The Art of Criticism in Brussels 4 – 9 May 2018

By Sonja van der Valk

Last November we talked about common projects and, with some beers in our hands, we decided to bring some of us together during the Kunstenfestivaldesarts (KFDA) in Brussels, May 2018. This much I can tell you, it is going to happen. Axel Andersson (Kritiklabbet), Wouter Hillaert (rekto:verso), and Daphne Rieken (Domain for Art Criticism) will join the second edition of the Cross Critique program in Brussels. Everyone hopes Esther Slevogt or one of her colleagues of nachtkritik can leave Berlin for a couple of days to participate as well.

The second edition of Cross Critique will be an international lab on new forms of visual and digital criticism. Ten critics and video artists dive into the festival with one goal in mind: to pop back up after five days with visual critiques of the performances they have seen, without using pen or paper. Is it possible to reflect on art with the same depth of reflection, using camera or podcast? The results will be disclosed online by the end of the festival.

In an email conversation Esther and Wouter already pre-empted a little bit the discussion that surely will take place in Brussels. It started with the basic idea for KFDA – a group of critics and audio-visual professionals are producing products of multimedia criticism, to be published on the sites of rekto:verso, Kritiklabbet, and possibly the Dutch magazine Mr Motley or Hard//Hoofd.

We would like to share that conversation:


Could you explain a bit more detailed, what exactly you mean by ‘multimedia-critique’? Do you mean the integration of video- and sound-files into the text or do you refer to more interactive tools, augmented reality, et cetera? At the moment is a very text-based platform. We are thinking about and experimenting with new forms, but always meet the problem: how can we integrate audio-visual tools into the ‘discourse’ of critique (this is not a technical but a ‘philosophical’ question). And wouldn’t interactive tools be more appropriate to ‘critique’ as a discourse than audiovisual tools? So there are still some questions!


By multimedia critique, we talk in this case mostly about video(essays): a critique as a video (instead of written text).                 

Here the results of last year, quite amateurish still, but maybe you get an idea? My own critique (in English): All in an experimental phase, still, true.  These are experiments from earlier on:

The philosophical question is exactly what we want to talk about, but by doing first. There are indeed some challenges left, compared to traditional text based critique. But it seems we critics are the last to question our medium, at least that’s what interests myself in this matter.              

Does this help to make it more clear?


The best video essays I know are by the American filmcritic Kevin B. Lee. Here my favourite one (which you might know already…I send the link just in case): A film about the making-of the blockbuster-movie ‘Transformers’ built almost only with
amateur-videos Lee found in social networks. The essay is a very lucid critique ( + documentary) of / about the production of a martial blockbuster, that itself is a kind of imperialistic act of war.

But in case of film it is also easier to stay inside the discourse. From my point of view in case of theatre the transformation into another media is more difficult. Since what is supposed to be a critique, very easy becomes a kind of small tv-report or even a pr-clip for the production it deals with (or a kind of artwork itself which is no longer a critique …).

I still try to make a participation of possible.