CARE & DESTRUCTION - DIAGNOSES

The Sick of the Fringe writing program started with the concept of ‘critical generosity’, reflecting a conviction that writing about art and artists needn’t be a simple judgement of quality or star rating. In an environment where conventional reviewing is both disappearing and less relevant, the Diagnosis project began with the aim of providing short and sharp critical engagements with artworks that avoided judging success, and instead expanded their context, offered links between works and suggested new knowledge and ideas.

This was done with the conviction that this model of writing would be better for both artist and reader, as it provided a rationale for accessible critical reflection that was conscious of lived experiences, particularly in relation to work engaging with mental health, disability and illness. As this practice has developed, the content of the writing has begun to expand as well, reflecting more and more a broader politics of representation and identity in relation to race, class and disability, and the struggles of communities to survive and/or thrive in a hostile environment.

Over the last four years, what started as an intervention in Edinburgh (the largest arts festival in the world) has matured into a writing practice that is now applied to both small, community-led festivals and huge international events. By partnering with festivals and working with small groups of writers embedded in their communities, the Diagnoses program has broadened its scope to become a sustained model of practice attempting to expand the diversity and profile of reflective writing around performance. From Folkestone to Manchester, Gloucester, Edinburgh and Ghent, the Diagnoses have offered voices usually underrepresented in criticism the chance to respond to artworks and engage in dialogues with artists and curators about their experience. All these Diagnoses are free to read on our website, where we have built up an archive of over 200 individual pieces of creative response to festivals across the UK and Europe.

This festival of Care & Destruction begins the next phase of activity for The Sick of the Fringe, and the continuing Diagnoses project can be read in relation to both sides of the festival’s theme. As a process of care, they offer the chance to honour and engage with ideas behind the work and the effort of expressing those ideas to an audience, valuing the work of artists and caring enough to respond generously to work that might be personal, raw or difficult to produce. But they are also destructive, taking aim at outdated models that judge that same work by unsuitable criteria, or minimise the voices of those who might benefit most from engaging with it.

Over the course of the weekend, we will be bringing previous Diagnoses writers from around the country to respond to the events and performances at Care & Destruction. The Diagnoses they produce will provide a written companion to the ideas that run through the festival, asking questions usually overlooked, highlighting new connections, and documenting experiences that might more usually go unnoticed. The writing coming out of Care & Destruction is both a consolidation of what we have already done and a starting point for the writing still to come. Check out this page and our Twitter (@TSOTFringe) throughout the weekend and in the days following to join the conversation!

Lewis Church, Lead Writer