For a long time now I have been wanting to write a catalog or brochure text for an artist. I have been wanting to write a catalog or brochure text that was completely and irredeemably negative about the work. I am just looking for an artist and gallery that will let me.
More specifically, I would like to write about work that I like. But write only negative things about it. And yes, everything I write would be true. And yes, the writer and/or curator would agree on the parameters with me beforehand. It would be a way of trying to grapple with the fact that so much art writing (most? all?) feels like little more than sophisticated PR. And the fact that within catalog and brochure texts purely negative, yet still honest, writing is never allowed.
Writing a sanctioned, but purely negative, text about an artist has a whiff of the perverse, even S & M, about it.
But one thing I feel quite sure about is it would only make the artist stronger. It would be a kind of supreme act of self-confidence, showing that they could take it. (I say this in the belief that I would be able to write some truly devastating negative texts.)
Yes, this is also always the problem with sanctioned institutional critique. It is most often a kind of strategy to control the nature of critique without actually having to change any of the problems of the institution.
But I wasn't so much thinking of these kinds of power games. I was more thinking of a way to draw attention to how unrelentingly positive most art writing is, even when its being critical, and to think about how often art writing is a kind of PR. Perversely, I think writing a purely negative text would be even better PR, because it would probably get the artist a bit more attention.
A tangle of paradoxes.