By Naomi Riddle
25 October, 2018
Since launching in October 2017, Running Dog has published sixty-two articles and worked with twenty-five contributors. And when celebrating its first birthday, I feel lucky to have collaborated with so many generous and committed writers. They have been willing to spend time and energy and care when responding to an artist’s work; willing to experiment and play and surprise. Running Dog is what it is because of its collective of voices—it has become a pluralised ‘we’, not a singular ‘I’.
Running Dog’s founding principle is that arts writing is a creative act in itself, and the publication remains focused on expanding the culture of arts criticism. We have published poetry, extended critical features, and a two-part closet drama. We have covered regional exhibitions and festivals; we have considered medieval tapestry, photomedia, opera and installation; we have reflected on exhibitions presented at institutions, commercial galleries and artist-run-spaces. Sometimes this has been done with funding support, sometimes not.
Much of what I have learnt over the past year is how to divide my attention. On the one hand, it is necessary to keep a weather eye on the weekly schedule and distil very present concerns. On the other, it is vital to cast an eye forward, knowing that this process is slowness, is patience, and that it takes years, not months, for a new publication to find an even keel.
But I also know that the arts publishing ecosystem in Australia is fragile, fraying and mostly defined by its financial precarity. I know too that those undertaking such writing projects are often accused of causing their own precariousness—it is a field that is unproductive in terms of economic revenue; it is too niche or too elitist; the audience is shrinking; the audience no longer has the time; the audience has no need for a sentence with multiple parts. (I am suspicious of anyone claiming to have knowledge of a generic audience in its entirety, or anyone who talks down to an audience’s intellectual capacity.) As it moves into its second year, Running Dog will continue to sit in opposition to these claims.
Jasper Bernes, the managing editor of the recently launched Commune, writes of our propensity to only gauge success through the frames of ‘growth’ and ‘progress’. But, as Bernes argues, ‘growth will always mean unfree development, with humans subordinated to an economy that proceeds automatically.’ In considering Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974) alongside Moishe Postone’s Time, Labour, and Social Dominations (1993), Bernes suggests a reconfiguring of this cosy capitalist model—‘we need a development without growth, a history without progress.’ Such a way of thinking allows for a ‘dynamic open-endedness’, where development is not a fixed line, and exponential growth is no longer the prime cause of concern.
And twelve months in, this is what I want this publication to do: to not see progression or expansion as an upward trajectory, but rather as an interlocking web; to not name and point or deconstruct too rigidly or uniformly, but to do something else instead—to open up and complicate the space around the object of attention.
I like to think of it this way: on its first birthday, Running Dog is finding the value in being unsupported—
unsupported as in shaky / as in groundless / as in without scaffolding / as in unburdened and unbeholden. Running Dog is unsupported as a body of matter can float unsupported.
It is without columns or postings, or even a solid foundational slab—but such a method of construction avoids subjugation. It stands independently and, what’s more, it’s a lighter and more amorphous thing: it can skim and move and slide; it can switch direction without becoming tangled.
It is writing as dispersal, as a type of scattering.
It is editing in an inchoate mood.
It is publishing as an algal bloom.