Amy Fung is an art critic and the author of the new book Before I Was A Critic I Was A Human Being from Book*hug Press. Amy plays the Immortal Sentient Plant in Episode 5 of No One Receiving. We first met through the Images Festival, an annual film and video festival in Toronto where we used to work (not at the same time.) I’ve always been impressed with Amy’s ability to tell it like it is and be funny at the same time, and her book is already making lists of anticipated spring titles. Amy shared some of her thoughts about the project with us in a recent interview.
Tell me about the book. I know part of it is about your experience learning about colonization in Canada, and looking at that critically in the art world. What made you decide to take the journey?
I've had the idea kicking around in my head since about 2015, shortly after I moved to Toronto, as each city/region in this country and its corresponding art scene is SO different from each other, but we're all understood as "Canadian art." As someone who has worked across the country, consciously and unconsciously on both Treaty lands and on unceded territories, for over 15 years now, I wanted to capture some of these differences in stories. They're not monumental differences, but the nuances and shifts of social cues and yes, racial and colonial histories and attitudes. I wanted to narrow into just the art world, as that is what I know. I also believe art remains a useful lens into the imagination of its society, for better or for worse.
How has writing this changed the way you look at art?
I don't know if it has, but I know I look far less at art than I used to. I started pulling back from art writing a number of years ago, for various reasons, being both financially imprudent to continue and also increasingly less interesting to engage in a world that cares more about trends and sales. I would say the biggest change is in how I write. Having the luxury of time for multiple drafts and edits after being a weekly freelancer has just been mindblowing. I can't even read anything from before as I can see how rushed and sloppy it all looks.
You were a curator, did this experience make you want to move away from curating?
I only started curating as a way of surviving when freelance writing started thinning out. The first several years of independent curating were also ways for me to work out questions I had been asking in my writing as an art critic of a city or a region. I still think those were some of my best work in a gallery or museum setting. But I don't have any itches to curate all the time, or even anytime soon. I'd like the option, though, if I have an idea that requires a spatial setting in the future.
What’s your next project?
A small group of us are organizing a gathering on Canadian legend Joyce Wieland during the first weekend of April in Toronto. We're expanding her themes, largely from her prolific film works, into a series of readings, panels, performances, and workshops. The event is called Re-Joyce: Wieland in a New Millenium, and it'll be held at the new TMAC building.
The Joyce Wieland conference will be “a reframing and a reckoning of the politics and ideas of lineage, nationhood, and protest from the late 1960s to present-day.” Find out more at joycewieland.ca
For more information about Amy and her work, visit amyfung.com