I have been reading a lot again for leisure lately. Not novels or poems, but essays, more specifically non-academic reviews and criticism. These types of writing are slightly similar to the papers I used to read for graduate studies and work in that both try to dig deeper into the art and discuss it critically.
Looking for reviews and criticism is already almost a habit: Whenever I watch a movie or a performance, see an artwork, read literature, or even listen to an album, I try to search for what people say about it. From a reputable publication or from a lesser known site, it doesn’t matter. I want to read or hear what others say about it.
Why, you may ask. Can’t I form my opinion independent of what others say?
Actually, I can and I always do. I try to form my own analysis or evaluation before I look at what others say. I don’t need to wait for expert (or non-expert) opinion to make even just a basic, initial assessment. I also do not read reviews just to know what work is highly recommended or top-rated. Besides, if I like it or I’m curious about it (even if it’s being curious about why a work is badly reviewed), I will see, watch or read it no matter what others say.
Why then do I read reviews and criticism?
I do it because I want to see the impact of the artwork and its position in the culture world. I do it to keep myself up to date with the developments in the art scene. I do it to give the work a second look through someone else’s eyes. I do it to gauge my assessment. I do it to test my opinion about the work. One can reap many benefits from reading criticism.
But the practice of critiquing is wrought with conflict. Some artists believe that critics do not know how to create and therefore cannot be good judges. Then, we realize that some critics are artists, too. Some audiences and readers think that expert opinion is not necessary while some are heavily influenced by reviews. Some critics feel threatened by popular opinion. On the other hand, some people feel that expert opinion can be oppressive, limiting or even mistaken as the changing reception of certain works throughout history has shown.
The issue has become more complex in the digital age. Now that everyone can express or publish their opinion regardless of expertise, what will happen to criticism? What is the place of experts? Are amateurs or hobby writers worth reading? What shall we do with poorly-written reviews?
I believe criticism is a very important topic to discuss and it has been on my mind for a few months now. So for July and August, I will focus on this topic.
I hope you will await my next posts. Thanks a lot and until then!