Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Terms of Art Criticism in DC

This was penned in response to a News and Features response on City Paper's City Desk. Some of it is a response to the whole thing. Some of it is in response to a post on ARTifice

This discourse enumerates a couple of great facts about the terms of arts criticism in DC.

1) The blog is now an established forum in which to write, and to paraphrase Andy Warhol, “I don’t care what you say about me, just spell my name right.” Any review, be it on a blog or in a newspaper, possesses value. It is up to the artist who is clipping those criticisms to determine that value, but even the most ignorant and poorly written blog can shed a bit of light for the artist about the public response to his work. This has nothing to say for blog-savvy-ness or the death of print.

2) Though many are shabby, there are a fair majority of blogs that serve to inform those surfing the blogosphere of an assortment of events and happenings that never or rarely appear in “print.” If The Post (or any other paper in the region) can take the time to articulately and briefly respond to something as interesting and fleeting as Tapeman’s recent Cirque de Thomas Circle – the traffic-go-round of tapecast jungle-gym horses he installed in Thomas Circle - that would be of greater benefit and inspiration to many more in the Nation’s Capital (and beyond) than the trite scribbles of TomKat’s rumored move to Maryland or the latest Fashion Trends in Milan. Alas, such reporting, or at least informing, is left to the blogs; this function is similar to the birth of newspapers, wherein the source of news might spring from a rumor floating about. Ethical standards for quality blogs will soon follow.

3) There are many blogs out there that go through some professional rigor. Consider the blog at SAAM, which goes through a whole system of checks and balances before being published. True, this is a professional blog, and not half-cocked like ARTifice or even my own blog. Spell check only gets so much; it wouldn’t get the Sculpture typo that Glenn Dixon writes about, but a solid proof-read may. As such, the web log only holds so much water. If I were to write on economics and public policy that would be one thing. But I would still much rather read Robert Reich’s blog because the 22nd Secretary of Labor is going to be more informed and have a more acute perspective than my ramblings. However, if I were to aspire to be a Secretary of Labor, or, more specifically a critic for (insert print publication here), maybe the practice of keeping that log would better inform my style and development, warts and all. Dixon’s points on proofreading and follow up are absolutely necessary, even at the pedestrian and novice level for those with serious aspirations of turning the hobby into something more astute. This will become the ethics of blogging, and it is already happening. So, though “A blog entry is subject to little of the effort and none of the rigor afforded even the most lighthearted graf of printed copy,” (Dixon) there is no reason to suspect that for some it won’t – it’ll just be without all the yelling of the higher-ups.

Print is not going to die. Ever. The proof of which rests on every bookshelf and coffee table across the nation. And while blogs will persist, there are statistics available illustrating that the number of blogs being created and maintained is starting to drop - the honeymoon is over. What the blog may be capable of doing is scuttling some of the lesser content-driven magazines and killing the lesser content-crafting art sections. But, the truest litmus test for the arts critic will rest within the content, and as per Darwin, many blogs and columns will shrink and fade away into extinction. Content needs to be driven to a goal beyond advertising, beyond the squalid information of “this show is happening here and this is what it looks like.” The content needs to have an agenda. We all cannot stand Gopnik, but there is no arguing that he has an agenda, and therefore 3,000 words with which to dispel that agenda (“for bad video” - Bailey). And if not an agenda, it needs to set a tone for a broader discourse that is of greater interest to a general populous.

No comments: