After Criticism

New Responses to Art and Performance

Edited by Gavin Butt

Published June 2004
Blackwell Publishing Buy from

It has recently become apparent that criticism has fallen on hard times. Either commodification is deemed to have killed it off, or it has become institutionally routine. This book explores contemporary approaches which have sought to renew criticism’s energies in the wake of a ‘theatrical turn’ in recent visual arts practice, and the emergence of a ‘performative’ arts writing over the past decade or so.

Issues addressed include the ‘performing’ of art’s histories; the consequences for criticism of embracing boredom, distraction and other ‘queer’ forms of (in)attention; and the importance of exploring writerly process in responding to aesthetic experience. Bringing together newly commissioned work from the fields of art history, performance studies, and visual culture with the writings of contemporary artists, After Criticism provides a set of experimental essays which demonstrate how ‘the critical’ might live on as a vital and efficacious force within contemporary culture.

Contributors: Jane Blocker, Jennifer Doyle, Matthew Goulish, Kate Love, José Esteban Muñoz, Niru Ratnam, Irit Rogoff, Rebecca Schneider and John Seth.

“Though it seems contradictory to write words of praise for a book that deeply interrogates the marketability of praiseful language (in the guise of art criticism), Gavin Butt’s collection deserves them. Framed by Butt’s astute introduction, these performative essays pulse with vitality. Food for thought, this book makes us think, again, about art and its interpretations in a new way. Critical writing as a kind of performance – delicious.” – Amelia Jones, author of Body Art: Performing the Subject

“This anthology is an excellent overview of performative critical discourse edited and introduced by one of its leading proponents. All the contributions have an experimental or improvisational edge that preserves a sense of the critical encounter. The book is at the cutting edge of art theory and will be read with enthusiasm by a large number of people engaged with contemporary art practice and criticism.” – Margaret Iversen, author of Photography, Trace and Trauma

After Criticism is crucial to any discussion regarding the status of criticism and critical theory after post-structuralism and, equally importantly, is one of few texts that is innovative in its illumination of context, history, aesthetic judgement and, rare for an academic text, enjoyable to read.” – Amna Malik, Art Monthly

"After Criticism is no doubt the most intriguing collection of performative writing published yet. Being refreshing, entertaining as well as inspiringly confusing, it is essential reading for anyone writing on art who does not only think of what to write, but also of how to write it."    Camilla Jalving, Contemporary magazine
"By building on crucial performances and theoretical writing in performance studies' history, After Criticism not only "opens up the possible futures of criticism" but also the possible futures of performance studies itself."   T. Nikki Cesare, TDR: The Drama Review