The crisis in criticism.2

So can anyone be a critic?

When I was on the board of the Canada Council for the Arts, the country’s chief arts grant-giving agency, close to two decades ago, it was occasionally suggested that we should put “an ordinary member of the public” on each of the peer juries that had the job of saying who should or shouldn’t get grants.

It was an idea with the smell of democracy about it—the general public, after all, was theoretically the intended audience for the work that was under adjudication. Wouldn’t it be useful to hear the voice of the potential consumer? Wouldn’t that help to balance out the special interests and the artsy theorists more interested in experiment and new directions than box-office success? Continue reading

The crisis in criticism.1

 

1: The critic is dead—long live the critic

 We have seen a great deal of public hand-wringing in recent years over the so-called death of criticism. In an age of instant access to the Internet, it seems that everyone’s a critic.What does it matter that you can’t spell, can’t construct a sentence, and quite often don’t know what you’re talking about? Your words are in print on-line, and that in itself seems to invest them with a miraculous credibility. Who wants to think about anything in depth when 140 characters—reductionist thinking in a virtual nutshell—is all you need to get an audience? Who needs critics?

Good or bad, all this? It depends.

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Mavor Moore: made in Canada

 

January 6, 2007: VICTORIA, B.C.: We gathered here today to say goodbye to Mavor Moore, who died just before Christmas. I was privileged to be one of the people he wanted to speak. When his wife Sandra asked me for a title for my little talk, I sent back a note saying: what about “From Thaw to flood: defrosting the soul of a cold country”? She e-mailed back: “Cool.” Continue reading

Cage and Cunningham: radical questions

March 31, 1983: John Cage at 70 has a remarkably youthful, relatively unlined face. He keeps his hair dark (or perhaps it has always stayed that way): just a touch of grey at the temples. He has an engaging laugh. His brown eyes sparkle with the pleasure of whatever has struck him as funny (it’s usually an absurdity) and his mouth opens and this big, exultant grin happens. Continue reading

Independent scholarship in the arts

Opening article for the inaugural edition of The International Journal of Independent Scholars (ed. Guy P. Buchholtzer), 2010.

 Taking Emerson’s famous Harvard address On the American Scholar as his touchstone, the writer draws on his experiences as an author and activist in the area of the arts and cultural policy to make the case for validity of the work of the independent scholar who chooses to work outside the traditional academy. The advantages and disadvantages of independent activity and academic affiliation are examined, and the writer concludes that  “we have more in common—those of us outside the academy and those within its walls—than is sometimes allowed.” 

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