Crampton on criticism ~ theatre notes

Monday, December 11, 2006

Crampton on criticism

UPDATE: Just caught up with Rat Sass's take on what he calls blogosphere "theatre talk" and the "contra-review". Among other interesting points:

If an artist has a practice, he has an aesthetic stake to defend or explain or propagandize. His criticism of others’ work will necessarily have both the bias and the integrity of this practice as its foundation. He is able to speak from this specific base of aesthetic knowledge – to define and delineate borders between his practice and others’. This kind of criticism creates a venue for an exchange of ideas outside the market, a discourse about the art form itself. This is exactly the discourse that the artist/critic Eric Bentley and others have defined as drama criticism. [My emphasis]

OVER at ArtsHub, respected Age dance critic Hilary Crampton (no, it's not an oxymoron) buys interestingly into the critical debate raging across the blogosphere. She recalls a 2005 essay, The Myth of the Mainstream, by former MIAF artistic director (and all-round star) Robyn Archer, in which Archer lays into Australian anti-intellectualism, including mainstream arts coverage. In response, Crampton writes:

As a practising professional critic, I inevitably felt defensive. Some of what Archer had to say rang true with respect to the mainstream press, but limited turnaround time, the requirement to write short snappy reviews, the positioning and timing of publication are factors entirely in the hands of the publishers and should not be blamed on the hapless critics.

What struck me more forcefully was that her critique positioned artist and critic simplistically as inevitable adversaries. Is this, or should this be the case? How might we foster instead an inclusive dialogue that expands the discussion to the mutual benefit of artists, audiences and critics?

Both of which are good questions. Crampton sees the blogosphere as providing at least the beginnings of an answer, noting how it opens up a space for debate between artists, critics and audience members that is not possible in the mainstream media. And she has some kind words for TN, for which we thank her. But that's not the only reason why we like what she has to say.

Crampton picks up on TN's recently controversial walkout and defends the critic's right to express outrage and "take strong action". And she makes the obvious point that "in claiming democratic rights to freedom of speech, artists must also allow critics the freedom to comment on their public presentations". Couldn't have said it better myself.

Meanwhile, tough case Casey Bennetto is grilling me in the comments here.


Anonymous said...

Hi Alison,

small typo - crampton, not cramphorn...

David W.

Alison Croggon said...

That'll teach me for writing and's not the Xmas spirits that's getting to me, I swear, unless you mean bah humbug.

All fixed, with profuse apologies to Ms Crampton. Though getting mixed up with Rex Cramphorn is so bad, as typos gp...

Alison Croggon said...

I meant, "not so bad". Sheesh. I am tired.