In September 2010 a series of panel discussions entitled Critical Failure were held at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. The four events discussed the state of criticism across four art forms: literature, theatre, film and the visual arts. The panel assembled to discuss the visual arts consisted of Phip Murray, John McDonald, Patrick McCaughey and Naomi Cass. At one point in the conversation, in reference to what function criticism actually serves, McCaughey made a statement that explains the base on which we intend to build Das 500.
The crucial thing in the making of art is that the work is acknowledged.
Within the cut and thrust of the arts, one of the great challenges for emerging or contemporary artists is to feel acknowledged for their work – both the art objects they create and the exertion that brought them into being. On a broader social level, the value of art, particularly contemporary art, is often hard to quantify, and as a result the value of the artist appears diminished, in some cases totally null, to those who are not engaged in artistic practice. Art won’t get you to work on time. It doesn’t clean public toilets, and it can’t organise your finances (although it can easily decimate them). If income can be used to indicate the level of value a society places on a particular occupation, then to substantiate this claim we would point to the research of David Throsby, whose 2010 study Do you really expect to get paid? indicates that the average creative income of Australian artists is $18,600, with 56 percent of artists earning less than $10,000 per year from their practice. Although it may not be reflected monetarily, the reality, of course, is that art and artists do contribute a great deal to society, and should be acknowledged and documented within that context as well.
Das Platforms aims to facilitate this process. Das Superpaper provides a free and accessible forum for artists to speak about their work on their own terms, while the Das 500 portal provides opportunities for writers and artists to engage with each other through criticism and critical writing. Das 500 aims to open a space for new and more experienced writers to provide critical feedback on the work of their peers, to acknowledge each other in a collegiate environment, and to engage critically with ideas and trends influencing emerging and contemporary arts practice. It is important that this acknowledgment is not just seen as a transaction between the writer and the artist, but also for its broader purpose of bearing witness to the evolution and concerns of the artistic landscape of our particular place and time.
While we believe that a supportive environment is vital, we know that judgement and perspective sit at the core of criticism and critical writing. Our contributors should be able to share their views, whether positive or otherwise. Above all, the value of critical writing is not found in the view of a single person, but in discussion and dialogue between many perspectives: the future of criticism will be shaped by the nurturing of multifaceted and inclusive conversations among peers.
This is an excerpt of an article that appeared in Issue 19 of Das Superpaper
The Das 500 Editorial are
Hugh Nichols Editor
Angela Bennetts Sub Editor (Sydney)
Celia Brightwell Sub Editor (Melbourne)
Grace Winzar Sub Editor (Brisbane)