1. "To introduce questions and uncertainties in those places where formerly there was some seeming consensus about what one did and how one went about it. In the context of a question regarding what an artist might be, I would want to raise the question of what a theorist might be, to signal how inextricably linked these existences and practices might be. The old boundaries between making and theorizing, historicizing and displaying, criticizing and affirming have long been eroded. Artistic practice is being acknowledged as the production of knowledge and theoretical and curatorial endeavors have taken on a far more experimental and inventive dimension, both existing in the realm of potentiality and possibility rather than that of exclusively material production. The former pragmatic links in which one area “serviced” another have given way to an understanding that we face cultural issues in common and produce cultural insights in common. Instead of “criticism” being an act of judgment addressed to a clear-cut object of criticism, we now recognize not just our own imbrication in the object or the cultural moment, but also the performative nature of any action or stance we might be taking in relation to it. Now we think of all of these practices as linked in a complex process of knowledge production instead of the earlier separation into to creativity and criticism, production and application. If one shares this set of perspectives, then one cannot ask the question “what is an artist?” without asking “what is a theorist?” The narrative of theoretical unraveling, of being undone, is a journey of phases in which the thought we are immersed in is invalidated. Those moments of silent epiphany in which we have realized that things might not necessarily be so, that there might be a whole other way to think them, moments in which the paradigms we inhabit cease to be self-legitimating and in a flash are revealed to be nothing more than what they are: paradigms. In my own particular case this was a journey from a discipline called art history, via great roads of critical, theoretical study to some other and less disciplined place, which for the moment and very provisionally we might call visual culture."

    "Furthermore, I come to the formations of visual culture from a slightly different perspective of cultural difference, and it is one of the privileges of the culturally displaced that their view is always awkward and askance, never frontally positioned, and often exists in an uneasy relation to dominant paradigms. Initially from a long, conventional and very anti-intellectual training in art history, which left me at its end at a complete loss on how to navigate the interstices between who I was, what I did and the world that I inhabited. In my own particular case the distance between these three was such that fairly acceptable exercises in stretching and expanding a professional practice to make it accommodate one’s concerns seem, in retrospect, to have not been able to bridge the gaps. Therefore in the first instance my attention was caught by what possibilities there might be for formulating a project not out of a set of given materials or existent categories, but out of what seemed at each historical moment a set of urgent concerns."

    "In a sense that is what I wish for us in visual culture, that we become a field of complex and growing entanglements that can never be translated back to originary or constitutive components. That we never be able to hold on to the divisions that have separated artist from theorist…we endlessly mimic one another. That we produce new subjects in the world out of that entanglement and that we have the wisdom and courage to argue for their legitimacy while avoiding the temptation to translate them, or apply them, or separate them."

    -from ‘What is a Theorist?' by Irit Rogoff, in James Elkins’ ‘The State of Art Criticism’ (The Art Seminar)

     
  2. "To seek this close encounter with a particular medium through criticism—be it art, literature, philosophy, music and so on—as a means to recognize and practically intensify your implicatedness in the lived conditions of today in this sense would mean to go against the grain of the institutional administration of the history of these media and, as Irit Rogoff says, to “actualize” them. The close critical engagement with a work and medium would then be less a privileged form of access (or access to a privilege) but rather a practical and pragmatic approach to immersing oneself in implications. Beyond institutions and authorities, criticism could simply be a form of living with the things that talk to you, be it works, books, people, as well as social, political, and emotional events…I see this as a paradigm case of finding yourself implicated in a situation and indebted to a person or thing through the implications of an experience…So you might as well talk to the thing and get to know its take on life. The challenge but also the joy of this obligation to talk back is that you have to invent a new language to speak to the thing. And how often to you get the chance to converse with strange things that talk? All the time actually when you do art criticism."

    Jan Verwoert, Talk to the Thing, in James Elkins’ ‘The State of Art Criticism’ (The Art Seminar)