Lauren Carroll Harris

I started writing for RealTime, covering live art and performance, about three years ago. Back when I was making more art, I really loved the chance to be in my studio forty hours a week, but the process of artmaking and then exhibiting always felt anti-climactic and solitary — I wanted to be effective. I started writing so I could be less isolated and more in dialogue with people, and I’ve since found that good art writing can have a really positive effect for artists and the art world. I worked in artist-run galleries for a while because they were about artists supporting other artists, and I’ve kept writing as a way to do the same.

Now I work as a critic and a writer, contributing to outlets like Radio National’s Final Cut, The Guardian Australia (with a monthly video-on-demand column, Stream Lover), Kill Your Darlings (with a series on Australian cinema, Wake in Light) and other literary magazines like The Lifted Brow, Overland and Meanjin. The rest of the time, I do scholarly research, looking at Australian cinema, digital distribution, and bridging industry analysis with the study of film culture. My research has been published in International Journal of Cultural Policy, Metro, Studies of Australasian Cinema, and as a monograph called ‘Not at a Cinema Near You: Australia’s Film Distribution Problem’ (Platform Papers, 2013), which is recommended reading in a number of different undergraduate courses. To produce new ideas and generate original contributions to scholarly knowledge is a real privilege, as is being a part of my communities of peers in both the writing and academic worlds. All the work I do is really about expanding the audience for art and film in Australia, and making those things a more honoured and appreciated part of mainstream culture.

Exposé

Criticism gives us a language and a framework to understand what we’re making and seeing. To me, that’s as essential as art itself: critiquing art and engaging with it through words is something we do impulsively—to discuss and take apart and come to terms with art, which is a part of everyday life, a way of finding order in the chaos. I see the criticism that RealTime publishes as just a more structured and considered version of what we all do when we come out of a cinema or gallery, turn to our friend, and ask, “what did you think?” Now we live in a media-saturated world where engaging with words — for instance, looking at reviews before and after we see a show — is totally bound up in the way we engage with art itself.

For that reason, I don’t see writing or art as a nice thing to do after work — a hobby or a luxury. I see writing and art as an essential part of the way we engage with society and each other, improve our media and political literacy. Criticism is a conversation through which other broader conversations take place.

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