Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of reflection posts by the three participants in the Superscript Blog Mentorship program, for which Hyperallergic partnered with the Walker Art Center to provide guidance, editing, and publishing opportunities to emerging arts writers at the #Superscript15 conference (May 28–30).
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Superscript, a first-of-its-kind conference about arts journalism and criticism in the digital age, hosted by the Walker Art Center, was full of illuminating moments about the labor of writing. But it also left some things to be desired.
If the folks at the Walker are planning for future iterations, here are some suggestions:
1. Fewer lectures, more dialogue
Now, there were several superb presentations — including The New Inquiry editor-in-chief Ayesha Siddiqi’s (*swoon*), LA Times staff writer Carolina Miranda’s, and futures editor at Motherboard and Terraform Claire Evans’s — but the Q&A sessions were the richest part of the conference. More of these, please.
2. Connect with cyberspace convos
Superscript panel discussions were mostly disconnected from online discussions, which was unfortunate; the conference was, after all, about criticism in the digital age. While it was amusing to see Twitter questions handed to the moderators like paternity results on the Maury Show, Twitter could have been better used to guide the Q&A. An onstage social media moderator is worth considering.
3. Ask questions online
Further leveraging Twitter energy seems like a worthwhile endeavor. How about posing questions to IRL and virtual viewers? Think Al Jazeera’s series The Stream, where moderators connect with online commentators. One question I wanted answered is: what alternative forms of compensation are nonprofit and volunteer-run groups providing for writers? Why not use Twitter to find out?
4. Manifest diversity
Superscript wasn’t very diverse, as has been pointed out a bunch on Twitter and Facebook (and by a fellow participant in the Superscript Blog Mentorship Program, Merray Gerges, in one of her blog posts). Any discussion of arts journalism and criticism in the digital age should include marginalized voices, especially because digital media, as @AdrianneRussell pointed out, often amplifies them. Some of the best criticism happens under or off the mainstream radar. And would it be hard to include critics living in other countries via Google Hangout or Skype? The conference would have benefited from the inclusion of international perspectives.
5. Make it financially accessible
Representing the future of the profession not only involves getting diverse writers, curators, and educators onstage but also to the conference. For some people, $200 isn’t exorbitant (especially if your employer is paying), but it is for many young writers. This could mean a different approach to ticket pricing: Maybe a general rate and a student rate? Or a sliding scale to defray other attendance costs? If the conference hadn’t been practically in my backyard, I wouldn’t have been able to go.
6. Let’s talk anti-profit
It’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever be a full-time art critic, but some people want to know what it’s like. I would have loved to see a practical panel about living as a writer, especially in the Midwest. Carolina Miranda gave some great advice, like how important it is to negotiate pay, a topic young emerging writers would surely like to hear more about. I’m reminded of a book edited by Minneapolis-based artist and conference attendee Sharon Louden: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists. It would have been great to see her on a panel.
7. Step up your food game
@NegativeJams said it, and I’ll say it again: an $11 burrito that you had to fold yourself?! Might I add that the salsa was shamefully mild, too? I can think of five things better than a pricey DIY burrito bar: a fleet of food trucks, anything on a stick, the uniquely Minnesotan Jucy Lucy, something with Spam (just kidding!), or a tater tot dish. Oh, and try for more of those afternoon dessert bars; in a Superscript blogging haze @MerrayRayRay found them “life-changing.”
Special Edition: 🖌️Artists’ Signatures ✍️
In this special edition, we investigate what artists’ signatures actually mean, and the fascinating results reveal the multifaceted history of this curious phenomenon.
What Is a Signature in the Internet Age?
As a cryptographic unit for record-keeping, an NFT can be seen as analogous to a signature or an autograph.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
The Meaning of Ancient Greek and Roman Artisan Signatures
What did a signature mean in the ancient world, and how much can we trust what they seem to tell us?
Michelangelo’s Signature and the Myth of Genius
Michelangelo served as a stellar example for future artists who sought status and economic independence.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
Uncovering the Photographer Behind Arshile Gorky’s Most Famous Painting
As we pursue photographer Hovhannes Avedaghayan a fascinating picture begins to emerge of him and the world of which he was part.
100 Years of Artist Signatures in a Detroit Club
The beams in Detroit’s Scarab Club act as a guest book of sorts, carrying a wealth of stories and history, including signatures by Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, Margaret Bourke-White, Isamu Noguchi, and others.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
The Myth of Agency Around Artists’ Signatures
In an art world built on shifting sands, artists’ signatures become symbols of agency for some, and relics of the past for others.
The Women Artists Commemorated on an NYC Sidewalk
The signatures of Rosa Bonheur, Mary Cassatt, and six other historical women artists are engraved on a small stretch of sidewalk on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Met Museum Repatriates 15 Objects to India
The sculptures were all at one point sold by the disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Placed on Russian “Wanted” List
Tolokonnikova has long been a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin’s regime.