In 2023, PICA supported a Western Australian emerging arts writer to undertake a writing mentorship with Memo Review, a Melbourne-based online weekly arts criticism platform that publishes regular reviews of exhibitions across Melbourne, Sydney and regional NSW. This collaboration expanded Memo’s reach to Western Australia, growing new audiences in Perth while platforming local arts practitioners and writers to national audiences. Aimee Dodds was selected from a competitive open call to publish a piece of arts criticism in Memo Review’s inaugural annual print edition, mentored by Memo editor and art historian, critic and curator Helen Hughes.
Aimee’s article will be included in the forthcoming Memo review print edition, forthcoming in November 2023 and available to purchase at PICA. Hear more about Aimee’s practice, the focus of her article and her experiences as an arts writer below.
Tell us about yourself and your writing practice?
I am 26 and grew up around Bunbury. I didn’t even know that art history was a field of study until I went to university in 2016. I have been enthralled by it and unable to extricate myself since. I always wanted to be a writer but I’m not quite disciplined enough to sustain a routine writing “practice”—maybe one day! I do this because I’m interested in it. Art gives me a lot and I guess it’s nice to give back to art, in a way, although I am not sure that it necessarily needs or cares for reciprocity.
What do you enjoy most about arts writing?
The research–the reading! When my brilliant editors clean and polish my too-long sentences. Occasionally being outrageous for arguments’ sake, then reeling in an idea to an interesting and considered critical point. Hearing from people in roundabout or indirect ways that they have thought about or disagreed with my words is also always rewarding.
What is the focus of your Memo print article?
Prophecy, bombs, deaths, ghost trains, predicting the future, art, crimes, and ordeals most foul. My article focuses on the work of Western Australian artist and absolute living legend Tim Burns (b.1947). I’ve tried to wrestle his various mystifying and oft-forgotten schemes into some sort of comprehensible narrative. Hopefully, I have done him justice, but as always there is much more to be said.
How would you describe Perth’s arts writing scene?
Diabolical. I’m not even sure if there is a scene. Our only daily newspaper hasn’t had a dedicated art critic since about 2014. I could rant about this issue forever, but I’m working on an article about it with my brilliant friend and co-founder of Dispatch Review, Sam Beard, so keep your eyes peeled for some coherent thoughts in the near future.
What advice would you give to other people wanting to pursue arts criticism?
Marry someone rich or have a cashed-up side hustle: crime doesn’t pay and neither does art criticism. See as many shows as you can and hand-write notes about them in a little book like a film noir detective. Keep a folder with catalogues if you’re organised, or at least dump them in your bookshelf for future perusal. Don’t talk to artists about art, talk to them about other stuff: it’s much more interesting. Have a life outside of the art world. Get someone else to proofread and edit for you.
What did you learn through this Memo writing mentorship?
Mostly why everyone from Perth moves to Melbourne—there are currently a lot more opportunities to do this kind of stuff there. The difference between an en dash and em dash. Also, that smarter and more brilliant people will believe in your crazy ideas and sometimes even pay you to write for them. On that note, I would like to thank my collaborators in this project for their generosity—nothing in this industry happens solo. My sincere gratitude extends to Melbourne to Helen Hughes for her wisdom and mentorship; to Paris Lettau for his brilliant ideas and editorial prowess; and the Memo team for their support. In Perth, thanks to Miranda Johnson and the PICA team; to Max Vickery and Sam Beard, my parents, and most of all to Tim Burns.
Memo Review’s first annual magazine launches Friday 24 November and will be available in store at PICA.