Art is a democracy (even if being a critic isn’t).

3 min read  ·  June 29th, 2009

Jonathan Jones in The Guardian Art Blog, Art criticism is not a democracy:

The reason so much average or absolutely awful art gets promoted is that no one seems to understand what criticism is; if nothing is properly criticised, mediocrity triumphs.

Without introspective thought and relevant context, art that is easy to digest gets promoted and consumed even if it’s not really that filling. Supply meets demand.

But so what?

A critic is basically an arrogant bastard who says “this is good, this is bad” without necessarily being able to explain why. At least, not instantly. The truth is, we feel this stuff in our bones. And we’re innately convinced we’re right.

Critics are born, not made. I don’t know why I became convinced that I had more to say about art than other people, and an opinion that mattered more than most. But I did decide that – and persuaded others to listen.

It’s impossible for everyone to be a knowledgeable critic, and I don’t reject the notion that a single, authoritative critic can be a valuable filter; but I believe that it’s impossible for any single critic to be able to render meaningful judgments for the diversity of audiences, tastes, styles and preferences in the world. It’s really not a question of whether the critic or the crowd is a better filter and judge of quality, but in how to leverage the positives and negatives of each method.

In my comment on Do people value great photography?:

Great photography always stands out; it just doesn’t stand out to everyone :)

Quantity [divides quality into segments] more than it dilutes [quality]; it’s unfair to expect everybody to be able to judge greatness. Any widely available cultural activity will always encounter this dynamic: it’s impossible for *most* of the participants to judge greatness; and that’s neither bad nor unexpected.

… The point is that “great” is a matter of personal perspective; the real question for any industry is to identify the preferences and taste within segments of the population and create content that fits the segment.

Art is a democracy, open to any to create and critique, more now than ever. And that’s the beauty. Its asynchronous nature means anyone can create, watch, follow, read, engage, critique; but anyone can turn it off, ignore, dislike, not share. It’s a choice, mirroring the broader world of media and social media. Yes, little of what is created probably passes the “I’d rather be watching Porn” test, but as long as content and creators find an audience, medium, environment and community that supports them, that’s all that matters.

(via Horses Think)

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