Metabolic Art Criticism

This course attests to and celebrates the empowering potential of a genre of art criticism that embraces the centrality of the self as receiver and synthesiser of the diverse external stimuli that infuse the context within which art is conceived of, produced, exhibited and critiqued. It is rooted in the rigorous practice of continually examining our consciousness as a way of presencing our emotional response to art, thus revealing our individual subjective biases and tendencies. For instance, what compels us to be drawn to or moved by some art, what drives our repulsion towards others; what prompts us to feel triggered by certain artworks and overjoyed by others? What is the role of patriarchal, capitalist and race-based conditioning in unwittingly determining mainstream aesthetics, inevitably informing our gaze.

The course proposes an immersive, performative methodology focussed on (re)building one’s capacity for radical sensual attentiveness. Through carefully selected readings and exercises, we will examine the intersecting political structures that frame how we see what we see, if and when we see; thus better understanding what occasions our witness by interrogating and challenging prevailing norms about what is validly considered art; who is allowed to be an artist, and our agency, as art critics, in shaping these questions. Metabolic art criticism is invested in generating theory from lived experience by processing the orality of the anecdotal and dwelling on possible orthographical renderings of the incidental. By reimagining art criticism as an act of bearing witness through the narrativising of the self, the course will offer participants an opportunity to reflect on what constitutes their current mode of art criticism and whether it can be enhanced through a re-situating of selfhood; through a vital consideration of the reader as an active recipient of this experiential rendering; and by provocatively espousing criticism as a way of locating and translating sensual aesthetic pleasure. The course champions alternative forms of art criticism, from memoir to the epistolary to poetry and exposes participants to an unconventional, cross-cultural reading list with various forms of texts that will allow us to fine-tune our capacity for empathy and empower us with tools by which to access the recesses of our critical subjectivity.

Rosalyn D’Mello is a feminist writer, editor, and art critic. She is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, A Handbook for my Lover (HarperCollins India, 2015; Hardie Grant Australia, 2016). Since January 2016, she has been writing a weekly memoir-based feminist column for mid-day and is a bi-monthly contributor for STIR. Her art criticism appears most frequently in the Indian weekly magazine, OPEN. Mid-2016, she began a column based on her visits to South Asian artists’ studios, which has since evolved into the subject of her forthcoming book for Oxford University Press, India, which is being supported by an arts research grant from the India Foundation for the Arts (2019-2020). Her writing has appeared in numerous literary anthologies, such as Dress (HarperCollins India, 2018), Walking towards Ourselves: Indian Women Tell their Stories (HarperCollins India, 2016, Hardie Grant Australia, 2016) and collections of art criticism, including Critical Writing Ensembles. Dhaka Art Summit 2016 (Office for Contemporary Art, Norway; Mousse Publishing, 2016) and Navigating the Planetary (Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2020). She was previously the editor of BLOUINARTINFO India (2012-2014) and was nominated for the Forbes’ Best Emerging Art Writer Award in 2014. She was also shortlisted for the Prudential Eye Art Award for Best Writing on Asian Contemporary Art in 2014. She was an evaluator for The Andy Warhol Foundation Art Writers Grant in 2020. She is presently based in Tramin in Südtirol, in the Italian Alps, and is working on the sequel to her non-fiction memoir.