Experiments in Criticism is an ongoing education program devised by C Magazine to nurture interdisciplinary critical literacy around contemporary art. It aims to engage a cross-section of pedagogies, artistic practices, and discourses, and examine what criticism entails in a variety of contexts. It fosters approaches that are intertextual, intergenerational, intersubjective, embodied, playful, performative, literary, and capacity-building. Consistent with our mandate, we aim to centre Black, Indigenous, diasporic and other equity-seeking participants and audiences, and facilitate connections between emerging, mid-career, and established practitioners—something we see as integral to the continued growth of Toronto’s and Canada’s art communities.
From 2019-2020, we held 4 workshop series (and one indefinitely postponed due to COVID-19) aimed at youth aged 18 to 30. Based on a curriculum custom created by educational consultants in the visual arts sector, and guided by community leaders, workshop participants explore unique approaches to art criticism. Each series is developed and led by an artist, writer, curator, or educator who interprets and actuates the curriculum based on their practice, expertise, and approach to artistic discourse. While the curriculum provides a fundamental infrastructure meant to ensure the expansion of critical looking, thinking, and analysis skills, it encourages deviation from traditional workshop formats, allowing for unconventional, experimental, and speculative modes of teaching and production.
This project is designed to live on. Following each of the workshop series, leaders are asked to make an instalment in the curriculum archive based on their experience. This accumulating curriculum can and will be used as a template for infinite future iterations, either organized by C, or in collaboration with other organizations across Canada. These workshops will continue to create space for nascent, emergent, and brave forms of critical discourse, striving to develop and enrich creative-critical voices and further the understanding of evolving visual arts practices.
In autumn 2021, we ran a long-form symposium. The series sought to facilitate deep, meaningful engagement with the objects, images, texts, and experiences that we encounter in art—considering all the while what it means to do so in the midst of global crisis.
How does criticism operate today? Which of its practices are suited to the present? Which are not? Who speaks, for whom, about what, and how? Can the discipline challenge categorical, colonial, and canonical thinking toward a more compelling, generous, and polyvocal discursive landscape in the arts? If so, how? The Curious Criticism programming series brought together writers, critics, artists, curators, and other thinkers to take up these questions in relation to their manifold practices of reflecting on contemporary art and culture. With a focus on form, Curious Criticism plays on “curious” as a method (engaged, eager, inclined to plunge) as well as a descriptor for certain creative-critical leanings (unorthodox, strange, queer).
Over the course of seven weeks, symposium programming included talks, conversations, workshops, and round tables featuring Harry Dodge, Zoe Todd, TJ Shin, Miriam Jordan-Haladyn, Jas M. Morgan, Tairone Bastien, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, David Garneau, Nehal El-Hadi, Fan Wu, Benjamin de Boer, Lucy Wowk, Jeanne Randolph, Alex MF Quicho, Azza El Siddique, Patrick Cruz, Tazeen Qayyum, Golboo Amani, Sean Lee, Amanda Cachia, and more. More information and recordings from these events can be found below.