ArtBookGuy
  Art For All People®    Real Talk About Contemporary Art   
EVERYBODY IS A CRITIC

Apart from the opportunity to make money which is completely understandable, I don't quite understand why anyone would want to be considered a "critic."
 
Yes, I'm talking about art critics, music critics, film critics, dance critics and so on. At the end of the day, they're all writers and lovers of the things they write about.  That's why they do it.
 
Yet here's the problem with criticism.  These days, everybody is a critic.  I mean, look at all of the television shows today that involve "judges" of some sort. It's a sickness.  Suddenly, everybody is a judge.
 
Everybody thinks they can do everyone else's jobs better than they can.  Problem is ... when you're looking at someone doing their job, you're only seeing a moment in time.  You're not seeing and you're certainly not experiencing everything - the harsh realities - that come with that job.
 
The other day at work, I took a phone call from a guy who started out by saying ...
 
"WHY CAN'T YOU PEOPLE JUST ..."
 
That's really all you need to know about that call.  This guy knew nothing about policy or the fact that we were short-staffed or that our computer system was on the blink ... none of that.  He only saw things from his personal point of view.
 
Another thing that cracks me up is listening to sports fans who suddenly become Monday morning quarterbacks.  They couldn't walk a mile without huffing and puffing and yet they're screaming about what Tom Brady SHOULD have done during the big game Sunday.  Really?
 
The problem with criticism in our day and age is that it's SO critical.  I know that sounds funny, but criticism of most types doesn't take humanity and real life into account.  You're only seeing things from your limited point of view.
 
I have great respect for most judges.  I'm talking about federal, state and some local court judges.  As a journalist, I've covered many trials and I've watched many judges deliver verdicts that are clearly and carefully considered.  Among other things, judges are critics who follow the rule of law to render decisions about the actions of others. 
 
The rulings or critiques of most judges weigh BOTH the aggravators AND mitigators of someone's actions before rendering a decision.  This is something that's often lacking in most contemporary criticism.  There's a difference between being a judge and being judgmental. 
 
As an art writer and promoter, I'm careful about the way in which I critique art, artists and society in general.  I really try to have an aerial view of things and consider the pros and cons.  When I was an intern at the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour (now called, "The PBS NewsHour") many years ago, journalist Robert MacNeil told me that as a journalist, you might not always be able to be objective, but you CAN always be FAIR.
 
I have applied that wisdom not only to my art writing and journalism, but also to my entire LIFE. It totally works. It has spared me from much frustration. 

Integrity rules.
 
Here's the big problem with criticism.  Most people who criticize do so with an underlying, political agenda. Consequently, they sacrifice any credibility they might have.  I don't care whether it's an art show opening, movie review or criticism of the "fat" guy sitting next to you on the plane, if you're rendering an opinion, you need to weigh the aggravators and the mitigators.  Today, most people don't do that.
 
Negativity and political agenda are really the differences between criticism and critique.  Most people don't want to be criticized.  However, many people welcome critiques. Criticism is often destructive while critique is usually constructive.
 
Criticism is literally a no brainer.  It's often the result of pure emotion and jumping to quick, misguided conclusions.  However, critiques actually require thought, deep introspection and consideration.  Critiques rock. They're actually helpful. 

These days, everybody is a critic. They often project their own personal baggage and negativity onto others who might not even deserve it.  The big problem here is that NO ONE has all the answers.  Do you?  This is why fairness and objectivity are generally good rules to follow.  You can apply this to both your professional AND personal lives.
 
Wanna walk a mile in my shoes?  Careful how you answer that.

 

 

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