Tuesday, October 9, 2012

criticism sails against the wind


@ mbourbaki we've discussed the review vs. critique distinction, which is precisely jeremy baker's topic in his "don't confuse reviews with criticism" for the nytimes. let's take a look:
For professional arts criticism to survive the challenges presented by the technology-driven democratization of media platforms, it’s essential that critics leave behind the role of "arbiter of taste" or "hit-maker," and instead serve as engaged, accessible writers, whose work helps audiences navigate the intersection of art, culture, politics and economics.
sorry to spoil the opening. baker is clueless on navigation & geometry. the problem is that everybody is helping audiences navigate intersectionsaccessibility means what? this?  TMZ one-liners? theory du-jour? whether engaged and accessible, unengaged and accessible, inaccessible and super-engaged, that doesn't guarantee help. isn't technology driven self-help democratization? why would anybody need x-tra help from an "arbiter of taste"?

the irony is that for eschewing the role of arbiter, baker's sentence admonitions ("it's essential that... and instead") read as self-appointed as it gets, which brings to mind someone with an inferiority complex in self-defense mode. mind you, baker is no exception. many so-called critics throw the towel to become facilitators, seeking "convergences" (i.e., baker's intersections).

i disagree: criticism should stimulate the body with itching, mucous discharge, indigestion and other ailments necessary for the well-functioning of the soul.

baker et. al. fall for a false dilemma promoted by the artmarket and its minions. you are to choose between criticism or "democracy" (why when everybody is in trouble they always bring up that word?). so, the critic (baker is one after all) now feels he should play a role (which is exactly the arbiter role he so hates) between the disconnected (let's say dictatorial) "professional critic" & the emergent (democratic) art-twitter audience. the whole thing reminds me of this dictator proving to a journalist that what he did for almost two decades in power was good for his country's democracy.

in this new scheme "passing judgement" is opposed to "work's excellence" & the first looses: 
Even if we believe that professional critics are more qualified to pass judgment on a work’s excellence, readers who are just looking for entertainment advice will turn to their peers. 
what sort of wrong-headed arm-chair inference concludes that passing-judgment cannot be entertaining or be (to complicate matters a bit) as good, if not more, than the work being critiqued?

here's baker in non-arbiter guise:
As professional critics continue to play the "arbiter of taste" card, they’re failing both the readers most interested in their beats, who don’t get much from reviews written to attract casual consumers, and the artists they cover, most of whom are desperate for deeper engagement.
being an expert makes baker really uncomfortable. is it artblicity that makes the critic feel guilty? the twitter/masses of the world have no patience for self-professed arbitration. so, in keeping with the times' trends, one better avoids playing the expert (while hopelessly sounding like one?).

here is the market strategy baker falls for: buying into an inferiority complex that's really a superiority complex posing as "democratic." let's propose the following quadrant:  

art: aesthetic of enjoyment, entertainment: market of services for passive enjoyment, culture: massive consumption of enjoyment/commodities. democracy: social order of legitimation and preservation of consumption values. 

we have:
during a stage of post-capitalism art becomes a bubble of itself: art --> entertainment.
passive satisfaction of needs becomes massive: entertainment --> culture
as the political process is hijacked by corporate interests presented as the massive enjoyment of needs:  culture --> democracyby transitive character, as the net value of what passes as culture,
entertainment --> democracy

given that, it's no wonder that even when baker makes sense, he sounds flat:
Reviewing serves its purposes. But it shouldn’t be mistaken for criticism, thoughtful work that explores cultural endeavors and grapples with history, trends, ideas, formal developments in the arts and the relationship of the arts to the broader culture. If professional critics really are the experts they’re supposed to be, then surely they have something more to offer on this front than advice on how best to spend one's Friday night.
experts? critics are turfed out people. reviewing is selling! but this is not the purpo$e of criticism, which is to problematize issues. criticism needs to do exactly the opposite.


you think you are an expert? i don't. i'm just MAD.  criticism doesn't have to offer advice, much less help.

criticism sails against the wind. 


Feminista said...

This is something which needs to be articulated. I still don't think that criticism is not there to offer advice or help the problem is stating it as its "mission." As always nice post Triff.

Anonymous said...

I don't know. You are saying the opposite of what one expects the critic to do. Is the critic writing for himself? That's the charge being made against critics.

Anonymous said...

Good post Triff. Keep up the good work.
Ed Lewis

Alfredo Triff said...

thanks, feminista. criticism is not therapeutic, unless you're really into it:)

anonymous 3:56pm: show me the critic constitution (are you kidding me).

tx. ed. keep visiting.

Stephan doliska said...

Criticism is always convenient. Whether good or bad it always has some sort of effect. Without criticism there would be no desire to progress

Rene Descartes said...


You just keep pushing. You just keep pushing.I made every mistake that could be made. But I just kept pushing.

Alfredo Triff said...

decartes: j peux simplement dire merci.

Naima Mompoint said...

I love criticism but, I will appreciate some compliments too. Anybody in this world who only hear compliment will things they are perfect yet, we all know that there are not such a things as a perfect man. Why not take some criticism in a good way as long as those criticism are true and relevant. Some criticism are unnecessary.Some criticism don't need to be point out but, it happen anyway just take those that will help you advance and reject those that make you complex.

Alfredo Triff said...

I love criticism but, I will appreciate some compliments too.

well put, naima. it takes a division of disciplines: philosophy finds fault. publicity gives compliments. :)

Flores said...

Criticism is always convenient. Whether good or bad it always has some sort of effect. Without criticism there would be no desire to progress