Pratt Lecture brings art critic to Sackville

 Canadian art writer Amy Fung brings in knowledge of art critique and art writing

Fung gave a writing workshop titled Knowing What You Don’t Know: Learning how to Write and not Write About all the Things You Don’t Know. Greg Ellison/Argosy

The Pratt Visiting Artists Lecture Series at Mount Allison was created with the intention to bring in guests from the world of art to share their points of view on being an artist today. Every year, the series brings a guest artist to Mt. A to give insights into their experience with art and to contribute to the arts education at this school. This year, the fine arts program welcomed Amy Fung to campus to deliver a lecture and a writing workshop to students and faculty.

The lecture, entitled Before I was a Critic I Was a Human Being, was given in the Crabtree Auditorium on Thursday. This lecture, which is based on Fung’s collection of essays of the same name, examined many aspects of Amy Fung’s experience as an art critic in Canada, including multiculturalism, cultural appropriation and identity.

On Friday, Fung gave a writing workshop titled Knowing What You Don’t Know: Learning how to Write and not Write About all the Things You Don’t Know. A small group of participants gathered in the critique room of the Purdy Crawford Centre for the Arts to learn about art writing. They were asked to respond to articles, discuss topics and write two different timed exercises to share with the group.

The workshop began with the question “What is art writing?” After going around the room to hear everyone’s answers, Fung shared her own insights on the subject. “There are no right or wrong answers,” she said, stating that art writing is simply engaging with a piece of art which is where art criticism comes from.

Fung had participants write for 10 minutes, focusing on the prompt “When was the last time you felt disempowered?” In a group of only women participants who came from many different backgrounds, there were several emotional and moving responses.

Greg Ellison/Argosy

“I felt very emotional during the workshop, listening to the other marginalized people around me share what they had written in response to Fung’s question,” said Madeleine Hansen, a fourth-year fine arts student. Everyone’s unique writing samples showed how art can be vulnerable and emotional in many different ways.

Next, Fung moved on to discuss specifically writing about things you don’t know or don’t understand. Workshop members were asked to write about the last piece of art they remembered that they did not understand, and to try taking a deeper look into why they may not have understood it.

The workshop and lecture opened my eyes to what art writing is and how we engage with different forms of work as artists. It was also important in recognizing that having limitations to an artist’s knowledge isn’t a negative thing and that not having a response to a piece of art is also a valid reaction. Even if you feel like you can’t connect with a piece of artwork, someone else will.

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