♦ ‘Critical Writing’ ♦
He pauses, and then:
‘Writing is not enough. Critical response is indicated.’
Art has been trying its damnedest to evolve, and the critic is still mulling over the changes of the 1920s. The short-form review (increasingly now no longer respected), the blather of so-called International Art English, the sporadic grumbles on television or radio as they try to discuss the right answer to the exhibition (like some kind of moral philosophy conundrum or an equation in an undergraduate paper): these are less fiddling while Rome burns than considering the veneer on a violin.
He looks old now: no transfusions of young blood or feasts on virgin necks are going to help. He speaks slowly.
‘It . . . ought . . . to be . . . a vibrant play, something reflective, bright, nuanced and nubile. To follow . . . the lead of the artists . . . to recognise itself as a genre . . . cues from postmodernism . . . to dissemble, deceive, delineate, delight and dance. Disreputable.’
Potentially, criticism will reach more people than the event it discusses.
Potentially, it is an audience’s first engagement with an artwork.
Potentially, criticism is a barrier to appreciation.
Potentially, it can mystify when it most needs to explain.
Potentially, it is a genre in the same way as poetry.
‘Cut. Will someone get that cadaver into make-up? He’s flaking all over the lens here. And what’s with the alliteration and lists? Has he been reading Latin rhetoric again?’
He smiles softly and begins again. His voice is barely audible. There is background noise: children playing in the bar downstairs and doors slamming to the left and right.
‘Different models of response are required to assess different forms. That old saw, that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Why not? Post-visual theatre was invented as an attempt to review ideas through sound. Why don’t we try composing about scripts, or drawing about ballet?’
Stock footage replaces him: a talking head, the hair slightly too long and the facial hair suggests a 1970s vintage.
‘The consistent theme throughout his career has been challenging the expected limitations of criticism. There was the Periodic Table of Performance Art (called weird by one of the artists in the chart), the comic book détournement. He pokes his noses into places where, generally, they are not wanted.’
He limps out of the Green Room, and continues without a pause.
‘There have to be new ways of being pompous. Of course, I undermine the pretence of objectivity and begin to build collaborations.’
He doesn’t play well with others.
‘I think that is why criticism is attractive to him.’
♦ ♦ ♦
Gareth K Vile is a critic, student and frustrated artist. He delivers a stream of consciousness via The VileBlog and Radio Hour. vilearts.blogspot.co.uk.