Okay… now back to the important stuff.
A couple of years ago, I had lunch with art critic Dave Hickey while he was in town to do a lecture at the school. I ended up spending the entire afternoon with him, as everyone else on the schedule baled; it turned out that his rather salty reputation proceeded him. Anyway, he and I got along great and it was a fun afternoon. I really came to like Hickey, and even attended his lecture that evening with a painter friend, because I was sure there was no way he was going to say in public any of the things about art, painting, and teaching it that he had said to me over the course of that afternoon. Of course, he said every bit of it, as though I doubted him personally.
so, per James Wolcott, Hickey seems to now be on a semi-retirement interview tour:
Sarah Douglas: Hmmm…a sort of partial retirement then?
In other words, I plan to disappear like Marcel Duchamp, which is to not quite disappear. I’m about to leave…oops, I haven’t left yet but keep on looking. I’m about to leave. I’m giving it all up for chess, that type of thing. I’m actually giving it all up for statistics. My mother was an economics professor. I’m proficient in math, and statistics, game theory, symbolic logic and all of that. I want to write a creative writing book about the statistics of literary prose accompanied by software so you could compare the statistical shape of your writing to that of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, Ray Carver or David Foster Wallace. My idea is to provide professors a way of teaching creative writing without having to read quires of crap. Also, I really believe that most of the problems with literary prose tend to be statistical. They have to do with sequencing, and the calculus is helpful in gaining this sort of information. When I was in graduate school I invented a grammar based on the paragraph rather than the sentence—very radical at the time. I also had works by writers in three states of revision so I could say: the numbers are like this here, and then here and then here. So I could make empirically based observations about intention. Hemingway means to do this. Gertrude Stein means to do this. D.H. Lawrence means to do this. I was fighting against professorial Freudian and Marxist musings on the artist’s intentions. I hate all that woozy political and psychotherapeutic crap applied to books and art.
What about art critics? Do they have any place in this system anymore? They used to have an influence over whether people bought things or not. Do they still have that?
We have no power at all. We just market aphorisms. This is mostly because of magazine economics. Good critics are expensive. I am expensive. Academics work for free to get tenure, and, since they are worried about the approval of their colleagues, they are fearful of making value judgments. Also, most of my peers and contemporaries learned how to write magazine journalism. We know how to do a transition, we know how to do a lead, we know what a hook is, and we’re literate. Most critics today come out of art academia, where they don’t even understand the future-imperfect tense. People like me, the late Bob Hughes [see Jim Kelly’s perceptive eulogy on Robert Hughes at VF Daily], Chris Knight, Peter Plagens, Jerry Saltz and Peter Schjeldahl—we’re sort of like sewing machine repairmen after the sewing machine has gone out of fashion.