CCAF 2010

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Introduction to Second CCAF Conference

After the first CCAF conference we received a criticism: the theme of the conference was too broad, it lacked a focus, therefore many problems were perfunctorily discussed. Professor James Elkins of SAIC proposed four new themes at the end of the conferences, and art criticism is one of them. Although discussion during the first conference touched on art criticism, it was inadequate due to the above reasons. Some Chinese scholars also expressed concerns regarding the conference theme, and hope changes will be made for the second conference.

In China, we understand that the art criticism is a weak point in the rapid development of Chinese contemporary art; it has many problems and some of them are urgent. Chinese contemporary art is comparatively young, however it appears that the tendency of Chinese contemporary art has been becoming less critical recently as compared to its early years of development. The art criticism also appears more of praising achievement than providing critical thinking. Some problems are more practical and may have something to do with the commercialization of criticism which as I pointed out in the first conference introduction: “that under the seduction of money some critics are corrupted and criticism become the tool for the art market”. And some problems may related with the government regulations and censorship on art, also the government offered institutionalization for the contemporary art. Other problems are theoretical in nature because of the fact that theory which the criticism of contemporary art based on was adopted from the West. Not to mention the dazzling terms and methodologies of art theory, the translation of those terms and methodologies alone presents considerable difficulties; the same terms and methodologies are applied under different context of China and the West, and that often results misunderstanding, misleading and misjudging of contemporary art in the practice of art criticism.

In the West, art criticism also is struggling; according to some scholars it is in crises and the situation has been like that for a long time. On the one hand, there are so many new art pieces produced regularly in North America and Europe that challenge the current parameters of criticism. On the other hand, there is the enormous impact of mass culture, which makes serious art criticism increasingly invisible and render the critical judgment moot.

The theme of the second CCAF conference is: “What Happened to Art Criticism? —Problems in Chinese and Western Art Criticism”. In the conference, critics and scholars from the West and China will come together for the first time to discuss problems in art criticism. The problems of Chinese and Western art criticism are different but share some features. I believe this discussion will promote understanding of the nature of art criticism and contemporary art at a time of accelerating globalization.

Qigu Jiang in FL 2/18/2010

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