Cheers, reality! Master-Classes of the II Art History Contest: Impressions of Lectors and Finalists

After the master-classes for 10 finalists of the II Art History Contest that took place on 21-22 September we asked both lectors and finalists to be open about their impressions about each other.

So on the one hand...

 

Kateryna Botanova (lector)

‘Art history and art criticism are two different fields with different aims and approaches, one should keep this in mind.'

Kateryna Botanova, Director of the Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art, chief editor of online-journal KORYDOR

Sceptical and cautious eyes of the ten finalists-participants of a master-class did not promise an interesting almost- three-hour discussion of the nature and purpose of criticism. This meeting and the papers of the participants that I had read made me think of some issues that might come in useful for future contests: (1) education and communication are far more important today than competitions; the youngsters lack the knowledge of the context and reality more than recognition; and recognition and subsequent professional development are hardly possible without knowledge. (2) The wide and all-encompassing topic of the Contest rather generates great but obscure ponderings than provides possibilities; narrowing the topic or determining the formats for future texts might make the set task easier for young critics. (3) Art history and art criticism are two different fields with different aims and approaches, one should keep this in mind.

Diana Klochko (lector)

'A master-class provides the possibility to feel that a dialog if not an all-encompassing discussion, communication if not a talk are possible between different professional levels and generation experiences.'

Diana Klochko, art historian, editor, ideologist of creative publishing projects

It is considered that to be present at a master-class and to actually conduct it is to play different parts of one process. However, having communicated with the finalists of the Contest, I started to doubt this axiom. Does a 'Master' have to lead somewhere, prove something and keep a 'class' in a permanent intellectual and emotional strain? To demonstrate 'class', thus living up to a 'master' title? The two-hour communication with ten young people did not become a comparative analysis of their papers with the already established and respected texts. It ended up to be an attempt to ask questions and dive into the answers as profoundly as possible, to ask another question and lead to another thought. Confirmation, denial – they are not that important at all when real 'talking' begins: text are created to be read 'by oneself, silently, with one's own eyes', but it is of a paramount importance to make them phonetic, loud, to turn them into a sound. The segregation between those who perceive and those who give, between those under assessment and those assessing can also go the other way round.

A master-class provides the possibility to feel that a dialog if not an all-encompassing discussion, communication if not a talk are possible between different professional levels and generation experiences.

And finally it is always so exciting to look at young people, listen to them and guess: right, this guy could be the author of this text, and an argument of this pretty young lady sounds very similar to the one I read in that paper. I received the encoded works and now I am facing the people who actually wrote them. I do really hope that the final variant of their papers will give me the right to say: yes, those two hours spent on a master-class were really fruitful.

Kostiantyn Donin (lector)

'I would introduce an age qualification requirement for art critics – they should be 30 years old at the very least.'

Kostiantyn Donin, editor, journalist

I do not understand what we need art critics for at all and, moreover, cannot comprehend why young people, who are just starting trying out this life, should entertain the illusion that they are in a position to criticise anything. It is jumping the gun. They should receive proper professional background, pass a test after that and only the best should remain. As for the time being, this Contest is a far too adult thing for them: this is my primary impression after reading the texts and meeting their authors. Furthermore, I would introduce an age qualification requirement for art critics – they should be 30 years old at the very least. Like for directing. You cannot be a director at a tender age of 17. I mean, you can, certainly, but you should have a certain background, you should dare to have an opinion based on and backed by something. It is the issue of methodology. Nevertheless, I could see a couple of guys from the master-class working at my editorial office.

Kateryna Stukalova (lector)

'This generation has a far better background due to the access to information – the papers demonstrate that their authors have possibilities to read more, see more, that they are more fluent in contemporary western literature on the topic'

Kateryna Stukalova, art critic

My impressions are very mixed: there are some very good, mature works together with some texts that need to be seriously amended. One notices numerous elementary mismatches such as grammar, punctuation and syntaxes. Some texts look as if the author simply had to write them because they had to participate in the Contest and try to ponder over the set topic. On the other hand, in the course of the discussion the finalists asked the questions on the developments in the art milieu now, wanted to learn about the most acute issues, about the problems that might happen – say, about the possibility of the relocation of Lavra museums. Such interest demonstrates that these guys see their future in the field of art and are not attending a master-class by accident. It is very good that the organisers of the Contest want to involve these young people into practical work – it is hoped that these people will not get lost but will be employed by the editors with a view to subsequent cooperation and critical writing.

At a master-class the finalists seemed to feel slightly blue because of the communication with previous lectors. So I tried to be as tactful as possible not to bring them down completely. I suggested what changes could be made in their papers to make them more readable and trustworthy in terms of information.

This generation has a far better background due to the access to information – the papers demonstrate that their authors have possibilities to read more, see more, that they are more fluent in contemporary western literature on the topic. However, quoting western critics was often a disguise of a sloppy personal argument or even its absence. I did not come across any generation gap issues, as regards one work, I already said that it seemed to me it was me who had written that text 15 years ago.

And on the other..

 

Dmytro Bogachuk (finalist)

'I am very glad to have attended the master-classes. It was an important experience that also gave me a possibility to meet the like-minded people’

Dmytro Bogachuk, finalist of the II Art History Contest for Art Critics

I would like to thank the organisers for the possibility to take part in the amazing Contest. It is really pleasant that such enthusiasts as Stella are eager to support young theorists and my special gratitude goes to her for that.

The two-day master-class turned out to be very hectic. I enjoyed the dynamics of the lectures, listening to interesting practitioners and the lectures themselves were varied and useful.

The lectors were as critical as possible in their assessment of our works during the first stage of the Contest. They did not just name the mistakes, but provided their valuable recommendations on how to correct them. I am sure that I received an extraordinary experience in the course of these two days and it is only now that I can see all the deficiencies of my paper – even without somebody pointing them out for me.

And the most important thing: apart from lectors I met and listened to bright young finalists. They are the people one wants to establish professional relations with and keep in touch. 

I am very glad to have attended the master-classes. It was an important experience that also gave me a possibility to meet the like-minded people.

Kateryna Busol (finalist)

'It is great that we received much criticism and it is great that it was based on our texts'

Kateryna Busol, finalist of the II Art History Contest for Art Critics

The idea to hold master-classes could not be better. It is so not only because of the possibility to receive well-reasoned criticism of one’s own paper, but also because one can meet other participants of the Contest and have a live communication with those actors of the Ukrainian art-scene who were previously read and listened to only online.

In the course of these two days, thankfully to Olga Balashova, Kateryna Botanova, Kostiantyn Donin, I understood how drastically different an art critic and art historian are and, consequently, how wrong I had been in shaping the argumentation in my essay. It is great that we received much criticism and it is great that it was based on our texts.

If I may, I would like to voice two wishes regarding future Contests:

1)   to put online the main editor recommendations (e.g. those provided by Kateryna Botanova) regarding the articles on art criticism – so that one could access them already when writing the first draft. At least, my essay would be completely different if I had known such recommendations from the very beginning;

2)   it might be useful to invite the participants to briefly explain the nature and purpose of their text (whether it is an academic paper, an article for a certain journal, an essay, a review, an overview etc.) as well as to describe the audience they want to read their texts first, before the main body of their papers. It seems to me that the master-classes and the lectors were dominated by a presumption that the essays were written for a certain journal – that, consequently, made unacceptable other formats of the papers that we decided to follow. Although, I must acknowledge that the inconsistencies of formats were not the only tricky hurdles we faced J

As regards all the rest – I am truly grateful for the enriching communication and warm organisation of the whole project.

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