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Terence Dick
Writer, Editor

Toronto
December 30, 2010

Terence Dick is the Toronto correspondent for and editor of Akimblog. He’s also a freelance writer whose work can often be found in the pages of BorderCrossings or in assorted artist catalogues. He also talks about art and art criticism to pretty well whoever asks him to (students, collectors, lawyers, you name it). Each year he takes this opportunity to reflect on the past twelve months of art, ideas, people, and culture as a way of preparing the ground for the future. Enjoy.

Happy New Year!

1. Agamben & Boon

Even though I spend part of my day as a teacher of philosophy, the Italian theorist Giorgio Agamben was new to me until this year when his name popped up in enough art-related places to lead me to identify him as the current philosopher-of-choice for high (theory) minded artists. And just as I caught up with Jacques Rancière! Closer to home, York University English Professor Marcus Boon’s new tome In Praise of Copying touches on enough contemporary art issues that it should be on your radar, if not under your microscope.

2. Dark Ages Ahead

Here in Toronto, the rightward swing caught the downtown, lefty, media working elites (aka my people) off guard and left us with a mayor and city council whose attitude towards the arts is less than friendly. Which is strange when you consider that there is no one more familiar with austere economics that artists. But the value of art has long been a sticking point for those who count nickels and dimes rather than entertain visions of possibility. And our federal politicians are equally focused on a bottom line that threatens to cleave the nation in two. Further evidence that things aren’t going our way is AA Bronson’s ongoing attempts to pull his work from the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. That David Wojnarowicz is the instigating artist in this mess only reinforces the feeling that we’ve returned to our last Dark Ages (aka the eighties).

3. Falling Behind

In a year defined by the dominance of facebook, the theatre of WikiLeaks, the machinations of Google (taking on China!), multiple wars and global crises, the question is, “Where are the artists?” Sure, art has a role as a contemplative reflection of all this sort of thing, the considered response, the work that resists reaction, but at the same time, there is a need for art that responds in the moment as only art can. The art world risks disappearing further into its elitist lalaland of make believe and zero consequence if artists continue to neglect the present.

4. Work of Art: The Next Great Artist

A piece in this past summer’s Ryerson Review of Journalism had me in crisis mode about my chosen vocation. As the media landscape changes and those of us who live there do our best to stake claims, questions of value and those who assign, receive, and profit from those values are up for grabs. The direst outcome of this chaos is the reality TV take on contemporary art in Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. This kind of populism makes everybody and nobody an art critic. So where am I left?

5. Just Kids

Patti Smith’s memoir of her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe was a surprise to me because I thought it was going to be all about the seventies in New York (one of my favourite eras to romanticize) but instead took place for the most part in the late sixties when the idealistic pair were just finding themselves. Of course it didn’t hurt that this occurred in the hallowed halls of the Chelsea Hotel, but those early years held as much confusion as promise and put me to thinking of the artist of my future. As I continue on in my middle years, I’m on the lookout for the kids who’ll teach us something new about the now and the next. They are out there somewhere.

 

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