Is it journalism anymore?

Wednesday afternoon, four scholarly sculpture students picked up the most recent issue of Student Life, which featured Dennis Sweeney’s “-isms & -ities” (Student Life, Feb. 4). This column was a review of a show we just put up. Sweeney probes the reader to question why art is made, how it is valid, what inspires art and what makes it a worthwhile endeavor. These questions are questions that we as artists ask ourselves all the time. The answers are often difficult, complex and ever developing: but they are not ignored. The answers to these questions are often different for all artists and art lovers, but it would be false to believe that artists do not force themselves to know the answers to these questions.

As art lovers and creators, we request that you, Dennis Sweeney, attempt to approach your journalism with the same thoughtfulness, integrity and thoroughness with which we attempt to make our work. As a journalist, and especially a critic, it would validate your opinion to base your article off of information and research. To attempt to engage in contemporary art criticism it is essential to have a strong understanding of the current action and place of art. Like any profession, to try and engage in art criticism without being informed of the language, issues and the history behind it often leads to articles or opinions that are uninformed and uninspired.

For example, to enter into a physics laboratory, a medical profession or law, it would be inappropriate to presume that you are an expert and automatically endowed with the knowledge needed to understand that field. If you walked into a physics laboratory, and looked at a chalkboard and did not understand the language, you would not be surprised.  However, when entering an art space, the ignorance that you might have about the work you are looking at, is often projected onto the art work or the artist, rather than acknowledging your own ignorance about the contemporary art context.

The questions you ask are old and have been debated by brilliant minds for centuries, especially evaluating the relationship between art and nature. However, with a strong stance of personal opinion and especially criticism, it should be done with respect and knowledge of the contemporary and historical context of the field.

So Sweeney wants to know, “Why [he should] stand in this warehouse and look at this art?” We have to ask: is it worth looking at if you are not asking that question? Sweeney was clearly involved in the work, frustrated and curious enough to write an article that asks big and complex questions. If anything, your article has reaffirmed the success of our show, whose goal was to inspire debate, questions and to open up discussion especially between communities and groups who might not ordinarily interact.

We are happy to hear your questions, happy to see you are thinking and questioning and that our work inspired those questions. However, we request that if you are going to publish your questions and internal debates, we ask that you first engage in the appropriate research to write an informed personal opinion article. So please Dennis Sweeney, and any other art-curious fellow, join us at our studios. We’re here 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (that’s 21 hours a week). We are having our inter-departmental critiques next week, Monday Feb. 9, and Wednesday Feb. 11, and they are open to anyone in the community. So join us, learn a little about what we do, see how we talk about it, and then when you have your opinions, they might have a little more “profundity.”

Zoe is a senior in Art. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]. Diana Barbosa, Jenny Murphy and Ben Rodriguez also contributed to this submission.

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