|A moment from the recently-concluded Bocas Lit Fest/British Council art criticism workshop at the UWI, Mona.|
THE JOB of the artist is to see. And the job of the critic is to do exactly the same.
That was one of the key principles underlined at the recently concluded Bocas Lit Fest/British Council Caribbean workshop held at the University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica.
The workshop, held from January 8 to January 14, was a rare opportunity for participants to view the practice of art writing through the eyes of Claire Armitstead, the Guardian’s books editor. Journalists and writers from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Bahamas and Dominica were given practical examples of how visual art criticism can be approached; examined how literary texts can be analyzed; saw how formats can be adapted to suit the rapidly evolving landscape; and discussed challenges common to all critics whether they write for small journals or big-circulation newspapers.
There were field trips to the National Gallery of Jamaica and the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts; panel features with publishers and editors; lunches during which we mingled with islanders; and intense workshop exercises. In one instance, writers were given free rein to pluck an artwork from the National Gallery’s impressive collection and to write on it. Then, back at our base at the beautiful UWI campus at Mona, our writing was subject to an extensive surgery.
“A lot of criticism is re-assessment,” Armitstead said, “bringing in new intelligence as it comes in.”
“The goal of art-writing is to see more,” added Gean Moreno, curator of programs at ICA Miami, who led the visual arts component of the workshop.
I was one of the participants. Not only did I get new insight into craft matters, I also gained a renewed appreciation of criticism and its role: its power to provoke opinions and, thereby, enhance our democratic freedoms. This is an art that ties us all, whether we come from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Bahamas or Dominica. To nurture art, the art of criticism itself has to reach new levels.
Get more information on the Bocas Lit Fest and the British Council Caribbean.