Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Art of Art Criticism

Everyone is a critic, right? As human beings, we have an opinion for everything built right in. On a survival level, this helps us avoid danger and generally unpleasant experiences. In terms of entertainment, being able to differentiate 'good' from 'bad' helps us all to pick and choose how we spend our time. For some people, this is as simple as 'I liked it' or 'That sucked'. I prefer to put a little more thought into the critical process. If I like something, I want to know specifically which aspects I like about it. The more I know about my tastes, the more likely I am to stumble upon bands, films, tv shows, and books that I enjoy. We really only have a few options of what we can do in this world. We work, we sleep, we spend time with others, and there's a whole portion of time in a day that we can fill with hobbies and interests. Some people are programmed to be the entertainers, others are programmed to be the observers, and all of it can be amusing for either side. There's a whole other category, though, and we call them the 'critics'.

Generally, in our society there is a negative connotation to the word 'critic'. We picture these grump, hunch-backed, nit pickers who failed at their craft so they judge others who are successful. I've found critics that fit this description quite well and I try to avoid them as much as possible. I tend to respect the opinion of someone who either practices or has some technical understanding of the art form they criticize. For music and novels, I have enough of a background as a practicioner of those crafts that I feel confident I can form and share a valuable opinion. When it comes to TV and movies, I don't act, produce, or direct, but I rely on my millions of hours as a watcher to prepare me as a critic. I try to never state opinion as fact. I know that just because a movie doesn't satisfy my particular interest, it can still be an impressive work of art. Some people have a much harder time separating those two. With social networking and message boards and a world that's much easier to share your opinion in, just about everyone can become a critic of sorts. It's up to us to decide who to trust and who to write off.

Entertainment reviews make up a large portion of the posts on this blog. I'm a nerd for my hobbies and being able to discuss and share my thoughts feels great. For anyone that's been following these reviews, you've probably noticed that I haven't written a negative one. The easy explanation for this is that I don't enjoy talking about things I don't like. Sure, like anyone who searches out music and films, I come across weaker executions and piss-poor productions, it's not like everything I find is gold. But when it comes to taking the time to think and write about the things I don't enjoy, I'd much rather just learn my lesson and move on. This doesn't mean I have a weak critical eye, though. Even in the pieces of art that I enjoy, I can always find some fault, and I try to admit that and include these aspects in my reviews. But I doubt you'll ever see me write a full-on negative piece where I straight-up bash something that has no redeeming qualities. Sure, it may me my job as a self-appointed critic to warn others of terrible pieces of work, but I also respect that people need to make their own decisions. Even when I read a negative review, I always treat it as one person's point of view and not as The Truth. However, if someone, such as my significant other or a close friend, has a proven track record of sharing my tastes and interests, I'll usually trust when they say something is 'bad'. But I always ask for reasons why.

I know some naturally talented artists who make an effort not to share their work, for fear of the criticism they may get. I feel like these people are depriving the world of entertainment. As soon as you make the decision to become an artist, you're putting yourself out there for the critics. I post my words, pictures, and writing on a blog that a million people could see (though it's probably closer to 10). I don't expect everyone to love my work, I just hope that it causes some sort reaction, positive or otherwise. I always feel that the worst reaction towards something I've created is indifference. Or just a simple 'Yeah, it's good'. The only way I can grow as an artist and find my audience to know why something I've done is successful or not. And for this, I need 'critics'. Some critics keep it to their loved ones and circle of friends, others feel the need to share by writing for a newspaper, website, magazine, or otherwise. I could never imagine being simply a 'critic' who watches and listens and jumps on my computer to rant and rave. For me, the only way I can feel comfortable criticizing something is to be a part of the practice, to understand the craft, and to be open to criticism myself. And maybe, one day, if something I watch, read, or listen to really rubs me the wrong way, I'll indulge myself and write a negative review.

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