Monday, 15 July 2013

"Criticism is Cancer"

When asked what I've spent the last three years studying, I often reply with "art history", but in actual fact the course is called Criticism, Communication and Curation. Even just this evening when someone asked me that dreaded question there was an awkward pause as I nervously replied with my default answer before my friend stepped in to correct me.

Those three 'c' words evoke such a huge topic of conversation, one that I rarely have the time, or maybe energy, to divulge in. The name of this course runs the risk of coming across as one of those 'made-up' courses that post-modernism has allowed for such as Harry Potter studies (definitely no disrespect to those studying it, it's a bloody great book). Perhaps it comes across so as each of these words lacks a definitive definition that I can spiel out at any given moment.


Having successfully avoided any real intense discussion over the use of words that equal the name of the course, today, this avoidance was broken as the tweet below popped up in my twitter news feed:


"Criticism is a Cancer - the biggest reason an artist gives up art is criticism."


Ouch. Not the 'c' word? But yes, the gallery that tweeted this used the 'c' word (cancer) and a sudden sense of obligation came over me to defend the word criticism as comparing it to cancer, which kills 7.6million people a year, seemed a bit harsh.


So firstly, i sought to finding out exactly what this tweeter meant by the term criticism- who is an art critic? After finding a video via the twitter (which I now can't find) entitled "Sick critic", that question was definitely cleared up: so apparently it's a person who can't make art and decides to slag off other people's work. This in itself is a very disrespectful assumption to make about those studying art theory/history and opens up a large topic of conversation that the tweeter didn't seem willing to partake in (I tweeted them back...)


Now is this not a very narrowed and outdated understanding of an art critic? 

I can sympathise with the idea that some people just like to moan about art un-constructively, and this makes the artist feel insecure, but it still doesn't bring me any close to agreeing that criticism is cancer, and as one twitter user remarked to the idea of artists insecurities: "If you can't take the heat..." Isn't it all part of the arts? A voice for everyone? And doesn't Central Saint Martins explain that one of the entry requirements is thick skin?

Many of my lectures were spent discussing critical space, the need for it, the role of criticism and the tangible nature of it. One person's criticism may be another persons compliment. Preferences in art are subjective, should anyone be apologising for saying to an artist "I don't like that piece"? Criticality helps us evolve and learn, put things into perspective or make things seem more valuable. Surely this process should not be described as cancerous.

I suppose what has irritated about this comment the most, is that what the tweeter was referring to was not criticism itself, and cancer is not a word to use lightly...


Clearly art criticism has existed for a long time...


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