by Leonie Huber

dis/claim is a platform for practices of, and reflections on, text production in contemporary art. The periodically published magazine presents texts which experiment with new formats and uncover their contexts of production. Each contribution positions itself through an introductory disclaimer in the vast field of art writing which declares its interests in the topic. Situated in the local art community of Vienna, dis/claim invites its contributors and readers to invigorate art writing’s capacity to engage in discourse and dissonance.

       In contemporary art, writing can be both the artwork itself and the medium of critique, discourse and education. The relations between image and text, artwork and criticism, practice and discourse are no longer ones of hierarchical opposition but of complex entanglement. The subjective and self-reflective quality of art writing is embedded in postmodernist theory which deconstructed the authority of the critic and language’s claim to representational truth.
       When practiced under capitalist conditions the performativity of contemporary art writing is infiltrated by the all-encompassing imperative to self-promotion and self-capitalisation. The ambivalent and affirmative quality of text production in the field of contemporary art is hijacked by the operability and exchangeability of branded individualism, short-lived visibility and network relevance. This complex relation is not elsewhere, but internalized and enacted in the contexts and communities which we share with others most desperately trying to defeat them.

       Shifting between artistic expression and critical reflection, the objective of art writing is often unclear: Who is the audience the text addresses and what are the contexts and communities it’s engaged with – “as well as those remembered, dreamed and imagined by the artist, the critic and other viewers”[1]? dis/claim aims to put these questions front and centre through an introductory disclaimer in which different aspects of the editorial concept crystalize.

       First, the disclaimer invites each contribution to define its own genre of art writing and to specify conventional categories like review, interview, essay or free form. Directing attention to the form and function of art writing is to counter what Boris Groys called a one/zero criticism in which the judgement lies in the decision to write about an artist or show, or not: “I understood immediately that the code of contemporary criticism is not plus or minus; I would say it’s a digital code: zero or one, mentioned or not mentioned.”[2]

       Second, the element of the disclaimer refers to mainstream internet culture — specifically influencers who disclose sponsorships and brand deals, as well as sensitive content. Transposed to the context of contemporary art, this practice highlights the similarities between these two fields and the affects they produce in the digital sphere. Both the influencer and the art critic take on the role of an intermediary between the economic interests of patrons and an audience upon whose recognition they’re dependent.

       Third, the disclaimer asks each writer to disclose their interest in the topic, the exhibition, the interviewee, the phenomenon or the argument put forward. Living and working within a tightknit community like the Viennese art scene, both personal and professional connections and dependencies – and their entanglement – often remain obscured and rendered invisible when work or writing is presented publicly. This not only perpetuates the general lack of transparency in the art field and its highly capitalized markets, but also negates the actual public one’s work or writing is perceived by – the community and context we share and care for.

       dis/claim invites its contributors and readers to invigorate art writing’s capacity to engage in discourse and dissonance. It aims to provide a platform for experimental writing practices and discordant reflections on the local art scene. It is embedded in discourse and indebted to the desires and conversations shared with others which shaped this project. I want to thank the authors of the first issue for their contributions, enthusiasm and trust, Sarah Podbelsek for graphic design and camaraderie in developing the website, as well as the community which gave me the confidence to begin this project and my friend-collaborators for their presence in every aspect of this endeavour, namely Jackie Grassmann, Simon Nagy and Miriam Stoney.

[1] Jane Rendell: Site-Writing. The architecture of Art Criticism. I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.: London/New York 2010, p. 1.
[2] Cf. Sven Lütticken: A Tale of Two Criticisms. In: Jeff Khonsary, Melanie O’Brian [Ed.]: Judgment and Contemporary Art Criticism, Fillip Editions: Vancouver 2010, p. 45-55, here: p. 55.