Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Max & Iris Stern not so International Symposium II


I've been meaning to write about this conference that is happening this weekend at the Musee d'art contemporain. I'm only going to be able to make it to 2½ days instead of the full three days. But those 2½ days are going to be interesting.

Some of the things I find interesting before hearing a single presentation is that while they call it an 'international' conference, there are in fact only 6 speakers who come from outside of Montreal, or another way of putting it 73% of the content is local. The 6 speakers coming from elsewhere all come from the same country; France (surprise, surprise!). Or in other words there are only two countries represented at an international conference.

Then, of the 22 speakers, 11 of them (or 50%) pay their bills by teaching or being taught. Or more simply, they are academics. It'll take some serious convincing by someone to make me believe that academics in the visual arts are cutting edge, or leading, or can discover anything. The conference is called 'Art Criticism: Prospecting or Promotion?' That prospecting side is woefully lacking. It'll also take even more serious convincing to make me believe that academics in the visual arts know how to promote (although to their credit, they probably are real good at recognizing promotion) so the promotion side is a tad weak as well.

That all being said, there are some presentations that on the surface appear to be very intereresting. Namely Saturday 11am, Nicolas Bourriaud will be doing something called 'La critique d'art a l'ere de la globalisation : multiculturalism et jugement esthetique.' He's the big vedette and star of the conference, so what he talks about doesn't matter that much. if you weren't aware about 10 years ago he came up with the idea of 'relational aesthetics.' Everyone should make sure to get their copy of the conference handouts autographed.

Personally, I would have preferred a slightly larger concept of international, one that maybe included the rest of Canada, the United States, an Italy, Germany or England, and say a Brazil, South Africa, India or China. If Winnipeg can get Bruce Hainley then Montreal should be able to get Jerry Saltz, or Daniel Birnbaum, or Hans Ulrich Obrist don'tcha think? Talking about local art to local critics ain't gonna get the word out too much, now is it?

That all being said, on Friday afternoon from 2:20pm(?) until 5pm the whole session is called 'The "New Criticism:" Emergent Approaches and New Broadcast Media.' Which on the surface sounds wicked cool! Patrick Poulin is doing something called 'Life & Death of Hermeneutic people' wow! I'm all giddy for that one! Karl-Gilbert Murray is doing a presentation on Gay Art, best to let other people figure how Gay Art fits in with new stuff, I thought gay art had been around for thousands of years. Yann Pocreau is going to talk about 'Written Criticism as an artistic practice,' (Jenny Holzer anyone?) Eric Chenet is doing 'Criticizing Contemporary Art: Child's Play?' If it is then I expect that the conference would be one of these. And Isabelle Hersant is presenting a paper called 'The Art Critic: The art of exceeding the work?' I haven't read anything by Ms. Hersant, so I am unqualified to make any comments on whether the quality of her writing is better or worse than the art that she writes about, but I know that an idea like that never entered into my head before.

There are a couple of others as well that could be fun, but I've already spent too much of my time researching the above ones, so you're going to have to discover them for yourself. However, there is one thing that should make Nicolas Mavrikakis happy, I have been invited to a baptism on Sunday afternoon, so I unfortunately will not be able to attend his presentation entitled 'Who wants real art critics?'

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