Ten years ago, James Elkins and Michael Newman's The State of Criticism was published. Despite the richness of the discussion provided by its contributors over two roundtables—and in the collection's numerous postscripts—the most striking aspect of the anthology was the complete lack of consensus upon fundamental notions around criticism. Those included: its function; its proper object of attention; its relationship to art history; its own history (or lack of it); and the perennial problem of 'neutrality' and the critic's complicities.
One might conclude from this rancour and dissension that criticism is a lost cause: although like painting, its death has been announced on a number of occasions. Some commentators claim that criticism has been superseded by 'theory', by 'art-writing', or by 'critical art'; others claim that criticism is compromised by its parochialism, or by its relationship to the market. Others have noted that critical prestige has been usurped by curators and collectors.
This Special Issue proposes that confusion over the role of criticism is a problem worthy of much more careful consideration, and that claims made for its demise can no longer be taken for granted. The appearance of Elkins' and Newman's anthology coincided with the 2007–08 Financial Crisis. Since then, the global cultural and political climate has changed significantly, requiring that we reconsider the place of criticism anew. Notions of judgment, voice, and critical discrimination may be more, not less pertinent in an age of 'big data', artificial intelligence, the widespread proliferation of culture, and the contentious notion of 'post-truth'. In what ways might criticism be re-considered in the current context? What kind of knowledge does it provide?
The issue invites essays that include, but are not limited to, the issues sketched above. The issue welcomes contributions which proceed from particular moments, or acts of criticism which open out onto to the broader issues at stake.