Workshops & Education

Writing Around: The Writing Table with Merray Gerges

March 10, 2019

In recent years, readers of art criticism have lamented that the genre has become more descriptive than judgmental—that art criticism is not actually critical. Descriptive art criticism tends to be inert; it shows without telling. In 2015, art critic Ben Davis posited that the growth of online art criticism ushered in a “post-descriptive” mode. When images of exhibitions abound, allowing a reader to “see” any exhibition, why does art criticism still dedicate valuable word count to description?


Writing Around will explore the possibilities of criticism without description, and ask what kinds of writing might fill the lacuna left in description’s absence. This workshop will address modes of writing art criticism from outside, taking an oblique look at the systems and circumstances that surround artistic production. What are the virtues and perils of criticism that writes around rather than about? How do the discourses around art shape its evaluation? Can writing around art elicit the judgement that so much art criticism lacks? And what role might description continue to serve today?

The Writing Table is a series of arts-writing talks and workshops held in the Or Bookstore and dedicated to investigating the shifting relationship and potentialities between writing and visual art practice. The series brings together experienced arts writers as facilitators in a discussion and writing workshop aimed at cultivating new voices in arts writing, exploring alternative modes of writing about art, and examining writing as a vehicle and as a process for thinking about and producing art. From art criticism, to curatorial writing, to writing as artistic practice, the Writing Table considers the ways in which cogent and critically engaged writing plays a fundamental role in furthering arts discourse and in fostering community. The Writing Table is open to individuals from all backgrounds and experience levels, from recent graduates to writers working in other fields who are interested in the visual arts.

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Participant Bios

Merray Gerges is a journalist and critic who writes around art rather than about it. In summer 2016, she was Editorial Resident at Canadian Art, where she is now Assistant Editor. Her reporting and criticism — which tend to address art’s contexts rather than its contents — have appeared in Canadian Art, C Magazine, MOMUS, the Walker Art Center Reader, Hyperallergic and more, discussing topics ranging from the radical potential (and shortcomings) of intersectional feminist memes and art selfies, to art-world race politics.