By Naomi Riddle
30 November, 2018
‘How a person should read is how a person must read, which is at least in duplicate, both always in this world and looking for another.’
Anne Boyer, A Handbook of Disappointed Fate (2018), p. 163
In their collective essay, The Binder and the Server (2012), the editors of Triple Canopy argue that ‘if online publishing is to distinguish itself from the rest of the Internet’s information stream, it mustn’t settle for the easy terms of online friendship. It needs to maintain a degree of idiosyncrasy and difficulty.’1 Running Dog was devised with this framework in mind, insofar as it is suspicious of the multiplying threads of reactive commentary (TC: ‘the proliferation of communication doesn’t automatically enliven debate, but instead often forecloses it’), and the necessity for a new publication to rely on social media to succeed.2 What Running Dog wishes to foster is an expansive community interested in thoughtful and considered critique.
Nevertheless, as long as Running Dog exists solely as an online platform, there is a gap between the writer doing the writing and the reader doing the reading.
That is, given the surplus of digital noise, a publication that does not actively promote a comments section (or a hyper-visible profile) ends up expanding, rather than diminishing, the space between author and reader. If you believe, as I do, in Lyn Hejinian’s claim that writing must be rigorously (and radically) socialising, then, in its current state, Running Dog is falling a little short.
Given that the publication is against the all-consuming labour of encouraging, moderating and mediating comments online, we need to work to engage with our audience outside the online realm. To this end, I am excited to announce that in 2019 Running Dog will partner with Verge Gallery for our first public programming series.
The first of these events will take place in March and feature a panel discussion on the state of arts writing and arts criticism in Australia—
Is independent and rigorous criticism economically feasible or sustainable, and do people actually want to read it?
Is there space for experimentation and playfulness in arts writing, and what is its value to the arts community at large?
What is the relationship between artists and curators and the writers reviewing their shows?
Can criticism work to create a particular ethics or politics of looking, and how do we decolonise the practice of gatekeeping while still encouraging critique?
In framing our first event around these questions, we wish to speak to writers, readers, future critics, editors, poets, artists, curators, arts administrators, social activists, performers, musicians and anyone else who is interested in reading about, and responding to, contemporary art, in all its varied forms.
An additional three events will be curated over the course of 2019 by three regular Running Dog contributors—Em Size, Soo-Min Shim and Mariam Arcilla. Whether considering the politics of desire or the potential of social practice, each of these events will establish their own unique form. This arrangement has been devised to allow for a more multi-vocal approach to the series, and is in accordance with Running Dog’s first principles: to expand the culture of criticism and provide a platform for experimental arts writing.
We want to meet our readers. We want to hear what you think about the thorny (and often unanswerable) questions that, for the time being, only bounce between Running Dog’s editor and contributors via an email thread.
As an editor of a fledgling publication, I am repeatedly told that criticism is a dying art, and that its audience no longer exists. In launching this series, I want to find out if this claim is true, or if it is (as I suspect) the traditional forms and structures of criticism that are dwindling, rather than criticism itself.
After thirteen months maintaining a weekly publishing schedule, Running Dog will be taking a break for the month of December. We’ll still be updating our Instagram by looking back at some of the feature articles published in 2018. You can also sign-up to our monthly newsletter mailing list via our About page in a bid to avoid social media platforms altogether. In the meantime, as always, thank you to our contributors, readers and cheerleaders for your support, encouragement and belief in Running Dog—we’ll be back up and running in 2019.