Art / Writing
Written by : Lisa Baldissera // @contemporarycalgary @C_Calgary
What is the purpose of writing? And why write about art?
Writing is placemaking; language is about occupying (for better and worse) and originating culture, using forms which themselves produce meanings. Writing is a welcoming in, it is a form of hospitality and care. It says: I won’t leave it to a few to speak about the culture in which I live—I will engage and be part of it too. It’s not for others to develop this lexicon, but like any vibrant language, it’s a shared platform.
Writing has been around since the beginning of collective human presence, as markmaking. we know that languages themselves have conceptual frameworks built into them that reflect the history of that speaker and language source. Italian has eight past tenses, five of which are used only in the written form. Attempting to repress language, as occurred within settler colonial contexts in Canada and globally, reveals a shared knowledge of its power.
In an interview with the BBC, Dylan Thomas said about writing,
“Some people react physically to the magic of poetry, to the moments, that is, of authentic revelation, of the communication, the sharing, at its highest level…A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape and significance of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.”
Thomas reveals that creative writing, in addition to affirming a quality of life, embodiment and experience, is also a form of world-making
Critical art writing is a form of thinking in public, and a demonstration of value. It says: this is important. Art is important. It allows us to hold experiences up to the light, to see them outside of everyday life and to clarify how our world is being formed in front of our eyes, formally, philosophically, politically. It also allows for a space of knowledge sharing. This is why it’s essential that reviews and critical writing appear in everyday contexts, such as newspapers, magazines, books, blogs, social media and in longer editorial forms that can extend beyond the news of a tweet or a press release. Writing as knowledge sharing demonstrate the history that is in the background of all art practices.
Context provides legibility; a lexicon can easily go missing or be endangered without shared platforms that help both those who are interested in art and those that aren’t, to have everyday experiences with it. Encountering dialogue about the arts as part of daily life is essential to its development.
Art is also something that resides both outside of capitalism, as reflection on experience and as philosophy made material, and within it, as objects that can be collected and owned in some cases.
Writing opens up a space and quickly forms a world view and conceptual framework. Writing imposes itself on speech, forming and reforming language, and vice versa. Writing about art is extended in the arts, to include artists who write as a form of art practice, not just as a description of the work they do.
Art can’t do all the work itself; as well as experiencing it directly, we need to talk about it, write about it, complain about it, come its defense, make demands, debate and share it as a form of creating cultural space, not as a special event or specialized experience, but as part of the slipstream of everyday life. When such dialogue occurs, it often takes place as a result of a conflict of values about what art is or should be. This is a great starting point, and far from being negative, is an exciting and vital part of the capacity that art demonstrates, to mirror the world back to us and show us what is at stake, as part of living in the world, as part of being alive.
When we speak about art writing, we speak about this shared platform.
Art requires it.
We require art.
This fall, Contemporary Calgary will present an international symposium, Never the Same: what (else) can art writing do? at Arts Commons Engineered Air Theatre from September 15 to 17, to gather readers, writers and artists together, to talk about these very subjects. All are welcome! Full program is available at www.neverthesame.ca.
Lisa Baldissera has worked in curatorial roles in public art galleries Western Canada and as an independent curator, consultant, and writer for over 18 years. She was Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Chief Curator at the Mendel Art Gallery and is currently Senior Curator at Contemporary Calgary. Baldissera has produced more than fifty exhibitions of local, Canadian, and international artists and holds MFAs in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and in Art from the University of Saskatchewan, and is currently a PhD student at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She has served on contemporary art juries across Canada, including the RBC Canadian Painting Competition, the Sobey Art Award, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, the Hnatyshyn Foundation Awards in Visual Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council and was a Professional Affiliate at the University of Saskatchewan and contributing editor for the Arts Canada Institute online art book series, where she produced a publication on Emily Carr.
Baldissera is co-curator along with independent curator, Joanne Bristol, of extratextual, an international exhibition on art and writing, showing at Contemporary Calgary until January 21 as well as co-producer of the symposium, Never the Same: what (else) can art writing do?.
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