Thursday, November 3, 2011
First Let's Kill All the Critics?
First Let’s Kill All the Critics?
By Tom Wachunas
“We keep lowering the bar as to what makes acceptable, good, or great art. These days, many regard all art as somehow sacrosanct and above reproach, if only because it is the unique product of human hands and personal passions. This kind of thinking continues to generate an increasingly shallow democracy of ideas that is slowly obliterating art.” – June Godwit, from “The Third Entity” (1975) –
Prompted to some degree by recent comments posted to my review of the Stark County Artists Exhibition at the Massillon Museum, what follows is not an apology, defense, or even clarification, but rather questions relevant to - in varying degrees (and in no particular order) - making, appreciating, and interpreting art. Questions that are intrinsic to the discipline – yeah, I said discipline - of critique.
Are all opinions about art of equal value? Who is qualified to assess the quality or meaning of art? What constitutes an “informed” opinion? Is knowledge of art history useful in discussing and/or evaluating contemporary art? Why or why not? Are the writings of Plato and/or Aristotle on art and aesthetics still useful or applicable in discussing contemporary art? Why or why not? What is the role of the artist in the 21st century? Is it global or culture-specific? Has the artist’s role changed since the 20th or 19th or 18th centuries? How? What is the role of the art critic in the 21st century? Who is qualified to be an art critic? Do we need art critics? Why do we make art? Why do we look at it? Why should we care about art? By what standards do we assess the success or failure of a work of art? Who established/establishes those standards? Must a work of art, or an artist, be accountable to any standards? Should art advance or enhance our thinking about living, human nature, or morality? Who and what defines “bad taste”? Who or what defines “serious” or “high” art? What exactly is “low brow” or kitsch? Are these designations intrinsically “bad”? Does great art create its own tastes? Does bad art perpetuate bad taste? Is “originality” a fixed concept, or a matter of degrees? What constitutes “beauty”? Should beholders of art strive to improve their vision? Who or what contributes to that improvement? What do we expect of our art and artists? Should we expect anything at all? Can art alter societal mind–sets, or merely reflect them? Do you see art as escapist entertainment, or enlightenment? Can “serious” art be both?
I eagerly await your comments.
Photo: “Fountain” by Marcel Duchamp, 1917