Archives: art thought

Zak Smith once drew an illustration for each page of Gravity’s Rainbow.

Today he has been tweeting a series of commandments for art criticism that are so good I’m going to collect them here for my own future reference.

The whole thing started with this lament:

To which someone asked:

and was answered:

then the floodgates fell:

For lots, lots more click continue…

These two quotes feed each other:

No painting is ever sold nor essay written nor band booked nor exhibition scheduled that is not the consequence of previous social interaction, of gossip, body language, fashion dish, and telephone chatter—nothing transpires that does not float upon the ephemeral substrata of ‘word of mouth’—on the validation of schmooze.

Dave Hickey


It’s pretty hard to have a “career” doing any single creative thing nowadays. If you really make a stir as a “science fiction writer” nowadays, you’re likely to get swept up in all kinds of network-society fringe activities, such as blogging, going to conventions, comics, gaming, TV, movies, collectibles…. The days when you could be a “science fiction writer” and work exclusively on books and magazines seem to have vanished already.

Bruce Sterling

Both of these statements fit well with my experience over the last few years. It seems to me that successful contemporary creative professionals need to tend their social gardens. You have to make yourself a celebrity to be effective as an artist.

You don’t have to be big culture famous. You need to figure out how to be a social fulcrum and catalyst. It’s maybe oversimplifying this by just listing examples of channels through which this can be accomplished, as both of the above quotes resort to. In the “everything new is old” department, I don’t think this is actually a new development, but rather the fact that online channels now allow multiple ways to measure it that approach statistical rigor have made what up to now has been intuited machinery visible.