Tacit Criticism

As pointed out on this blog, the role of criticism is to make the implicit explicit, to explain what doesn’t need to be explained, because the implicit—or call it the tacit—contains the social content that must be questioned. I don’t see that there is any advantage to art to take on the same role, but it can hardly avoid doing so—history makes it inevitable. And there is an ethic that says that whatever can be known must be known, that to work in ignorance is a kind of bad faith. But as this blog has also pointed out, the tacit dimension cannot be destroyed, and the situation of criticism makes this clear. Like art, criticism is overpopulated, and like art, it relies on certain pre-modern practices. Back in the days of aristocratic and clerical patronage art was very much a matter of connections, personal relations, luck and established social positions—like everything else. The growth of the market changes all that, for the artist certainly, but not so much for the art world professional. Even more than the artist, the critic and curator work with a tacit dimension, one not so easily available to be critiqued. The tacit is what everyone knows and doesn’t have to mention. This dimension is highly functional—it enables the efficient transaction of a lot of business—but in proportion it is also extremely resistant to critique. Critique means to make open and explicit, and of course entails some social agenda—in criticism and curating to include another perspective. The critique of criticism is a touchy and difficult thing; the critique of curating is almost impossible because the very concept has been institutionalized in countless panels, conferences and books, always with an unacknowledged tacit dimension. One might propose that the more self-reflective a discipline, the more it takes itself as an object of study, the more opaque the tacit dimension. This opacity is certainly present to artists—it’s like a thick fog in the art world. The more professionals devoted to servicing art the more difficult it is to get anyone to see—or to see—one’s work, and the more mediations necessary to arrive at any visibility.


Conference of curators

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