Open Sesame Critics Forum, April 26 at LUFF

by | Apr 24, 2014 | Reviews | 0 comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about live or performative criticism lately: ways to try to move critical discourse away from its seemingly inevitable destination as printed or posted words, into another space that might be more fleeting, more experimental and more social. In some ways, it’s been a hard conceptual move for me to make, as a dedicated book fetishist who still brings a pen and notebook to every exhibition, lecture and artist talk I go to. It’s difficult to imagine discussing or reviewing art without lots and lots of written words: my own and those of others. Which is why I’ve been excited to attend a few of the “Open Sesame Critics Forum” sessions, organized by artist and critic Xenia Benivolski for the past several years as a way to activate and enliven art criticism. In each session, three art critics review three exhibitions, discussing their interpretations and reactions with one another and in front of a crowd.

It’s not exactly living research, or research in public, which has been motivating a lot of my curatorial work lately (especially under the generative guidance of folks like Kim Simon at Gallery TPW and Pip Day at SBC Gallery) since in most of the sessions I’ve attended, the participating critics have shown up with some pretty well-formed ideas about the art they are reviewing, rather than positing some tentative and changeable ideas. But it also offers an opportunity to talk about the function of art criticism, in print and in dialogue, and to think about what it might mean to change one’s mind in public, in relation to other artists, writers and curators in the room.

I’ll be participating in the next session of “Open Sesame,” happening this Saturday, April 26 at LUFF art + dialogue, and I’ve been trying to think about how to challenge my reliance on printed words in art criticism and to force myself to experiment with the modes of critical discourse. This might be as simple as showing up with no notes, or could involve its opposite: trying to force myself to write, at length, but in a completely different voice and style than I’d normally use.



OPEN SESAME: Critics Forum, vol. V
Saturday, April 26, 3–6 pm
LUFF art + dialogue
688 Richmond Street West, #202, Toronto, Ontario M6J 1C5


Based on David Cohen’s Review Panel at the National Academy Museum in New York City, three critics will review three current Toronto exhibitions, after which questions and dialogue between critics and audience will be facilitated.


Exhibitions reviewed:


Darryl Napinak: “Darryl Napinak’s Throwbacks”
Paul Petro Contemporary (upstairs)
April 11 – April 26, 2014’s-Throwbacks


Richard Ibghy & Marilou Lemmens: “Is There Anything To Be Done At All?”
Trinity Square Video in Collaboration with Images Festival. TSV.
April 12th – May 12th, 2014


Eva Kotátková – S/T” Eva Kotatkova”
Scrap Metal Gallery
April 3 – June 28, 2014


Critics are Amish Morrell, Gabrielle Moser and Alex Wolfson. Moderated by Amy Lam.


Amish Morrell is Editor of C Magazine, a quarterly journal on contemporary international art, and Special Lecturer in Visual Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He has written for publications including Art Papers, Ciel Variable, Fuse Magazine, History of Photography and Prefix Photo. He recently edited The Anti-Catalogue (The Model, 2010), a book on contemporary artists collectives, and is published in Byproduct: on the excess of embedded art practices (YYZBooks, 2010), edited by Marisa Jahn.


Gabrielle Moser is a writer and independent curator. She regularly contributes to, and her writing has appeared in venues including ARTnews, Canadian Art, Fillip, n paradoxa, and Photography & Culture. She has curated exhibitions for Access Gallery, Gallery TPW, Xpace and Vtape. Gabby is a PhD candidate in art history and visual culture at York University and a member of the Toronto Photography Seminar.


Alexander Wolfson is an artist, writer and theatre director. His most recent solo exhibition was The F.E.K. Archives: This is making me nervous…(Mercer Union, 2012). He often presents his plays in galleries, working at the intersections between theatre and installation. His recent exhibition history includes the AGYU, Gallery TPW, Interaccess Gallery, and the Summerworks Festival. He has a catalogue/book of texts (in collaboration with Bojana Stancic) published by the AGYU Press entitled, And so, the animal looked back… (2011).


Amy Lam is one half of the comedy performance duo Life of a Craphead. Life of A Craphead organizes the monthly comedy and performance show Doored, and were recently artists in residents at The Art Gallery of Ontario, where they produced The Life of a Craphead Fifty Year Retrospective, 2006-2056.