Blogging Down Under – From the 2010 Sydney Biennale

May 10, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Bridging “The Beauty of Distance”: ASU’s Herberger Institute School of Art instigates critical writing dispatches from the 2010 Sydney Biennale

When this year’s artist selections for the 17th Biennale of Sydney were announced by curator David Elliot, I was thrilled as the new Director of the School of Art and recent transplant to the PHX region to see a faculty member, Angela Ellsworth, and alumnus, Claudio DiCochea, on the list. Another talented artist in the region, Enrique Chagoya was also listed, and the regional asociations continued to gain momentum as cultural agent Bruce Ferguson, director of F.A.R. @ASU (in transition to become Dean of Humanities and Social Science at the American University of Cairo) was invited to write a major essay for the biennial catalogue, and a number of young graduate student performers and artists from the Schools of Art and Dance at ASU were tapped to participate in Ellsworth’s performance contribution “Meanwhile, back at the ranch.”

As all of this was brewing, a series of meetings among those of us who care about arts writing in the region (organized by former senior curator of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Claire Schneider and including curators, writers, educators and publishers across the metro region) were taking place. As an artist, I’m keenly aware of the important role strong critical  writing can play in strengthening the work of artists, and catalyzing interpretation and discussion amongst a cultural community. In light of this, I began offering classes this Spring term in Art and Design Criticism, and hired local arts writer Deborah Sussman Susser to teach them. Sussman Susser’s enthusiasm for stimulating thought and written communication are evident, but the issues that underlay each week’s course offering circled back to the question of the future of art criticism at a time when arts staff writers are few, and arts writers are paid exceptionally poorly, if at all. What are some new communication models that support critical engagement with artwork?

It is in this spirit of questioning, and from the vantage point of the School of Art’s mission to foster creativity beyond the walls of its studios and classrooms, that we have invited Sussman Susser to offer her critical viewpoints in on-the-spot twice daily (perhaps more!) blog entries from Sydney. Equipped with a laptop, digital still/video camera and a knowledge of art and the region, she is well-prepared to translate her observations and experiences into timely and relevant reading. Her blog is live now, as you read this, at and will continue through the first week of opening events of the Biennial (5-9 to 5/15), and will include offerings on the openings, performances, and panels that feature artists and envoys from our region.

Bookmark the page and revisit it throughout the next week – to read, comment, and be a part of this experiment in arts writing, and spotlight of another side of our regional culture in the weeks following passage of SB1070. In addition to Sussman Susser’s dispatches, local writer Tania Katan will also be blogging at, and Phoenix New Times’ new art and culture blog, Jackalope Ranch, will also be posting on the Bieniial activities.

Deborah Sussman Susser is a writer and editor living in Tempe, Arizona. The associate editor of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, she teaches a course on writing art and design criticism at Arizona State University, and co-teaches the creative writing workshop “Mothers Who Write” through the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Her reviews have been published in Art in America, ArtNews, the Washington Post, and The New York Times, as well as on

Thanks to our partners at the Herberger Institutute for Design and the Arts, and the ASU Art Museum for hosting and supporting this venture.

Relevant Sites:

Adriene Jenik

Professor and Director, School of Art

Katherine K. Herberger Endowed Chair in Fine Arts

Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Arizona State University

Entry filed under: Angela Ellsworth, Art + Performance, Art Events, Art Trips, Artists at the Museum, ASU Art Museum, ASU Art Museum Press, ASU Art Museum special events, ASU Art Museum: Behind-the-scenes, People at ASU Art Museum, Random Acts of Art, Uncategorized.

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