earlier, Internet is cables and satellite
hardware.
All of which is to say that is that a first response might be laughter, tears, debating with someone in
person, punching them in the nose or giving them a great big kiss. Using new technology in your
work does not make you a better artist nor a more interesting human being, and its OK if your first
response is the last response. Know what to discard, and know what to preserve and protect. Thank
you.

Claire Evans, Terraform (VICE)
Hi, my name is Claire.
I want to begin with a question that I thought would be far more left-field until Dan brought up Max
Headroom. But the question is: what is science fiction?
Many people in response to this question throw together a collection of tropes. Science fiction is
outer space. Science fiction is rockets and lasers and men traveling to the corners of the universe.
But thats only the simplest way of defining and extremely complex literary and culture form. In fact,
theres something of a cottage industry, among academics, in drafting new and more comprehensive
definitions of a genre that changes as quickly as our relationship to the future itself.
And because it means a lot of different things for a lot of different people, a singular definition for
science fiction is hard to grasp. The boundaries are squiggly, and the more granular you get with the
question, the more difficult the answer becomes: Does a science fiction story necessarily have to take
place in the future? Well, no, every work of fiction has some temporal relationship with the world in
which it is written, and even canonical science fiction texts like Star Wars take place a long, long time
ago. Does science fiction have to be rigorous in its science or technological approach? Yes, there is a
culture of science fictionhard SFin which that is an important quality, but some of the greatest
science fiction writers of all time flubbed the science or considered it secondary to the central
problems of their work. William Gibson, for example, wrote Neuromancer on a typewriter with little
to no knowledge of the Internet, and Ray Bradbury famously put air on Mars in the Martian
Chronicles.
If we try to define science fiction by first determining what it isnt, we enter into an equally thorny
area. Why is Slaughterhouse Five shelved under literature in bookstores, when its protagonist is
abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, but equally literary books by writers like Joanna
Russ or Ursula Le Guin or James Tiptree Jr. are relegated to the mothballed corner of science
fiction/fantasy.

And if we try to define where that slash falls between science fiction and fantasy its even more hairy.
Because if aliens and robots and far-future scenarios are permitted, then why arent dragons and
elves, etc.?
The truth is, a lot of different kinds of texts qualify as science fiction, books about parallel histories
and alternate realities and futures so distant they might as well be mythic or ancient. Books where
there are artificial intelligences on our desktops or extraterrestrial intelligences far off in the cosmos.
In my study of the genre, which is informal but lifelong, I have only found onehard and fast rule about
science fiction, which I am going to try and explain to you now.
Imagine a world. It can be the earth if thats easier for you to imagine. In 99% of science fiction, it is
the earth in some failed capacity. Whatever the world is, you must think of it as a starting point. It can
have as tumultuous a history as you like, but, for the time being, it is a world that exists in a world of
present condition, with set physics and social dynamics. Now change one thing about that world.
What kind of thing? Anything, it can be aesthetic, metaphysical, ecological, political. It usually takes
the form of a question, which can be a technological question: What would happen if all the
computers woke up tomorrow and said hello? What if we crack faster-than-light-speed travel? It can
be a deeply human question. What if we cease to be able to breed? What if we radically upend social
structures?
Pose and answer one of these questions, and you immediately create what genre critics call a radical
discontinuity, which is a particular form of cognitive dissonance unique to science fiction that occurs
when everything is familiar except for one, or a few, significantly altered variables. Radical
discontinuities are what makes science fiction science fiction: Not rockets, not outer space, not far-
flung time lines. Theyre also what makes science fiction a particularly potent tool of first response
for artists, because every radical discontinuity is inherently critical. By proposing an alternative to
the world, either an aspirational alternative or an alternative that serves as a warning, depending on
your proclivity for utopia or dystopia.
Using discontinuity for critique isnt isolated to critiques of technology or society. It can work for art,
I think, or it can, although I dont see it used very much. In a lot of science fiction that deals with art,
music, you know, the markets frequently missed. When you look at musical sequences in science
fiction like the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars or the cave rave in The Matrix, it doesnt tell you
anything about the future, its usually just like this shorthand of exoticism, or something, but I think it
can be done in art and it can be used in an interesting way for art criticism. Im thinking of the work
of Mark Von Schlegell, does anybody know his work? When we practice the mental calisthenics of
determining the difference between the real world Yeah, cool! Hes a science fiction writer who
comes from art criticism and has published a handful of really incredible novels and semiotext, but
hes far outside of the science fiction landscape that he can only really publish in, like, highfalutin
European art magazines and exhibition catalogs, and he makes these incredibly funny and biting
critiques of the art world that, I think, are an indicator of what could be possible if we took that idea
seriously. So, for example, for one of his stories, he presents the future of contemporary art as a
hybrid of all the essentially harmless activities of the Western cultural tradition in a new practice
called kulturnautics, which is among other things a circus of mathematically impossible pavilions
that are sprouting up rudely and constantly into the lives of the working poor. This kind of thing is
really snakry, of course, but it represents, to me, again what is possible when we begin to think
seriously about speculative fiction as a form of art writing or art criticism.
No matter what the point of focus is, though, when we practice the mental calisthenics of determining
the difference between the world that we live in and the variable world at hand in a science fiction,
when we try to discover where the radical discontinuity has been made, and try to see how we, in our
lives, in our world, might be led to the juncture at which those discontinuities are formed, we learn a
great deal about what is seemingly natural to us in the world. It makes us reevaluate everything we

take for granted. These strangenesses in science fiction can help clarify the normal, and it can help us
to understand the inherently arbitrary or historical nature of some social constructions. It confronts
us in a specifically cognitive way that is designed to leave us as readers wondering a great many
thingsits designed to pose questions like where are we headed? Or, whether we are complicit
with the world, or whether we are really ourselves at all.
Radical discontinuities dont require temporal extrapolation. They do not require the future in any
capacity. Which is another of the assumed hard tenets of science fiction. Yes, the easiest way to
understand the effects of a discontinuity is to play it out over time and to see how it modifies and
takes root in the world, but something like a parallel history, such as in Philip K. Dicks, The Man in
the High Castle, a novel which takes place in a world in which the allies lost the war, can do the same
kind of critical work, while taking place in the present.
And the kinds of science fictions that emerged from Mundane SF, which is a movement in the mid
2000s in science fictionthat was kind of like a Dogme 95 for science fictionit called for stories
that took place in the near future, with little technology, very little theatrics. It argued that, as in the
manifesto it said, our most likely future is one in which we have ourselves and this planet. And it
called for fiction that spoke to those realities.
With these kinds of practices, science fiction isnt something escapist, exotic, or inherently
futuristicit is just an attitude, an approach to critique that can be applied anywhere and by anyone.
Great science fiction, the truly transgressive shit, proposes many different radical discontinuities at
once, creating complex intellectual bombs that implode slowly in the mind, but the important thing is
that it always remains tethered to the world as we know it, to the world as it was before the question
or questions were posed, right? It always presents a clear road from the real to the discontinuous, a
road we can imagine walking, because otherwise, theres no through line. Theres nothing to hold
onto, and therefore, it no longer has any position for real critique. It becomes just fantasy, pure
escapism.
Which, speaking of, is the line between science fiction and fantasy. For the fantasy writer, the creative
act is one ever pure imagination. His or her invented world doesnt necessarily need to hew to a
physics consistent with our own. A fantasy writer is free to magically relax the structure of the
cosmos at will. But if science fiction writer wishes to do the same thing, they must invent a reason
why, a method how, and then cope with the consequences. It may seem like a small difference, its
kind of a conceptual stance, but makes all the difference, because waking up is what lends gravitas to
dreams.
I deal in science fiction, partially for a living. Some of you may know me as a musician if you know me
at all but I edit a rogue science fiction imprint of VICE called Terraform. Its part of VICEs science and
technology site, motherboard, of which I am the Futures editor. Terraform is where where we
publish stories that speak to, extrapolate from, or are otherwise in conversation with the current
news stories my journalist colleagues are covering elsewhere on the VICE platform. So, we connect
our fiction in a very tangible way with the actual realities and anxieties of the present, and if
somebody reads a piece of speculative fiction on Terraform and is piqued by the issues it raised, we
have a very direct means for the readers to go back to read about whats actually happening in the
present day through tags and suggested articles.
I sometimes explain Terraform to people by saying its tomorrows news today, which is glib, but
fairly accurate. At Terraform, we deal in the near term radical discontinuity. This means we publish
stories about things like drones, the gamification of war, misogyny on the web, forms of protest in the
21st century, and the ways in which our relationship to social media changes our relationships to one
another, etc. We only publish once a week and our upper ceiling, unless something is exceptional, is

around 2,000 words, which is equivalent with the standard, shareable news story on the web. So we
can be quite nimble, and often commission fiction or draw from our slush pile depending on what is
happening in the world.
So, one of our favorite things to do is actually to commission journalists and non-fiction writers to
extrapolate the ramifications of their own beats in a timely manner. So, for example, during a
particular hairy privacy scandal involving Uber, we had technology writer Paul Ford imagine a
dystopia in which a self-aware entity named Uber controls all resources. Weve had the music
Internet culture blogger Carles, formerly of Hipster Runoff, write us a picture of Coachella in the year
2065, as a scorching and inhospitable tent city in the militarized desert. Not everything we do is this
literal, obviously because fiction is much more ambiguous than that, but we find that these kinds of
stories receive the most engaged and immediate responses from our audience, because their themes
are already highlighted in public conversation on the web. Ideally, their themes evoke existing but
latent fears or perceptions about the direction of where the world is heading, and so the work of the
reader to locate the radical discontinuities within them is simple, even intuitive. Its been for us the
most effective strategy for injecting fiction into peoples feeds and seeing it shared in the way
nonfiction is shared.
In some case, weve used Terraform as a platform for direct critical response to issues about which
we are passionate, some of which are self-reflexive. This year, there was a cultural upheaval in
science fiction as our most illustrious literary awards, the Hugos, were in a sense overtaken, legally,
but maliciously, through the gaming of a public ballot, but a very conservative group advocating for a
political adventure yarn-style science fiction which, perhaps, never really existed. You know, when
men were men and saved damsels from aliens in space, etc.
Considering that the Hugos have honored some of the great progressive and radical voices of the last
100 hundred years, you know, people like Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula Le Guin, Samuel Delaney, Phillip K.
Dick, and Octavia Butler, it seems disingenuous and myopic, to say the least, to imagine that it
deserves to be in the hands of people who do not use science fiction in that way. Science fiction has
always been a tool for the marginalized to imagine new worlds beyond the limitations of the here and
now, and such nostalgia seems ill placed. In reaction, Terraform commissioned a story from Kameron
Hurley, a Hugo-winning writer, extrapolating what might happen when we no longer have the
freedom to imagine our own future, if we let the trolls win. I dont want to spoil it, but its not good.
This is what science fiction does best. It uses speculation to shed light on the problems of the present,
which, in this case, are the problems of science fiction itself.
The kind of stuff that we publish on Terraform is, and that I love, spiritually quite close to what
cyberpunk was in its prime: Fiction about the very near, the very close, the alarmingly corporeal
realities of technology and what it does to us, our societies, and to our planet. I think that now, more
than ever, science fiction and art has a responsibility to be engaged head on with the complexities of
the world, because, frankly, we need its power as a critical tool.
At Terraform, we believe that fiction isnt just a place to go to escape from reality. Its a place where
we can come to understand, even take control over, what is real. To test code, you have to run it. To
see if a building will stand, you have to build a model. And, for us, science fiction is the same thing
science fictions functionality has always been to take the world as we know it, tweak some key
variables, to create discontinuities and to let it run. What emerges from the experiment may not tell
us anything meaningful about the future, but its a really, really good mirror for the present.
The core science fictional gesture of radical discontinuity is not unique to the written word. Its
something that can be employed by anyone, any artist, any writer, operating in fictional and

nonfictional spaces alike. Its not watertight or isolated to genre, its more like a tendency or an
impulse that can be manifested in any number of ways by anyone interested in reality.
So, I hope that Ive made clear that science fiction is a mechanism for understanding and I want to
leave you with a second stupid question: What is reality? Philip K. Dick defined reality as that which
doesnt go away when you stop believing in it, a purposefully evasive definition which requires us to
believe in nothing in order to prove the reality of anything. But by that definition, the future is real,
because although its intangible, it doesnt require our belief to exist.
So, the future is real and it belongs to all of us and none of us at once, and the more we shore up its
reality by writing about it seriously as though it were real, and identifying the variables which create
it, the clearer our position in the present becomes. This, in my mind, is the real purpose of criticism,
the role of criticism, not only to engage with the world, but to clarify our understanding of it, so that
we can live better within it. As my favorite genre critic Robert Scholes writes: To live well in the
present, to live decently and humanely, we must see into the future.

PANEL DISCUSSION:
Artists as Cultural First Responders
Fionn Meade: I think one of the things in beinghaving been handed this sort of frame first
responders, it was interesting that we all kind of stepped into a questioning mode around that idea
of artists as first respondents in different ways. Including I guess maybe a background question here
is this presumed newness of a sort of informal capacity that the web, you know, and the digital
platforms that were now all talking about presented. Is in that kind of informality that wasis new
and has presented a new landscape, has it been entirely co-opted by the sort of promotion of the
personal and the preference and in that regard, has that not created a kind of first responsiveness
that actually is occupying a lot of space in terms of digital platforms, and if were not talking about
first respondents in regards to artists, maybe we can just say what isis this a counter kind of
responsiveness that were talking about, so Marisa, in your work you talked about slowing down
actually the pace of reports.
Marisa Mazria-Katz: Yeah, well I mean I think what we discovered was that it didnt make sense for
us to have artists responding to the news cycle, which is just accelerating almost, you know,
constantly, because I mean you know, I think we wanted to give them the space to reflect and also, if
we wanted to sort of upend traditional takes of the news, you know, that takes some thought, and its
not something that we felt was really working to have somebody hear about something and then
respond to it right away.
We just didnt feel that the artists we were working with, that their practice really like worked in
such a way. Of course there are exceptions to this, but generally speaking we felt that if this site was
going to actually be different, or have something else to say that it was about giving space, and giving
more time. And allowing artists to work in a way that I think they more traditionally work. Rather
than asking them to be journalists.
Meade: And in the case of Trevors work, but also James your work, this effort to make in a sense the
invisible visible, actually in general takes a sort of amount of research and development before the
project is even shared?
James Bridle: Yeah, but I mean I hope all artists do some kind of research or have some kind of
background to what theyre doing. I thinkId really like Dans point that the first response is not
necessarily the thing, but I think the more interesting thing that a lot of stuff is the response a at all.

We can agree that we necessarily should not be the first people on this. On the scene we will get in
the way but we should definitely be there, and the thing that for me, the technology enables
occasionally demands, sometimes makes difficult or like makes bad, is if theres a better way of doing
that, is that there is a kind of necessity of response.
Which is very hard not to, and also the fact that you are responding is always kind of visible, because
of the ways in which that work is then disseminated and displayed and so on and so forth so I think
its less possible to just put a thing and go this is just my little response over here and you dont have
to worry about it. Like its going to be out there so theres always going to be a context or response
around it in some form.
Meade: I also wanted to ask you, Claire, when you talked about radical discontinuities of science
fiction in some way softening the sort of maybe softening the rhetorical onslaught of the future, that
science fiction in a sense makes the future more porous, through its embrace of radical
discontinuities.
Claire Evans: I think it also prepares us for the future, which is kind of the tangled hierarchy that
science fiction has, where did we land on the moon because a generation of engineers Arthur C. Clark
or Isaac Asimov or do we have these glamorous cyberhacker cabals? Its difficult to know what is
predictive and what isnt about science fiction but one thing that is true is that if we can become
familiar with new scenarios ahead of time we can be prepared for them and we tend to think about
them so that when the time comes we can have a good first response. It helps us to prepare and steep
ourselves in kind of the rhetoric of tomorrow.
Meade: And just Dan you were quite blatant in saying that in your view, perhaps artists are second,
third, and beyond respondents that theres theres a delay inherent in to some degree degree in
artistic practices practice, Victor Shklovsky, the Russian art critic says that art was a device it actually
complicates and gives a sort of demand of the shape of attention, and that perhaps that quality is a
question, how does that exist in the digital shift or in the digital predominance of communication
transactional surveillance, the atomization of transactional surveillance? How do you maintain in a
sense that notion of artist as a device.
Fox: To slowing things down?
Meade: Yeah.
Fox: Well, its a question of choice, isnt it partially? Choice of attention, choice of where you put
things. As I said, I mean James is right to say that by and large what we do now will be made visible at
some point, but you still have theyou can still go and live you know in a wood somewhere. You can
go and not document what youre doing in the studio. You can have a studio in the middle of a great
big city and not take a single photograph of what goes on in there so there are certain choices about
when you put something out into the world and how long you take to incubate it and who you talk
about it with.
You can have private conversations with people still. But again its like James said, there is this sort
of, you know, demands to respond for various kind of digital platforms, that make us feel very, very
anxious about, you know, you kind of anxiously have to sort of you, somehow demonstrate that we
were there, you know, we were there thinking and having a response that was, you know, fully
formed and well considered right there in the moment. And you think when you sort of get away
from that. There is still a choice in that.
Meade: So do you think, I mean Duchamps for instance when he adopted the ready made he said it
was a way to move away from the proliferation of the retinal and from the self that had to be some

degree guessed at or doubted in a way and that he saw more agency again, roughly 100 years ago in
that, do you think that in your work in engaging kinds of thewith making visible and making
invisible really in the end borders that are based in legal transaction? Do you think that that by
surfacing that its a move away from in a sense the expectations of you as an individual artist? That
has an individual studio practice?
Bridle: I dont know about like to the extent that like this is all, you know, just my opinions, like I
think that in my work itsIm putting this out as an individual, but I have an expectation that it will
naturally travel and be explored in different ways because that is the nature of the medium in which I
work. Its not a broad brushstroke about artist practice in general at all but it is to me fascinating and
brilliant that I know these things can be sent out and always have been in terms of the fact that
people have their own encounters with the work and I dont really see that something has kind of
particularly changed in there though I do think that yeah, that it still doesnt seem to have percolated
into most stuff to any degree that, so many of the attitudes I was set up to write are still not being
addressed. Or arent like particularly well considered when talking about this stuff, except that again
like we keep saying that getting harder and harder to ignore, right, that we have actually built an
entire system to make us all enforced creators of ready mades. Thats what it does is its a perfectly
Duchampsian system.
Meade: I was also struck in thinking through Tania Brugueras work or Tatlins Whisper. In Havana
that what was interesting as well in a work that is seen as timely, topical, respondent, correspondent,
almost, Im curious your take you know, on this in particularly Marisa that piece is called Tatlins
Whisper No. 6, so its actually informed by a series and choreographed performances of resistance
and the space of resistance that actually goes back a number of years and whats interesting to think
about that is that the logic of that, so to speak, the artistic logic of that is perhaps less of interest in
the coverage of her being detained than it is the fact of her being detained. Do you find that the logic
for instance of a work like that in its sort of sequence and its terms, so to speak, comes across in the
topicality of coverage around it, the reception of it.
Mazria-Katz: I dont really know. No, I dont think so. I mean it wasnt really in terms of you mean
the press coverage of what happened to her? No, it didnt seem so to me, really, the project itself, I
mean did you I mean when you were
Meade: Well, no, I was just curious in my view, no, basically whats in the news, is the topicality of an
artist being detained in Havana, and it often goes not far beyond that into what the kind of concentric
implications are of the work that led here to make that decision to do it there and similarly what it
might have meant that by doing it as an artist born there but from elsewhere what does it mean for
artists are living in Cuba and do have a different sense of the limitations or constrictions upon
expression there? A lot of that Coco Fusco kind of surfaced it in a way in a piece that e-flux published,
I bring it up because the topicality of it, the first responder part of it is because of the artist being
detained.
Fox: Thats what news demands, doesnt it? Whats going to be headline news is not the critical
thinking behind the making of the piece of art. You know and a really crass example of this would be
the way art gets written about in terms of auction prices, you know, you post impressionist painting
of some, you know, some flowers that people arent really interested in what led those flowers to be
painted, whats interesting is the incredibly wealthy Russian oligarch how much they paid for it.
Mazria-Katz: Its a lot of times how we commission, too, is anticipating whats going to be in the
news and thinking about who are the artists who are going to say something about it and have
something insightful to say about it, so for instance, you know, the Kenya piece that I showed you, we
worked on that for 6 months before, and actually what happened was II arrived, maybe it was even
longer than 6 months because I got to Nairobi, I met the author, and knew, because in 2012
everybody be was talking about the 2013 elections they were quite fearful of what would happen.

So I knew that this was something that was going to be in the news and commissioned her almost
immediately after meeting her and reading her work to write something because I knew what she
was going to say was going to be very different from the traditional news take on the Kenyan
elections but I also knew that her piece would probably get news coverage, too, and overall thats the
realthats the big goal of what were doing is inserting these artists voices into the news and with
Tania with everything that was happening with Cuba it was sort of like a perfect storm and it all kind
of erupted, right but I mean thats very much how I work. I mean of course I reallyI really make a
special effort to get to know an artists work but I will equally look at whats happening in the news
to make sure that Im doing something that people are going to be paying attention to. Its of the
utmost importance to us.
Evans: Yeah, and if youre going to commission this kind of thing I think there are parallels to what
we do, because you have to look into the future to some extent, you have to look for anniversaries or
pegs of some kind even if its as stupid as something as Valentines Day. A lot of that comes down to
traffic, too, we know that on every holiday theres going to be a flurry of posts on that subject around
that holiday and different reactions to it and its not like artists are wandering into the line of fire
without information. You have to look for someone whos already interested in this subject and ask
them because theyre the one, because kind of theyre the last responders, this have been there all
along. I think those what you united to talk to.
Mazria-Katz: Also we cant get an editor to pay attention to us at these bigger publications unless we
kind of anticipate what might be on their radar, too, so thats really important for us.
Bridle: I was going to say that theres a more subtle thing to do as well in terms of those Paglen
photos which to me are the kind of answer to the difficulty that was being briefly discussed a couple
of times of this material Ill say of the Internet question of what does it mean just to point to it and
show it is that those photos got reinserted into the media in a very different way that relied on sense
causes but they used licensing and their major kind of tool for doing it and I think theyre such a
fantastic example of like instrumentalizing the art in a certain way in way to sneak it in there and
turn what could just be an image of the world of something far far more active and descriptive that
goes out into the world that isnt just writing you know, a news story but is actually something far
moreyeah, targeted.
Meade: In Claire, in your work, youve talked about how theres a being both like a musician and a
writer and an editor, the difference between sort of expected immediacy around live performance
and providing the universality of music as a sort of immediacy which I only bring up because when
you go to a show youre expecting the artist as first respondentsomeone whos taking on
immediacy but youve distinguished that from the work of not only the editing but the delay of
science fiction, again not using the word delay but the implicit delay of science fiction that allows for
a different critical space. Can you talk about that just

Evans: Well, I think that in this moment in time, all artists are existing on three or four different
temporal tracks. As a musician theres a part of my livelihood that requires being in a place with
people in a moment and theres an ephemeral quality to it but at the same time a musician must use
the same tools that we use to make music to disseminate and communicate with people and that
happens in a much more diffuse way.
As a writer you write in a moment and you publish something and you seem to have a 48 hour
window in which anyone could give a shit about it and then its over. But it continues to live, you
know, its not just that window of time. If something is on the Internet and its in a place which is not
going to go out of business any time soon and you have an archive of it online then people can

continue to react to it for years. The longer you write on the web, the more you get emails from
people about something written six years ago. I get comments on the blog that I havent updated in
three years because everything is existed in the sort of simultaneous, you know, equivalence.
Mazria-Katz: You think 48 hours? I think thats really generous. But
Evans: I guess it depends if youre west coast or east coast, too.
Fox: I really notice that too as an editor of a magazine that as opposed to use Christopher Knights
phrase from yesterday in a way part of like the niche art legacy publishing is a glossy print magazine
that has been going for many years, you know, but at the sam time its a magazine that haswe have
blogs, we have social media, we make videos, we produce at different kind of temporal rates, but one
thing Ive always noticed about doing a magazine and the print magazine is how its consumed at
different kind of paces.
You know, and you get die hard fans who might kind of get an issue through the mail if theyre
subscribers and theyll read it cover to cover and provide some kind of response. But most people
dont. Thats not the way I consume magazines. The way I consume magazines is bit by bit and slowly
and that could be a copy of the New Yorker thats next to the loo and you kind of read slowly over the
course of many visits or its something that you stumble years later in a magazine, you might be like
Ben yesterday in his lecture was talking about his lecture and going to the library and looking at
Artforum in 1982 and whatever and discovering new things. Publishing has its sort of slowness and
some things that are very, very old can suddenly seem very, very fresh again, things that were
overlooked at the time can suddenly seem very, very urgent so they kind of renew themselves.
Meade: Do you think given that that there is a role, though, forPaul Schmelzers project with Artist
Op-Eds, you know, has invited, like Dread Scott was responding to Fergusons or events like
Ferguson, really larger implications than just Ferguson, like in the moment but maybe from his
ongoing engagement as an artist I similarly I think Coco Fuscos entry into Joe Scanlans process was
really helpful and was performed a kind of mediating in betweenness that allowed people to have a
more sophisticated conversation about the reception of that via the Whitney Biennial.
I guess Im asking in your role, do you think that ado you think that that is something that frieze,
for instance, finds new platforms for or new immediacy for or in terms of like providing that space
for a kind of highly editorialized immediate?
Fox: Yeah, I mean I think wed like to do more of that weve been working with a slightly antiquated
website for the last several years which has not allowed us to be as dynamic as we could. But I think
different rates of response are really valuable in editorial work. I think theres responding very, very
quickly to something as it happens can be really important. I think the example about the Scanlan
controversy at the Whitney Biennial. The whole conversation around that was, you know, something
that has to kind of happen in the moment. Whereas its still possible, though, to have that
conversation 6 months later, because these problems dont go away, either.
You know, I think thats an important thing, a slow response is also a reminder that problems of for
instance race in the art world dont disappear because people stop talking about them in the kind of
buzzy world of you know, social media or kind of what gets circulated very, very rapidly online. And I
think that in a weird sort of way whats printed on paper and like the slowness of distribution with
that, kind of provides some sort of not just sort of archiving or not just sort of archiving role but also
it provides, it provides a brake, you know, as in like a car brake, it slows things down.
Bridle: Can I mess up that question a political bit by saying like these arent slow responses. Like a
fast response is not necessarily a first response. Particularly in terms of thebecause youre asking

meme who have been thinking about this for quite a while and actually their response may be a lot
more thoughtful and in depth than a lot of the kind of immediate responses to stuff. I mean that is the
thing about going out and asking different people who have worked on something for quite a long
time is that youre drawing on a huge extensive body of knowledge that a very fast media wasnt and
just because its published doesnt mean
Mazria-Katz: Just to add to that, one of the beautiful things that about I think asking an artist to
respond, you know, versus a journalist, because working as a journalist for so many years theres all
these rules that you have to abide by and you have to work in a certain way whereas the artist can
draw on so many different sources, work in different ways, embed themselves in communities and
dont have of the rules that journalists might, and that I think then produce also something that can
be very different, and
Fox: Yeah, I think thatthat also brings up this distinction between the arts journalist and the arts
writer. You know. There are very different types of writing about art. Theres writing about, you
know, whos moving where in the institutions or what things are being sold for or what is very newsy
or very sort of fact based and requires journalistic skills, proper professional journalistic skills but
then writing a monographic essay about an artists work or a historical movement or something
requires other skills, that requires skills to do with imagination and empathy and maybe deep sort of
historical knowledge or having followed someone for a long time. Maybe it requires sort of different
kinds of literary skills. And so you know, when we think about this idea of like first response and this
circles back to what we were just saying just now, its about like who has the best set of tools for a
given situation, and there isnt a one size sort of fits all kind of solution for this.
Meade: Right. And thatI think youthis was a Twitter question, how do artists respond differently
from critics and journalists, which I think you were just sort of getting at. But is thereI mean is
there in a sense ado you feel like youre creating space through your projects, in this case I would
say this to Claire, Marisa, and Dan as editors, you know, are you creating platforms that you see as
being like sustainable in that way that can actually and if you are, what are those, how do you
differentiate the time registers of your responsibility as an editor and publisher that invites artists
into a particular format?
Evans: Wait, define sustainable?
Meade: Sustainable meaning something that you think will like you said, stick around, be there for a
period of time, not just disappear.
Evans: I mean, working on the Internet you will always have to keep in the back of your mind the
possibility that the platform will someday disappear and reconcile yourself to that and try to sort of
live it up while you can. Thats always been my attitude.
Bridle: But different to publishing a magazine just on a shorter scale.
Evans: Sure were talking about slow and fast but these are condensed time scales were talking
about years at the most and the world is vast is time is vast and even our books will one day turn to
dust so we have to reconcile ourself to that to some extent and make work that lasts in people that
reflects people.
Bridle: Something about the quality of the work. Like the first responders, its ultimately about
getting people to make work and getting it out there and the response, like maybe thats the
difference between the artist and the critic or there are shades towards it, but ultimately is that you
just want to get the thing out there and say the thing and then you know all those other processes can
happen to.

Mazria-Katz: Im not sure hopefully this is part of this, but our platform is interesting because its
almostits whether or not people come to our site, youd absolutely love lots of visitors to our site,
and you know, its great, but what we really aim for, its not emphasizing the platform as much as its
the insertion. And thats beenthats been a really interesting thing to try to work with, because with
the emphasis of numbers and metrics and Google analytics and how are we doing and all these things
and then what happens when you kind of take the ProPublica model, which is, you know, its which is
also just like us inserting into mainstream newspapers, you know, what does that mean for you, and
where will we be, you know, we may not be around, but these pieces will still live on in these other
sites, lets say, and thats something that has been part of our process is realizing that if the goal is
that artists are being read and discussed by people all over the world, how are we best going to serve
that around that wasthat was a really conscious decision at the very beginning for us.
Meade: And it was interesting to hear that it was really slowing down and taking the time to think of
maybe more strategically about the insertion of the work or the artist into a different level of
circulation and distribution. That created and efficacy that otherwise you wouldnt have had, but do
you feel as though youre influenced by your partners in that regard?
Mazria-Katz: Our partners want the people that often that they havent ever heard of, or are doing
things that are really interesting that are not on their radar. So in orderI mean Im not sure if Im
answering the question, but when we think about our partners, we think about what can we bring
them that they arent going to be able to do themselves? And having Creative Time and the knowledge
of the art world and artists, we really bring something to them that otherwise I dont know that they
would be able to eventheyve ever even heard of, so I mean thats how we try to thinkwe try to
think of how can we, you know, sort of help grow or expand the kinds of pieces that they are putting
out into the world. Thats where we see our role.
Fox: I mean just speaking about our work on frieze magazine, in a couple of years ago we started
making our own short videos, which is something you see a lot you know news organizations doing,
but not so much in the sphere of like specialist art magazines, and theyre just like short 10-minute
films that we do with a production company in London and theyre all paid for out of the editorial
budget of the magazine, but weits been very much like a kind of learning as we go process, making
these things.
But what weve discovered is that its opened up a new sort of function of the magazine for us, which
is possibly one of record, one of like, you know, possible kind of like archival value, which print
doesnt really sort of do in the same way. So for instance, was it last year, I think it was last year we
produced our first 30-minute documentary, which we did in association with the BBC, which was
about the history of the Glasgow art scene, and through the magazine, through the kind of contacts
we have, you know, we were able to speak to a whole bunch of people in different generations in
Glasgow about how the art has developed in the city, we were lucky enough to be able to use the
BBCs archive to pull in the archive footage.
We also ended up being one of the last people who got inside of the Glasgow School of Art before it
was hit by fire, so what this documentary ends up being is this sort of snapshot of Glasgow at a
certain moment before something happened which was very symbolic to the city and now we have
this great 30-minute record of lots of different people of lots of different generations speaking about
their, you know, their connection to the city. And it operates in a different way to something in print,
you know, because we dont have an editorialize voice. Of course we make editing decisions in what
you show, but its talking heads basically artists and curators and writers talking to the camera, you
can hear the grain of their voice, see what theyre like, see the environment. I think thats something
that technology has allowed us to do as a magazine or to start exploring as a magazine.
Meade: But I mean thats also partly why just the Walker commissions inviting artists to make works
that respond to signature artists in our collection that already have an interest in say, Derek Jarman,

was that interest in surfacing new platform that could invite that kind of expertise, that kind of
ongoing, say engagement the allure of something that already has a momentum, do you see the
magazine devoting more time and space and resources to that and whats the balance of exploring
perhaps really meaningful new platforms for artists but at the same time providing as you put it a
kind of legacy role ofor not legacy but a kind of convention of reception that is still valuable
because it has an inherent convention?
Fox: Yeah, I mean I think there are questions of just economics. We dontthese videos that
produced out of the editorial budget and we dont have any extra money for them that is raised by
advertising of these videos and were able to produce them because the production company are
friends of ours and we get mates rates basically of their facilities but I think whats interesting for us
as a magazine is how it has raised this question of like horses for courses, kind of what are the right
writing skills for a certain type of platform situation?
So the writing skills that you need to write a 400-word review are different to the writing skills you
need to write 2500-word monographic essay about an artist which are different to the writing skills
you need to write for the moving image which requires more concision, more sensitivity to speech
rather than to word you know words on a page so I think its another kind of writing that were
learning about.
Meade: But isnt the acuity of new forms of writing responsive to this kind of immediate attention
and I mean were describing things that dont sound that different than they have been in terms of
approaches so I guess Im asking is there a new kind of artist that is sort of this first responder thats
adopting the acuity of immediate response because I feel like were sort of talking about the counter
to that.
Bridle: I just want to say thatI keep wanting to make science fiction metaphors basically and this is
a really long one but something about the way you just talked about making that Glasgow film is you
were basically making a science fiction without knowing it because you were predicting something
into the future, I mean you werent predicting it, I hope you didnt set fire to the place, but there was
a weird thing that happened there. And not all artists, but a huge number, but also in terms of when
you make stuff thats deliberately intended tock into a news cycle and stuff you are doing a kind of
futurism that is predictive.
The difference to that to the kind of pure reactive thing that we criticize is that its done from a
position of kind of thoughtfulness and consideration and so were coming to it with like a domain
awareness and a history of research and that kind of thing that allows you in hindsight to go oh, yeah,
I was doing science fiction because I was looking in a place in which there was some kind of moment
in a moment in which you were kind of projecting yourself forward in the time that you make or
write this thing. And thats the same thing that happens to archived pieces that get resuscitated or
whatever they all exist in those kind of time lines and when they get reacted essentially speaks to the
quality of thought that went into them in the first place.
Evans: I think artists and journalists have had the skill of because if youre paying attention to the
world, this is actually a kind of William Gibson thing, you can trace the nodes of things that are latent
and see where they might intersect, because youre looking and so that I mean its pa form of looking
into the future but its also just awareness of the present.
Bridle: What Gibson does in terms of that reaching across the network and picking things out its like
particularly it speaks completely to that flattening of time because theres no temporality to the thing
at all. He just has what appears to us to be a temporal foresight which is actually kind of a spatial one
because he exists in this wider network but I think a lot of artists of a certain kind and the ones that

have been worked that thats what theyre doing, theyre kind of spreading out to these networks and
being absolutely more aware of them.
Meade: Rather than rather than being determined by them.
Bridle: Yeah, absolutely.
Meade: So that anticipatory predictive quality is actually different in some ways than discussing it as
a perhaps respondent, correspondent, imbedded reacting to the incident.
Bridle: I think it relates to what we had talked about last night when I complained about this label of
political artist or activist artist which is like one that I get a lot because I make work about drones
and war and stuff. And like I dont object to it because its aI find it weird that its just applied to me
because Im making work about these things as though making work about anything isnt about these
things or making work about the world in which you encounter is not some kind of form activism or
involvement in the world and I feel its quite similar to this are you an artist who engages with stuff
or not? Well, we do, we live in the world, hi.
Meade: I think it might be because we havewe have this great group of people, but also its our last
opportunity for audience questions, I thought I would open it up to the audience for any questions on
our conversation.
Audience Member: My favorite science fiction short story is Roadside Picnic, you know, in which we
as a human race are dealing with the detritus left behind by an alien invasion in which they seem to
take no notice of us whatsoever and I just wondered in instead of a question Id like sort of a
comment, I feel like its relevant to this conversation, in the sense that you know, like we are
grappling with our responses to these things that to these technologies and to those modes of
working and modes of like socializing that we still dont quite have a handle on, and yet are trying to
make proclamations around and, you know, determine our future according to like the clumsy ways
in which you know were moving forward in the present moment.
Evans: Yeah. I mean the like the cosmic zoom out is always really important. I mean its you know in
the midst of all of this deep conversation about essentially invisible things, that matter a great deal to
us, we must always remember that you know, were on a rock and you know if an alien is passing by,
they dont necessarily have any understanding or interest in what were talking about. Its useful to
remember that sometimes, even if its just like this kind of theoretical construct, like we may not be
alone into the universe, and if we arent, then you know, we are just as important as the other guy,
and we know nothing of whats going on with them, soyou know.
Bridle: As well about the indeterminacy of our present and the acknowledgment of that which I
think is often possible in art is not possible in politics that withinits full of people going no, I am
right about this and that is one of the major problems with the world. The refusal to kind of
acknowledge a little bit of, you know, contextual difference or dissonance in that, and thats what
those kind of stories teach us more and more, and that I dont think it would be impossible to spread
that allusion a little bit further into other forms of public discourse.
Meade: Theres the sense, though, that I mean this gets at a verylike a very important gap which is
that art that the politics of art areart that embeds critique kind of promises a political
accomplishment that it doesnt deliver and it actually often thrives on that nondelivery or the
ambiguity thats created around not delivering in a sense that the political agency, theres awhich
is very different than being in the position of political power.

Bridle: Yeah, I dont and Im afraid to and Im disillusioned by the inability of like that kind of
political forms of those things to come true on a lot of the claims that we make like we havent got
that figured out yet and yeah, if you want to do that, you should probably be trained as a lawyer. We
know that other things have bigger structural things but at the same time thats not the only thing
were trying to do in the world, either.
Audience Member: Hi, just continuing on this idea of power, in your various subjects, I feel like the
issues have come up like issues of curation, issues of systemic disposition, I was just wondering what
you guys had to say in terms of the role of values and the implementation of values and whos making
the decision that sort of generates the values that result in decisions that affect all of our disciplines.
Fox: Well, Ithats a big question.
Audience Member: Sorry.
Fox: Its a big its a very, very good question, and a big question. All I canall I can say to that is
maybe just a sort of reiterate something that was trying to say earlier in my talk, which is that I think
we need to not be myopic about first within just speaking about the arts generally, about what fields
we work in, you know, this idea that the kind of artist, visual artists are somehow the most
interesting ones and people that do things in other fields dont have political agency or what have
you. I think its a conversation were all involved in.
And then secondly you know not being you know, I think like being aware of your own sort of biases
in terms of where you come from sort of metaphorically and literally, physically and I think its
something you need to maintain some vigilance on. Its not at all easy to do. But yeah, sorry, Im really
thats a really inarticulate answer and a very platitudinous one, I sort of apologize, but I think
maintaining vigilance about those things and not be locked down into a specialist conversation of
your own field where what were doing here as professional art critics or what were doing here as
artists who work in just in the visual arts, I think not getting bogged into your own sort of lane thats
crucial, also.
Evans: And being transparent, also, I think a lot of people are afraid to have an opinion about
something, because theyre just always the possibility that youre going to get trolled for it, which is a
very real fear and I think it affects some people more than others, but we shouldnt sacrifice our
capacity to speak openly about what we believe in.
Bridle: That transparency, Im in terms of its good, because it like it means were actually like being
serious and genuine in saying what were talking about, and like expressing our values clearly. It also
hopefully builds some sort of solidarity with other people but it also opens us up to proper critique
about stuff, as well that want to be challenged on those values. So sometimes I have I get like really
scared when I express something that I feel really strongly about in my work, and is the reason for
doing it but more often than not its good that that comes out because it gets reinforced because
there is genuine good strong criticism that I understand what the fact thats really, really happening
so I understand that its necessary to state values for both of those.
Audience Member: So you think those are occurring organically out of the conversation sort of
between systemic and organic.
Bridle: The values are?
Audience Member: Yeah.

Bridle: I think theres probably some sort of I hope it describes what I considered to be universal
ones and theres the more kind of actionable ones that happen with the encounter with, but that
should always be open to some kind of critique in conversation.
Fox: Otherwise it just becomes ideology, doesnt it.
Audience Member: We spent a fair amount of time kind of bemoaning the lack of power that comes
in a lot of our positions and what were looking at but first responders are somebody who has a lot of
power, right. They often frame the narrative because of theyre first draft. They often talk when the
most people are listening so that narrative is picked up by a lot of people and so the question
becomes, I guess my question is, I know its hard to be first responders as artists but how do we get
there? I mean what can we start doing to be in that position?
Bridle: I think thats really good. And I think we should shy away from actually trying to occupy that
position from everything weve said if in fact we believe in the values essentially of those things we
said. Like I dont have particularly great strategy for doing that except I think actually stating these
things clearly and loudly remains important. That we shouldnt, while being, you know, reasonably
reticent about the actual political effect some of this work might have, not shying away from we think
it should and holding you, know, saying loudly and clearly, what we think is actually, I mean I dont
necessarily do that much and I dont right now on this stage in front of you feel like I have a huge
amount of power, I feel very lucky to have it, but you know, thats when we get to say those things.
How we say them, a little bit harder.
Fox: Yeah, I think you make a good point, though in being the first person to say something is often a
really scary position, because youre advancing an opinion that people havent necessarily
commented on and youre opening yourself up totally for kind of being trolled or criticized or what
have you and its a very brave position to take and I think that if you do take that position its just a
case of being open to the fact that you can modify your views, and the people who are listening to you
make that first, that first statement, that first kind of salvo, you know, kind of reaction, shouldnt like
take you down for that, either, because its a veryyou know, youre putting yourself in a very
vulnerable position and people need to respect that vulnerability, I think.
Meade: Yeah, that idea, which is a valuable one, that the act of criticism is or critique is self-education
in public.
Fox: Yeah. Yeah, it is.
Meade: And not in a sense making a judgment that is universal. It is a modifiedits putting one self
in a position of
Evans: And its difficult because things last, you know and if you make an opening salvo in a times of
crisis that turns out to be misguided then that stays with you unless you have the capacity to go back
and edit it until your opinion is like Wikipedia style up to date but we have to remember we all have
the right to make that opening salvo.
Bridle: But also it doesnt have to be the thing that is said first or loudest, either, but to say the new
thing, as well. Again that slightly temporal difference that when the thing that is said that is new that
should be kind of supported and critically engaged with very carefully, that that doesnt have to be
the thing said first and loudest.
Fox: Yeah and I think if youre a critic you also have to remember that youre perfectly within your
rights to change your mind, which you know, a lot of people dont expect of critics. I think youre

totally totally able to disagree with yourself. Disagree with the younger version of yourself. God
knows that Ive written some crap that I cant believe I said at the time. I would never say now.
Evans: But thats kind of nice that you have a historical record of prevailing opinions or whatever it
was that youre writing contained within your own body of work that you can create your own
history and you cant have that record unless you take the risk of saying the thing in the first place.
Meade: Unless theres a burning last question maybe we can end there. And thank you for the
conversation.