Digital Critics: Analysing, Historicising and Archiving Art Criticism Produced in Online Communities

Project: Research

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The future of art criticism is in jeopardy. There have been numerous public discussions(ICA, 2011; Witte de With, 2012; AIAC, 2013) and publications on the crisis of artcriticism (Elkins, 2003; Rubinstein, 2006; Plagens, 2007; Elkins and Newman, 2008).The internet is often blamed as widespread access to instant self-publishing allowsanyone to be a critic (Gat, 2013; Myers, 2013) and devalues the role of the educated,professional art critic (Heartney, 2006; Westbury, 2010). In the West, the critic’s fallfrom power appears compounded by the increasing exclusivity of high culture (McEvilley2006; Plagens, 2007) and the rise of the international curator (Allen, J. 2008; Vidokle,2010). Yet art critical practice remains an essential component of any philosophicallyand financially successful art ecosystem (McDonald, 2007; Strauss, 2012; Thomas, 2012).Without art criticism, emerging art scenes in the East, like Hong Kong’s, cannot competeon a world stage (Yao, 2008; Lee, 2013). However, there have been no comprehensivestudies of art criticism after the internet.Art criticism is difficult to research. It is transient and archives are rare. Online artcriticism is particularly difficult to store and navigate. Many early email-based artdiscussion lists are no longer online and searching through old Facebook posts is alaborious task. Yet without understanding the way art criticism has been practicedonline since the early 1980s, we cannot assess the true scope of the global art criticalcrisis or what new forms of art criticism are emerging. To remedy this situation, thisresearch aims to analyse, historicise and archive the products of art critics operatingwithin online (internet-based or digital and networked) communities. It will produce thefirst ever:1) conceptual framework for identifying and analysing forms of online art criticism,2) historical account of online art criticism,3) public educational database of examples of online art criticism (in partnership withpioneering online forum for art criticism: Rhizome).The research will use networked art projects, early Bulletin Board Systems, emaildiscussion lists, blogs and social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter ascase studies to determine the ways that art criticism has been generated online. It willdevelop a typology of the various forms (platforms, genres, formats) of online artcriticism, expand the definition of art criticism and support the ways art critical culturecan be fostered in the future.


Project number9042298
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/11/1529/10/19

    Research areas

  • art criticism,art history,art communities,social media,