Embracing the Subjective: Using Embodied Criticism and Autoethnography
as a panacea for the evaluative model of Art Criticism
This article aims to explore how embodied criticism and autoethnography can combine to offer an alternative to the traditional evaluative model of art criticism. Contemporary art criticism appears to be poised for radical change, with traditional print mediums being increasingly obsolete and the rise of social media and online platforms contributing to a glut of opinion with little depth. Embodied criticism offers the opportunity to situate the body as the production centre of knowledge, allowing multiple participants a position of authority when engaging critically with art. Autoethnography encourages its participants to look inward for political, social, and economic entanglements and then to shift their gaze outward to situate themselves within the larger context. Involving the potential arts audience in this process of meaning-making encourages non-experts to assume a role of authority, with the primary goal being an increase in the participation of the community in arts consumption and criticism.
Inspired by the form of Robert Mizzi’s “Unraveling Researcher Subjectivity Through Multivocality in Autoethnography” and the challenge put forth by Irit Rogoff, the author presents a vignette encompassing her embodied response combined with a mulitvocal autoethnographic exploration of her visit to the Audain Art Museum. Interspersing evocative narrative with the politically, socially and economically attached voices of Student, Spectator and Critic(al), the author is able to reveal the ambiguous, contradictory, and deeply vulnerable process of meaning making in critical art engagement. Afterwards she traces the roots of this critical approach from Walter Arnold, through Susan Sontag to modern scholars Peter Dickinson and Irit Rogoff.
The author includes an analysis of the benefits and challenges of this approach to art criticism. It’s non-traditional approach runs the risk of not being seen as legitimate in the conservative scholarly community. There is a risk that the audience will refuse to engage with the art, particularly if the critic is writing from a place of unpleasant embodied response. In the end, the benefits of a reciprocal dialogue between critic and audience and art outweigh the possible challenges. In presenting the deeply personal, the author concludes that an appetite for increased art consumption and engagement can be fostered.