The Art of Criticism

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  1. wingedcentaur profile image67
    wingedcentaurposted 12 years ago

    How, in your opinion, does the critic enrich our lives? I'm talking about film critics, drama critics, music critics, dance critics, art (painting, sculpture, etc) critics, television critics, any other kinds of critics I've left out, and architectural critics. I would be particularly keen to hear some discussion about how architectural criticism enriches our lives!

    1. snagerries profile image65
      snagerriesposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Criticism is a double-edged sword. It might be conveniently split into “good” or “bad”; constructive or destructive. Now the latter isn’t simply a comment that you don’t want to hear! Destructive criticism is characterized by a lack of insight, a lack of respect and a lack of understanding on the part of the critic. Whereas this diminishes both artist and critic I deem constructive criticism is essential for the growth and understanding of any artist.

      1. wingedcentaur profile image67
        wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Good Day snagerries

        You are quite right to distinguish between constructive and destructive criticism. Excellent point. Welcome to the thread, by the way.

        Tell me, how do you see the professional critic (provided he is a "professional" about her craft) as enriching our lives, if you do? What about the movie critic? Does she enrich our lives? If so, in what way?

        By the way, have you any insight into architectural criticism?

    2. profile image0
      china manposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      The benefit of the Critic is that they are supposed to explain what we are looking at for those of us who don't have the time or depth of knowledge.

      As everything is relative their job is to explain what they see and 'how' they see it, this allows us to use a same or similar route to make our own judgement - so they can't be right or wrong, they can only see things differently from us, and we have more information and a method of thinking to form some opinion around.

      To criticise the critic is to shoot the messenger.

      1. wingedcentaur profile image67
        wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Good Day china man

        Welcome to the thread. Thank you for joining us today.

        You believe that the critic, with her superior "time and depth of knowledge" provides the rest of us, lay people, with a framework in which we can develop more informed opinions about art for ourselves?

        I must say, in contradistinction to the majority, you seem to have a healthy respect for the critic. You even seem to assign them an exalted status, when you wrote: "To criticise the critic is to shoot the messenger."

        What do you mean by this? From where to where is the critic acting as a liason?

        Again, welcome and thank you for participating.

        1. profile image0
          china manposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          The critic is educated in the subject and is making commentary, no more or less.

          We rely on the critic to understand what we are looking at - at a 'higher' level.  If I look at an area of art that I do not understand then I look at what the critics say, and at what the artist says, if the artist speaks at all.

          There is some truth in the maxim that those who can do it, do, those who can't - teach.  For art, the critic is an artist who can't paint, he has the thinking but not the ability.  This puts him halfway between us and the artist (that we are struggling to understand).

          1. wingedcentaur profile image67
            wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

            Thank you china man

            I will study your response. I appreciate your taking the time to participate in this forum today.

            Thanks again,

            Take care and as tonymac04 would say.....

            Love and Peace!

  2. Shadesbreath profile image79
    Shadesbreathposted 12 years ago

    I don't have an opinion on architectural criticism, but I have a good deal of literary criticism and taken as a conversation about art that helps place it in a context historically it is useful. Criticism is like any other human endeavor, there's good and bad. A good critical analysis can pull interesting ideas out of a work and make for fascinating reading.  Some of it is just so absurd it's hard to take seriously (post-Derrida things got pretty crazy).  That said, I don't read much of it, especially before reading or viewing something because I find it almost always poisons the experience, either by revealing things I would have enjoyed discovering or by being so wrong as to ruin/over-build the anticipation of the viewing/reading, which for me, is part of the experience and the fun.

    1. wingedcentaur profile image67
      wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Thanks for being the first batter up, Shadesbreath! My, but it feels like its been a long time!

      So you believe that good literary criticism should, in a way, actually compliment a work of art, in that it "pull[s] interesting ideas out of a work and make[s] for fascinating reading." Good criticism should actually become a part of the initial art project -- in this case, literature.

      If that's what you're saying, the notion is a fascinating idea. Do I have that right?

      Also, if I don't have that right (or if I do and this is not repetitive), do you have an opinion about the relationship between criticism and art itself. Can there be mutual causality between them?

      By this I mean: we know that art generates criticism, always has. But can criticism actually complete the circuit and inspire art? And if that's true, can good critiicism actually manage to inspire bad art; and can bad criticism, somehow, mystically, perhaps, inspire good art?

      Its good to hear from you again.

      1. Shadesbreath profile image79
        Shadesbreathposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          I know, right?  You pick good topics.

        Well, I wouldn't say the criticism becomes part of the original art, more like it attaches itself to the work.  The question becomes one of whether it is a symbiotic or parasitic relationship. Art does not exist in a vacuum--it can, but then what's the point?--therefore criticism is inevitable.  So what you and I are doing, in a way, is actually making a criticism of criticism, which is possibly why you suggest that criticism itself might be art.

        I think that art, particularly given my love of satire, can be whatever it chooses to be. Criticism, however, that is not art, will only be criticism.  I hope that makes sense.  I would say that 99.9999999999% of the time, it will not be art.  It can be very artfully done, however.  And like any human effort, as I said before, there is good and bad examples of it (which is not the same as examples that I agree with and examples I don't, because there is some excellent criticism out there that I think is absolutely wrong in conclusions but brilliant in its form and rigor).

          I think I sort of hit on that above.  Satire can come in response to criticism. I doubt anything grander would simply because criticism is an examination of art in some sort of context with a social philosophy that the art has expressed or challenged.  The nature of art is to embody life as it is, the nature of criticism is to try to fathom what the art embodies.  I suppose that in wrestling with some artistic idea, a critic might be struck with some new idea, some counterpoint philosophically from which he or she might go create some work of art, but I credit that less with the process of criticism and more with the process of thought.  That idea might well have come to that person in his or her sleep or during a walk as easily as in the process of writing a critique.

        Mostly covered above, but I'll just add that bad art and bad criticism are just going to happen no matter what.  Blaming one for the other I think isn't really important because it is the failing of humans not the failing of the form.  If that makes sense.

        Good to chat at you again too.  smile

        1. wingedcentaur profile image67
          wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          Good Day Shadesbreath

          Excellent! Very good! You know, you have actually, with your very second remark, the second one on this thread, taken the conversation where I wanted it to go -- eventually, much faster than I had hoped to before we got other people involved. You naughty boy!

          "So what you and I are doing , in a way, is actually making a criticism of a criticism, which is possibly why you suggest criticism itself might be art."

          I also was particularly struck when you wrote: "The nature of art is to embody life as it is, the nature of criticism is to try to fathom what the art embodies."

          Couldn't we say, then, that art itself is a "critcism" or "critique" of reality (life) itself? The art is a depiction of the way the artist assesses life; what gives her joy and pleasure; what terrifies her; what inspires her; what fills her with dread about life (reality); what she feels is fair and unfair about it; what she likes and dislikes about reality (life).

          Of course, as you say, we must be careful to distinguish between the parasitic and symbiotic. I don't imagine this synergy is capable of occurring at every level of art, for every format, exactly. For example, I think this might be much easier to achieve with literature than with painting....

          And here, for me, even literary criticism I disagree with, think is wrong in its conclusions, but "brilliant in its form and rigor," might just make the grade -- because this is another artistic assessment of reality (life); and as such, I think proper "criticism" should be and is in dialogue with the original "art" about the nature of reality.

          By the way, where do you get those smiley faces from? :-)

          1. Shadesbreath profile image79
            Shadesbreathposted 12 years agoin reply to this

            I would say that art is the way the artist assess life, yes. I suppose you could say that it is a critique on reality, but it requires beauty and universality, it must be a mirror more than a finger pointing.  Art is an imitation of life.  Criticism assesses the imitation. It is not a mirror, but a finger pointing in, poking and prodding at parts and pieces of the artistic whole. A work of art is the sum of its parts, a work of criticism is an accounting of the parts.  I think the difference is significant no matter how close the two may seem.

            This I think this might be where we disagree. I don't think the original work is in a dialogue with criticism at all.  The art just is.  Even the artist's opinion of what it meant (if he/she had an intent at all) doesn't matter.  The work simply exists. It needs nothing to exist.  The criticism, however, NEEDS the work of art to exist.

            Take the nose - out of yours.  OR, click the formatting tips thing when you write your next post and go to the bottom, there's a lot of them there.  big_smile

            1. wingedcentaur profile image67
              wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

              You said before that you believed  there is some excellent literary criticism out there, for example, that you disagree with, think is wrong in its conclusion but is "brilliant in its form and rigor." This would mean that you believe even this criticism has intrinsic value, yes?

              If I have that right, then where does its intrinsic value come from, if its conclusions are "wrong?"

              Okay, I hit formatting tips and saw the smiley faces. How do I import them onto the post? smile

              1. wingedcentaur profile image67
                wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

                Oh, that how! By hitting 'Submit reply!"

              2. Shadesbreath profile image79
                Shadesbreathposted 12 years agoin reply to this

                I think the value comes from illustrating how many different view points there are and how deeply rooted in compelling and yet diverse philosophical grounds they can be (the good critiques/critics).  I think it teaches open-mindedness, which is ironic because a lot of criticism thinks it "has the answer."

                That said, I think to appreciate this quality in criticism one should read as much critical theory as possible to understand what underpins any given critic's work. So you're not just reading them for their opinion of a work, but for their mastery of a set of principles to which they subscribe or claim to understand well enough to debunk or some interplay along those kinds of lines.  Doubles up the fun.  Plus, helps you spot the guys that are full of crap.  LOL.

                1. wingedcentaur profile image67
                  wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

                  Let me try it this way....

                  In an earlier comment of yours you said that art is not a finger pointing but a mirror. Okay, either simile works for me. I prefer to think of art itself as a mirror -- a critical kind of mirror which shows us both levels of "beauty and universality" and ugliness and parochialism or provincialism, that are perhaps not visible to the naked eye.

                  You said that one could think of art as a critique of life, but that it requires beauty and universality. But surely that is not all it requires (if 'requires' is quite the word we want to use). Because whether art is a finger pointing (which you reject and it is a rejection I happily comply with) or a mirror (of a critical/beneath-the-surface-revealing type), then the ugliness and provincialism of life must also be brought into focus, as this dimension is a part of life. You did say the function of art is to depict life as it is.

                  Now, I want to say that I don't believe that criticism can always make a symbiotic alignment with all forms of art. I don't believe this is possible with painting, dance, sculpture, etc (not to say that criticism of these areas can't be useful and enlightening). Really, I think where this symbiotic alignment is most possible, is in the realm of literature because of the form.

                  Anyway, if art being either a finger or mirror bringing out hidden dimensions of truth that we might not see unaided -- art functions as a critical analysis of life that is unavailable to us when we are not functioning in a critical, Socratic way. Therefore, art must function as a critique of life, I think.

                  If this is so, with respect to literature especially (and I think it is) then literary criticism is an analysis of the analysis of the original artist. That is to say, the literary critic is in dialogue, occasionally competitive, spirited dialogue with the artist, assessing whether this or that dimension of reality is really as the "artist" says it is.

                  Maybe I'm just arguing for a more expansive definition of criticism.

  3. tobey100 profile image61
    tobey100posted 12 years ago

    I don't know why we pay attention to most critics in any field.  Being in the music business as an artist and performer for 23 years I've found that most professional critics are simply those that espouse their opinions so loud and so often some outlet or publications gives them their own forum.  They are wrong about 80% of the time if you fact check.  Professional critic and weatherman are the only two jobs one can hold where you can be wrong the majority of the time and not only keep your job but get a raise.

    1. wingedcentaur profile image67
      wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Good Day tobey100

      Welcome to the thread. Yes, weathermen are notorious, aren't they? "Accuweather," indeed!

      Tell me, why do you think professional critics in the music business are so terrible?

  4. Dame Scribe profile image58
    Dame Scribeposted 12 years ago

    I don't agree with every critic out there tongue lol as for architecture. I love to look and examine closely. I love examining interesting mouldings, ribs, arches, mosaics, motifs, etc. big_smile it's a artform and skill in itself and says a lot about the architect(s). big_smile

    1. wingedcentaur profile image67
      wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Good Day Dame Scribe (I love that name!)

      Welcome to the thread. Since you have an interest in architecture, perhaps you could tell me: How does architectural criticism enrich our lives, in your opinion?

      1. Dame Scribe profile image58
        Dame Scribeposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        I would have to say it's all in the delivery. Criticism should be used as a 'constructive and positive' experience vs 'destructive and negative' comments. tongue a good critic will have a right balance to deliver both with grace. big_smile there's no one side to anything. tongue O, and thank you for the compliment about my HP name. smile 'bats eyelashes'

        1. wingedcentaur profile image67
          wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          Hello Dame Scribe

          Tell me, how would you say that architectural criticism, properly done, that which is constructive rather than destructive, enriches our lives? Or, if you like, how would you compare the urgency of what an architectural critic does compared and contrasted with, say, what a movie critic does?

  5. Beelzedad profile image58
    Beelzedadposted 12 years ago

    In many ways the work of a critic
    is easy. We risk very little, yet
    enjoy a position over those who
    offer up their work and their
    selves to our judgment. We thrive
    on negative criticism, which is fun
    to write and to read.

    But, the bitter truth we critics
    must face is that, in the grand
    scheme of things... the average
    piece of junk is probably more
    meaningful than our criticism
    designating it so. But there are
    times when a critic truly risks
    something... and that is in the
    discovery and defense of the new.

    ~~ Anton Ego  smile

    1. wingedcentaur profile image67
      wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Good Day Beelzedad!

      Welcome to this thread. That's a beautiful poem. It is a poem, isn't it? By Anton Ego? Is that a real name? A nom de plum of yours? Or something....... whimsical?

      So, you see no value of criticism whatsoever, except in the occasional discovery and promotional role it can play with respect to the new and brilliant?

    2. Shadesbreath profile image79
      Shadesbreathposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      There's a TON to be said for the "Dicovery and Defense of the New."  That I think is really, really important.  A respected critic can breathe life into a new art form that might otherwise have to smolder for years or even centuries before its fire burns bright.

      On the flip side, I suppose, they can make a big deal out of crap, using their influence to make a reputation for "art" out of monkey flingings.

      1. wingedcentaur profile image67
        wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Thank you, Shades. I think so too! But don't you think that in both cases, there is a symmetry in the way artist and critic see the world, such that they come to a meeting of minds about what is an effective representation or critique of life (they may both be right in that the critic actually discovers someone talented; or they both be mistaken, in that the critic might promote someone who really should really go into horse hair trimming instead)?

  6. Shadesbreath profile image79
    Shadesbreathposted 12 years ago

    Wingedcentaur, I think we are pretty much agreeing at this point on everything except that, I don't think that art needs criticism.  Criticism does need art.  That's the distinction (which we've gone over already so I'll leave it there).  After that, I'll go with your statement criticism as an assessment of the artist's assessment, with the caveat that the person assessing the original can easily be missing "the point" as the the artist may not necessarily have had one, thus the critic is creating a point for the art to make and then criticizing it. 

    Regarding the beauty thing, I'll just say that beauty in symmetry, mastery, craft, composition, rhythm etc. is required.  There is no great art that sucks.  That happens for a reason.  That's why I included that remark.  In literature, think Camus' The Plague, Swift's A Modest Proposal or more recently pretty much anything by Cormac McCarthy. Here's an example of an ugly thing, done beautifully on canvas: of the Medusa by Géricault.)

    1. wingedcentaur profile image67
      wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Good Day Shadesbreath

      I concede. Yes, you are right on all points. I yield.

      Well done.

  7. wildorangeflower profile image61
    wildorangeflowerposted 12 years ago

    I rarely criticize anything, work of art, philosophy etc. each has its own style and interpretation is subjective -- anything goes

    1. wingedcentaur profile image67
      wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Good Day wildorangeflower

      Welcome to the thread. Yes, you are quite, I suppose. Everything does has its own subjective interpretation. Given this, have you any thoughts about how the professional critic (film, literary, art, dance, theater, architecture) enhances our fulfillment of life?

      I know the movie critic enriches my life, for example. What about you?

      1. wildorangeflower profile image61
        wildorangeflowerposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        it just give me another point of view, I might add it to my own way of looking at things or it depends to my liking!

        1. wingedcentaur profile image67
          wingedcentaurposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          Thank you wildorangeflower

          Yes, the critic is good for giving us a different point of view. And that can only be to the good, eh?

          I appreciate very much, your kind participation in our forum today!

          Take care.

          1. wildorangeflower profile image61
            wildorangeflowerposted 12 years agoin reply to this

            you're welcome! take care as well

  8. profile image0
    ahorsebackposted 12 years ago

    Unfortunately , critiquing everything has become the new fad , we are becoming really good at it in America, to the point of idiousy at times , Democracy demands common sense , without it we are just divisive . Too much potential , [I know thats not spelled right ], is wasted on the contovercial nature of our society.

  9. Stevennix2001 profile image83
    Stevennix2001posted 12 years ago

    well i would share my thoughts on this topic but from reading many of the comments on here, i can tell NONE OF YOU would even want to hear what i have to say anyway.  however, i will say this. if you don't like what someone says about your favorite film, restaurant or whatever, then just don't read them.  it's that simple.  nobody is putting a gun to your head and telling you to listen to what a critic says.  therefore, if you don't want to listen to say a film critic about a movie you want to see, then just don't listen or read them.  seriously, why criticize them for doing their job?  you think i care if everyone here agrees with my reviews or not?  not at all.  in fact, i don't really expect everyone to.  i just love watching movies and talking about them, so i could care less.  now, if someone enjoyed reading my reviews and it encouraged them to see a movie that i liked, then it does give me a sense of satisfaction to some degree.  however, it's not something i live for on a daily basis.  if my review helps you, then great.  if you think im wrong about any movie you like, then you can either leave a comment to debate me, or just don't read it. 

    it's just that simple.  why bash a critic?  a critic is nothing more than a person.  a person can easily be ignored, so i suggest you do the same if your going to slander critics.  nobody is putting a gun to your head to listen to them.

    1. profile image0
      china manposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      I think this is about what I said above.

      I don't think the posters really know much of what they are talking about to be honest, some are confused with criticism as telling someone they are wrong and criticism as a way of explaining and commenting on art etc. 

      Of course your movie reviews are appreciated, of course we all read them knowing your point of view and tastes, and of course we all then have a better idea of whether we might like the movie based on the information you igve.  And this applies whether we share your taste or not, if you say some horror movie is 'awesome' I will not bother watching it - if you say some sci-fi is awesome then I make a point of watching it.

  10. profile image0
    ahorsebackposted 12 years ago

    Unfortunately we are still at a point of over anylizing everything , a movie or literature critic is one thing, however the critics of our media world today do no more than incite bias and prejudiced oppinion in a culture of ingnorance,That alone is my point, essentially we have no media [fair , balanced or otherwise,] only a sensationalizing storyland of half truths and fairtales . And hey, you asked the question...


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