Summeracademy: What are in your opinion the most important skills when writing about art?
Martin Herbert: The ability to render complex ideas in clear and comprehensible language, not hiding behind jargon Relatedly: readability. The ability to describe evocatively – to give a sense of what it was like to be in front of the work, and to think it through. Again relatedly: the capacity to see what is in front of you, not just what the press release says, and to put it into some kind of context.
S: What represents a good, let’s say, art review for you?
M: Aside from the above, I think there should be a balance of description and analysis. Writers, particularly nowadays, often tend to think that just describing is enough. This leads to very cautious criticism. Ideally the writing should also have some style; style, how you say something, can be as communicative as direct argument.
S: What are you going to teach your students?
M: How different aspects of art writing work, and how they differ: the review, the feature, the catalogue essay, the interview, the press text. We’re going to move from looking at art to writing about it, to consider the structures underlying each kind of critical writing (and how writers have moved experimentally beyond them). I’d also like to propose that writing about things is a way of understanding what we think, and how we think, that enriches the experience of looking at art.
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