Writing Archive

The Art of Dialogue

letter of comment in Vue Weekly, September 18, 2008 (read there)

I'm a US-based artist and writer with an exhibition on display at Common Sense Gallery here in Edmonton through Sep 28. I'm also the producer of Artblog.net, one of the longest-running blogs about visual art.

Mary Christa O'Keefe's piece (Art attack!, Aug 28 - Sep 3, 2008) goes out of its way to lambaste the art critic Clement Greenberg. She also complains that ... it's pathetic he's considered the end point of all artistic development by a vocal minority of our art community.

Since no names are named, it's hard to know how anyone not already on the inside of your art scene might make sense of this. Insult-laced caricatures of Greenberg are so entrenched in the art establishment that aficionados of his work have a term for it—Clembashing—and as such, O'Keefe's comments are unremarkable in their conformity. But that vocal minority bit is chilling. Apparently she would like this minority to be less vocal, or not vocal at all, or vocal in a manner better suiting her sensibilities.

Common Sense is run by some talented artists who, like me, find value in Greenberg's work, and comment freely on goings-on in the art world locally and abroad. We would be happy to discuss Greenberg or any other topics with Ms O'Keefe, if indeed she values dialogue. She's read critical/cultural theory, as she puts it, and admits that she and her kind are complicit in distancing art from the public sphere, because for a while, if you couldn't speak Lacan-ese, you were excluded from the discussion. But that's not the whole problem.

People who refuse to sling the jargon, and disagree with the premises behind the jargon, are equally excluded from the discussion, at least the one O'Keefe thinks we all should be having.

Dialogue requires communication with actual persons who may not agree with you, not making nameless strawmen the subject of cheap brickbats. Your readers would be better served by an art critic who didn't need this explained to her.

Word count: 331

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