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Friday 08.19.05

« Artist Infestation | Main | We're Not Gonna Take It »

Critical Cop Out ...Cop Out

After reading Todd Gibson's recent diatribe about his least favorite critical cop out I thought it was as good as time as any to point out some over-used critical cop outs.

1) quoting from an artist's statement in the first paragraph

2) using the word "postmodern" as a postmodern pastiche of postmodernity in a way that contextualizes the contemporary modern post-hyperbole world of the prefuture.

3) "Neo"-anything …after the matrix it needs to go away for at least 10 years

4) simply describing the show as a form of critical review

5) lists

6) using the word "slickness" as a pejorative and describing high production values as some inherently damning trait... exactly how is that? Did the artist accidentally produce something with impeccable finish? (For our non-Portland readers this is an issue because Portland's production values have climbed astronomically in certain cases and the staunch, old-time regionalists who have seen the city rapidly grow in sophistication now yearn for art that looks like it was whittled by beavers).

7) describing an artist's career as "on fire" then using it as the only justification for giving it more attention

Posted by Jeff Jahn on August 19, 2005 at 2:08 | Comments (6)


This is so funny. Sad but true. You forgot the lifestyle critic, evil twin of the lifestyle artist. The lifestyle critic recaps the writers meal, drinking exploits or snarky observations of the audience, neglecting mention of the art.

Interesting question you raise, as symultaneously deeprooted and vague, can postmodern as an adjective only be replaced generationally?

Posted by: niceart [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2005 08:32 AM

"raises more questions than it answers."
sorry, i don't find your list of critical cop outs as cop outs at all..
1) is it really a cop out or a matter of form?
uh, wait until the fifth paragraph...
2) opaque writing doesn't strike me as a cop out so much as bad and/or confused.
3) neo-unoriginality...for lack of a better term lets call it what it reminds us of prefixed with neo. making an attempt at description (though hardly critical) and possibly conveying a larger historical context.
4) description is not a form of criticism. does anyone really try to pose it as such?
5) if this is critical commentary please see 1-7 above and here-in
6) using "slickness" as a pejorative is a position, not a cop out. so too "whittled by beavers"
7) if the only reason someone would choose to give an artist attention is because they are "on fire" then it seems to me they have recused themselves from critical dialogue in favor of tabloid journalism.

the critical cop out is the self-effacing phrase or position that surrenders its mandate.
that being to answer more questions than it (the peice) asks.

Posted by: eatraw [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2005 11:02 PM


Thanks, and that's a very astute comment you made about the generational need to define, "what is what's going on now."

Each term has its own baggage. In fact Katherine, "Ike" and I were all at a local art bar debating this very issue last Wednesday.

Although things are incredibly fragmented, I believe the internet and search engines are developing some interesting and incredibly tight knit arenas for such debate. Deleuze was partially right but his understanding of history was pretty parochial and it hamstrung his work.

So what are we going to call now, Now?

Posted by: sheriff jeff [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 21, 2005 07:51 PM

It seems that "we" probably won't be endowed with the privelege to name this historical ideological era. It will be handed to us by the intellectual gatekeepers in great ivory towers who get paid to make up new words and hyphenate old ones. As for suggestions from the peanut gallery, I'm all ears. In the meantime, I will continue to go with "post-modern" until something better appears, in spite of my co-writers' wishes.

Posted by: jenn [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 21, 2005 11:17 PM

Well my jest was more about some of the terrible art writing that Art Forum has often passed off and justified as PoMo critique over the years.

It is kinda passe now... and more or less lives in tenured halls at lower-level Universities.

At Harvard Yve-Alain Bois has argued PoMo might never have existed. Elsewhere, Robert Storr (who teaches at PoMo's citadel NYU) seems to concede it's diminished state. Still, at Site Santa Fe last year he rightly pointed out that to jettison all postmodern discourse is intellectually irresponsible.

Lastly, Fredric Jameson one of PoMo's founders defected years ago.

The telling thing is few people really care.

Go ahead use it. I dislike it because I hear TV newscasters spewing it and that indicates the term has become meaningless.

I prefer the term "pluralism", which was used in the late 60's early 70's before PoMo became so widely abused. It doesn't have the silly smugness of assuming we are post-anything. History repeats itself.

Posted by: sheriff jeff [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 22, 2005 07:28 PM

Wasn't pluralism supposed to be an aspect of postmodernism? Maybe it is a question of scope...Pluralism is a generator and there needs to be a term for the environment. What do you call a pluralistic environment? Everything all at the same timeism? the term postmodernism, admittedly clumsy, is an attempt to describe the impossible, the environment created by pluralism.

Wait a minute, you mean in those movies his name was "NEO"? I thought it was "NEIL"! Well, we should stop using both Neo and Neil for at least ten years...

Posted by: Isaac [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 22, 2005 11:50 PM

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