Anti-guffwatch: 'What is critical discourse?'

August 27 2014

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Normally, if an article contains the words 'discourse' and 'criticality' I brace myself for impenetrable guff. But, guffhunters, marvel at this article by Damian Skinner (a curator at Auckland Museum), which discusses 'critical discourse' in a clear, easy-to-read and concise manner. Here's the intro:

Criticism is a kind of art history done about new or recent objects. It involves judgment, but without the benefit of hindsight. Criticism is different to art history, which isn’t so concerned with judgment. Instead, art history explores the relationship of objects with each other, with history and with various aspects of society. Art history doesn’t have to make the same judgments as criticism – you can do great art history about really terrible objects and never have to say if you think they are good or successful or important.

I don’t necessarily think that the critic should have to state their criteria, but the reasons for their judgments should be made clear in the review. This is so the reader can understand why the critic has come to certain conclusions – and therefore determine whether these judgments and conclusions hold true for them.

Critical discourse is a kind of approach, which can be found in criticism and art history. It is a decision to actively engage with the tools you are using, the discussions you are part of. It is a willingness to ask questions and not assume anything. Discourse is the flow of ideas, conversations, practices and objects that make contemporary jewelry possible.. Critical discourse is an attitude to the different aspects that make up the contemporary jewelry eco-system: making, writing, exhibiting, selling, wearing, and so on.

See, it can be done!

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