May 15, 2006
Missing in actionby About Last Night
I, too, have serious problems with Times-style “objectivity.” A critic who holds himself at arm's length from the artistic community whose activities he covers is a eunuch in the harem.
For the same reason, I also believe in the value of practitioner criticism, though it should be taken with a grain or two (or three) of salt, since it often says as much or more about the practitioner in question as it does the object of his criticism. Still, it’s almost always worth hearing, just as it’s valuable, maybe even essential, for critics of the performing arts to have had some kind of hands-on professional experience, whether on or off stage, in at least one art form. Such experience, as I’ve written elsewhere, helps to give the working critic a proper respect for what Wilfrid Sheed calls "the simple miracle of getting the curtain up every night." It's hard to sing Tatyana in Yevgeny Onegin, or to dance in Concerto Barocco. It's scary to go out in front of a thousand people in a dumb-looking costume and put your heart and soul on the line. Unless a critic has some personal experience of what that feels like—of the problems, both psychological and practical, that stand in the way of getting the curtain up—he may err on the side of an unrealistic perfectionism, and his reviews will be sterile and uncomprehending as a result.
All the more reason (you saw this coming, didn’t you?) why artists should start their own blogs. Here’s a good one. And all the more reason, too, for arts editors to encourage artists to write for their publications as often as possible.
Posted by tteachout at May 15, 2006 8:22 PM
Of course, practioner-reviews is standard, um, "practice" in book reviewing, right? Even at the NYT.
Yet, while we love to read Updike in the New Yorker on Jonathan Safran Foer, imagine how taboo it would be to ask Stephen Sondheim to review the new Michael John LaChusia musical.
And what a fascinating read it would be!
Posted by: Playgoer at May 16, 2006 8:40 AM
I also believe in the value of practitioner criticism, though it should be taken with a grain or two (or three) of salt, since it often says as much or more about the practitioner in question as it does the object of his criticism.
Well, Playgoer makes a good point about "practitioner" literary critics... we could hardly accept a book review that WASN'T written by another professional writer. I find the best critics to be fellow artists who aren't distracted by the goings on around art, but actually focus on the WORK, and to what degree it WORKS... non-practicing art critics are usually confused about the point of art, and ask stupid question like, is Goya's art still RELEVANT? Jesus Christ, the only relevance is QUALITY!!!
Posted by: Marc Country at May 16, 2006 12:17 PM
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