Jim, thanks for your comments.
I think there are a few other/additional points to make. They all sort
of revolve around the fact that the relationship between the critic
and the audience is often polarized. This, to me, is unfortunate,
becomes it places the critic in the position of being expected to
"bring something" to the work that the "audience" does not. It also
not only unfairly deitizes the critic, but it leaves artists making
work for critics and not for audiences. I agree that the critic should
be more involved in an unpacking of poetics than a passsing of
judgement (though many of us have to cop to passing judgement as a
result of a work's poetics, or lack thereof). But I think that a
reading of the rhetoric of a work (in any medium) has to consider how
the work positions itself in relation to its audience. When the critic
is divorced from the audience, no such reading can occur.
There's come to be an interesting situation vis a vis the criticism of
media art, under the influence of a number of factors... In general,
there is a lack of viable arts publications as sustaining one in this
economic climate is difficult. Media arts publications are even harder
to come by, and most of those pay poorly if at all. For these reasons
and others (not the least of which is the perceived novelty of the
field and resultant dissonance), there is a lack of seasoned, educated
media arts critics. A look at recent NY Times pieces on new media art
(or the lack thereof) will provide a good example. The few good
writers do not seem to be getting assignments and one less-good writer
has unfortunately been given more there, lately, but all in all,
coverage is minimal. We've thrown ourselves into a self-critiquing
system which is wildly disproportionate in relation to, well, all
kinds of things... Some of us are over-educated and under-informed,
some of us look at a lot of work and can't find a means of critiquing
it, others of us are daunted by the technical and philosophical
vocabularies that pervade our field. The many processes of
appropriation, sampling, and reiteration that have come to make so
many great media artworks great does not make the system of critique
any more cohesive, wherein those who don't know their art history are
doomed to misrepeat it. There are, particularly on this list, a
handful of seriously talented, intelligent, and well-versed critics,
and so many of them are struggling against production barriers and
within faulty communication channels, so that the flow of ideas and
meaningful exchanges all to often becomes buried under other forms of
labor, if not under animosity and competition within the pecking order
of a rank struggling for classification.
My hope is that this will just get better with time, with pedagogy,
with the long view, etc.
On 5/22/05, Jim Andrews <email@example.com
> Thanks for Scott Timberg's "Critical Condition" at
> The relation between artist and critic has always been tense.
> But what is at stake? What's a critic good for besides pr and trading in the
> market of reputation?
> Walt Whitman said "great art demands a great audience".
> There's something at stake to a great audience in what art does. Besides
> entertainment. What is it? Ezra Pound said that "art is news that stays
> news." Note how that idea references both the contemporary and beyond the
> contemporary. Contemporary art can be intensely relevant to what's happening
> now, but it's aware of the larger contexts of the events that continue to
> reverberate through the corridors of eternal existence. Whether you think of
> the corridors as in The Shining or Myst or whatever.
> A great audience is involved in the construction of the meaning of a work of
> art. There's the obelisk. And then there's the story it is part of. Works of
> art may tell stories, but they're also involved with everyone in the culture
> doing their bit to impart insight and meaning to contemporary life.
> It isn't that the critic is irrelevant. It's that the culture cannot bear to
> The below quote from Timberg's article (he is quoting Andras Szanto) misses
> the enduring point of criticism.
> "In fact, anything now can be art, from a ray of light to a bit of feces in
> a plastic box. But it has ultimately enfeebled the critic in that
> traditional chest-thumping, oracular way, where he or she can prescribe or
> pass judgment. If the very premise of the art world is that anything goes,
> what do you base judgments on?"
> Criticism isn't just about judgements on the value of art. It's also about
> taking the poetics further, unfolding it, engaging with it, seeing where it
> works as an instrument of thought and feeling and insight and where it
> doesn't. Seeing what the poetics implies.
> Thanks for pointing out the article, Marisa. Very interesting and worth
> -> post: firstname.lastname@example.org
> -> questions: email@example.com
> -> subscribe/unsubscribe: http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rhiz
> -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
> -> visit: on Fridays the Rhizome.org
web site is open to non-members
> Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
> Membership Agreement available online at http://rhizome.org/info/29.php