Monday, February 22, 2010

Who needs critics, and what kind?

"In this garbled sensorium we call a culture, criticism is more necessary than ever," Jonathan Jones writes on his blog for The Guardian.

"Real criticism," he goes on, "is not about distinguishing good from bad; it is about distinguishing good from great. There's plenty of terrible art around, but it usually finds its level in the end. The curse of our time, in the arts, is mediocrity and ordinariness" . . .

Real criticism is also about distinguishing artistry from personality. Another contemporary curse is that too often we let artists' personal attributes – physical attractiveness, gift of gab, compelling life story – affect our perceptions of their artistic merit. The history of art is full of obnoxious or pathetic characters who produce great art and attractive people who produce junk; and more recent history is peppered with artists who affect a rebellious, anti-social persona to distract from the mediocrity of their art or to make themselves the "work of art."

So, in Jones' "garbled sensorium," maybe the ideal critic would be a cranky old fart (actual age may vary) who is immune to charm, doesn't read publicity packages or listen to talk shows, avoids interaction with the artists being reviewed, and ignores public response.

The blogosphere is an environment in which such critics can thrive.