American University of Beirut

Critical Machines: Art Periodicals Today (Conference)

​​​​International Conference
March 7, 2014 - March​ 8, 2014

Conference organizers: Octavian Esanu and Angela Harutyunyan

For the conference, we re-apply the metaphor of the “critical machine” (the piece of industrial equipment programed to monitor and report on other machines in the production chain) in order to discuss various critical practices of reporting and commenting on contemporary artistic production, display and distribution. Today, art journals, magazines, newsletters, websites, zines and blogs are the critical machines that both monitor and outline the trajectories of artists’ interactions with global or local cultural circuits. These periodicals often serve a gatekeeping function, endorsing and determining what counts as legitimate art, or criticizing and even excluding “foreign bodies,” or experiences and practices that might disrupt and destabilize the established art system. While on one hand, institutional art criticism – as it circulates today in printed and electronic media – functions as a discursive gatekeeper, on the other hand it constantly seeks and finds ways to expand its discursive boundaries, in order to make space for new exegeses and interpretive experiences that the system might accommodate and use in its normal operations. In short, art criticism needs to introduce a degree of foreignness, an alien element – be it in the form of new discursive units, critical approaches or reference points – precisely in order to guarantee the functioning of the system of (art critical) production of meaning, creating self-adjusting and self-improving environments.

The two-day symposium invites art critics and artists involved in art publishing to discuss the production of art criticism in today’s globalized world. The participants will meet to discuss channels of production and distribution of art critical discourse, ways of coding this discourse and its media of transmission, types of storage and incorporation, ideological particularities and market interferences. We will ask ourselves, moreover, what has changed, or what must change today in a globally-charged art critical environment, where the location of the critical machine does not significantly or obviously affect either the content or the form of art critical production. For this event, at AUB Art Galleries we invite operators of critical machines to share their experience and participate in a series of debates.

Each session of the conference – grouped in accordance with certain editorial approaches or methods – will consist of a series of presentations and panel discussions moderated by a discussant. Each invited editor will speak for thirty minutes about the periodical he or she came to Beirut to represent, drawing on its history and favored theories and methods as well as the wider concerns that inspire and inform their editorial practices. The presentations in each section, and the sections themselves, will conclude with a panel discussion among the editors and the audience.

Participating Critical Machines and Editors

Al Akhbar newspaper (Culture & Society section) – Roy Dib (Beirut, Lebanon) 
Arteria e-journal – Vardan Azatyan (Yerevan, Armenia) 
ArtTerritories online publishing platform – Shuruq Harb (Palestine)
Art and the Public Sphere journal – Mel Jordan (London, UK)
ArtLeaks Gazette – Corina Apostol (Bucharest, Romania)
ARTMargins journal – Sven Spieker (Los Angeles, USA), Octavian Esanu, Angela Harutyunyan (Beirut, Lebanon)
Bidoun magazine – Negar Azimi (New York, USA)
Cabinet magazine – D. Graham Burnett (New York, USA) 
Chto Delat’ newspaper – Dmitry Vilensky (St. Petersburg, Russia) 
e-flux journal – Anton Vidokle (New York, USA/Beirut, Lebanon)
Gahnama-e-Hunar magazine – Rahraw Omarzad (Kabul, Afghanistan)
Ibraaz on-line platform – Anthony Downey (London, UK)
Mada Masr online newspaper and platform (Art & Culture section) – Lina Attalah (Cairo, Egypt)
October journal – David Joselit (New York City, USA)
Red Thread e-journal – Erden Kosova (Istanbul, Turkey)​
Umělec magazine – Ivan Mečl and Palo Fabuš (London, UK and Prague, Czech Republic)

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