Friends and art: more on the conundrum

Lori Ortiz provokes more thoughts:

Hi Apollinaire,

I’ve been meaning to add to this thread about friends.

Deborah Jowitt, after receiving the 2007 Dance Critics Association award, said that she likes to think of everyone as a friend. I don’t think I was the only one to exhale. It was memorable and refreshing.

The issue is not only how one can be fair, but how ideas–intellectual property, as it were–can be ethically shared. For example, critics often admit conversations with others in the audience who are not reviewing. It’s part of the experience.

 Thanks for your lively blog,


Dear Lori,

Deborah Jowitt’s friendly stance is very sweet–and is reflected in the gentle and evenhanded approach she has taken for forty years. It’s not just a post-’60s thing, either: the late, great Edwin Denby, who wrote most prolifically in the ’30s and ’40s, would often sit in on rehearsals and give advice to choreographers (Paul Taylor, for example), though I’m not sure he did this while writing for the Herald Tribune, which might not have liked it. In a field as small as dance, it’s inevitable there will be blurring of boundaries.

That said, when I’m watching work, I do not imagine the choreographers and the dancers as my friends–even in the putative sense I think Jowitt intended (though some of these artists probably really are her friends).

I am grateful for art and the people who make it. Art seems to me like love–causing you to feel urgent about qualities or experiences you didn’t know you felt anything at all about. But if I posited the makers of what I was watching as friends, I think it would only domesticate the art. It’s important to allow art as much danger and dislikability as it demands–and I’m not sure I’d want that from a friend.

Sometimes, of course, artists are friends–Paul, for example–but that’s not because the work itself feels friendly; it generates all sorts of feelings.

I hope these distinctions make sense.

And I’m glad you find the blog lively and not just bloggy (and blahggy, as blogs are wont to be). Thank you.


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