obj//subj --- ectivity


i want to talk about something that requires footnotes, or maybe a reading list.

i apologise in advance.

this isn’t me being difficult, this is me being bad at saying things the way i want to say them, and handing over to others who have said it before me, better than me.

i wana talk about criticism.

i wana talk about why we’re doing this the way we do this, why the white pube hates it’s adversary.

i had this lil essay ready to go a week or so ago, all about objectivity and neutrality, and what it means to embody that state as a critic. but i think rather than showing you a polemic full of question marks, i’ll tell you how i’m thinking about it, and then you can tweet us and tell us how you’re thinking about it. and we can all be at peace with the notion of perspective and tha.

The first article on the reading list is Mal Ahern’s baby essay/article ‘Naked Criticism’ and it goes the whole way, saying what i want to say, and more. [so read that now & come back]

i’ve stopped being able to tell you about what being in a room full of art was like without considering things like who i was with, what i ate that day, what i saw on twitter on the bus ride there, when i last had sex.

I’ve written less reviews this year because, truly, i feel things deeply. My star sign is Cancer, we are sensitive to change and atmosphere and the mood hanging in the air. i am prone to feeling something intangible, and being unable to translate that into words for you. I am full of qualms about relevance and authority and translatability and relate-ability; all these things weigh me down.

because honestly, do you care? (maybe you really really do, but even still, it’s hard to shrug that feeling)

how do i tell you about my dreams without boring you with my paranoia and my anxieties? [please now read the second article on the reading list, network fatigue]

candidly, I have been obsessed with objectivty //  subjectivity.

i understand that these things exist in a spectrum, that there is more to it than just one or the other.

but i am only interested in this as a binary. i like it best without the grey areas.

i have been trying to push my work away from myself. I’m less needy, i want space, some distance. I’ve been trying on objectivity like it’s new shoes. but i don’t want to wear them outside yet, just in case i want to take it back. just in case it doesn’t suit me.

the key thing i want to take away from Ahern’s essay is: when a critic speaks, they speak with authority. they have the authority to presume that their experience predicts yours. that their experience is a universal one. that their speech is objective fact.

it’s a game, a state you enter, and then slip out of when you’re back home on the sofa.

you inhabit briefly, but return to the warmth once you’ve typed everything up.

but there are requirements.

subjectivity is hard and tacky. i can hold it in my hands and feel its weight. i know what it looks like and i recognise its taste when i put it in my mouth.

objectivity is more slippery. i don’t know or can’t describe its texture. it’s like when you smell something familiar but you can’t remember where it’s familiarity came from. Like deja vu or like that feeling your falling when you’re about to fall asleep.

it’s familiar in its mode of address.

i trust it when it’s used to deliver facts to me, but i’m unable to use it myself.

maybe it’s that objectivity is negatively defined. it is what subjectivity isn’t.


i want to be authoritative when i speak. i want to stop saying sorry for things i’m not sorry for.

i want to talk over people when they interrupt me, but i don’t know how.

i want to have faith that even if you came for the art speak, you’ll stay for me talking about how much i enjoyed my art date with my boy, or my dreams, or my anxieties and paranoia.

what i want to address specifically from the network fatigue essay is:

i no longer want to care if i’m boring you by talking about croissants instead of paintings.

it’s not my prerogative to be engaging.

i don’t want to tailor things to an audience.

i’d prefer passers-by.

because the problem i have with all of this is; it’s hugely problematic.

in the same way that this year i’m obsessed with obj//subj-ectivity, last year i was obsessed with neutrality.

as a buzz-word and as a state of inhabited being.

because as a brown girl, i’m not capable of inhabiting a neutral identity without shaving down my sides.

i have extras, i have carry-ons.

artists’ ability to be neutral, to comment on abstract concepts as if they were outside, standing apart from everything, is reliant on their ability to transcend the context they sit within.

the artist stands apart, fulfilling a social or moral role. they have higher purpose.

i vaguely remember the general gist of this James Baldwin quote well enough to paraphrase: he said something like: people of colour have an innate ability to assess their positionality in relation to their surroundings, because that’s what’s consistently demanded of them every day. to an extent, that’s a negative definition of what white privilege is: the privilege of not having to be aware of your position or your relation or the way you exist within certain structures. because you don’t feel it. like goldfish don’t feel like they’re drowning, they don’t notice the water because the water was meant for them.

that’s what that is: neutral // objective.

maybe that’s all there is to transcending context; if it’s there for you, you don’t have to try to ignore it, you just do. (i don’t like that answer when it’s applied inversely, but it’s all i have at the moment)

as a cis het white man, you don’t really exist in a subjective vacuum with no external structures tugging at your hair.

you’re just less aware of them because they’re not pulling your hair as hard as they’re pulling mine.

i am unable to be objective as a critic and neutral as an artist because my subjective baggage negatively defines my ability to fully perform the two.

i no longer want to care about performing these states in my writing.

if they reject me when i try to squeeze into them, i’m going to stop squeezing into them.

i’m going to stop writing about art and tell you about my anxieties and my pre-occupations.

i will be unapologetically subjective, because that’s what the white pube has always been.

we’ve never tried to deny our subjectivities and our personal banalities when encountering art.

but now i have a political reason to prop this all up with. i now have a come back to ‘who cares?’

meaning, authority and neutrality are all gendered//racialised//all the others//in between-ed objects

last night i felt my boy kiss my forehead in my sleep and i woke up with my hand on his face, fingers holding on to his beard.

i think about this more than i think about modernism

decolonise urself sis.