On critiquing art
Art critique has played a pivotal role in defining the otherworld in a realm of otherwise free creativity. Onlookers, consumers, purchasers, and reviewers complete an artist’s work through applying standards for artistic outcomes to be compared against; of course, this extends to a degree where a piece cannot solely belong to the artist but instead to the medium they communicate their creative expression through. In other words, art can be defined as everything surrounding a conceptual hatchling an artist chose to call “art,” and an artist no longer has control over the concept they sprung forth when defining boundaries for their creation in the first place.
But with the power to establish art in the first place, we can argue people—artists—embody the core of their art, entangling everything involved with the art into the art itself. But is that art “different”? Is it a separate concept? Can these bodies of influence be separated from one another?
Unfortunately, I would answer no, and the ramifications associated with such a conclusion veer toward belief in an inseparable interconnectivity to the concepts and ideas that rule the world. This raises problems when a field based on applying rules and methods to a concept so loosely interpretable draws lines in just what is being critiqued; it does so arbitrarily, or rather, based on subjective impressions of what should deserve critique.
But this then leans into another issue: after deciding just what deserves critique, how would a critic decide to critique it? In formal visual art critique, a personal understanding of what is seen is analyzed through a lens shaped by design and beauty theory and is then personally interpreted based on personal observations. The window for observational analysis closes with a final, personal judgment about an artist’s intention (i.e. something unreadable) and their success in conveying this presupposed intention.
I would argue, however, that you can create a boundary between art (as it relates to the synthesis of everything) and art (as it is carried by an individual artist) within this framework; art, influencing and being influenced by the people that contribute to it as a whole, can be observed from a global perspective, or an individual perspective, since individuals and their vision of art contribute to a global project we can define as art.
But this must all be defined properly in the first place: a person, from an ideational perspective, is a product of the ideas that influence them and the ideas they contribute (meaning, “learning and teaching” with respect to abstract thinking: perhaps “understanding and reframing”?) in return. Whether or not all or a certain amount of these ideas are created by something innate or something learned in an artist is irrelevant, as the case that a person is actively a product of a past self they had once been and the world (everything one can be exposed to) they presently live in is realistically irrefutable.
Now, I would further present that an artist’s creative output can be best analyzed when the entire context for the output is provided. The output can only be adequately analyzed when the entire input is given for the sake of arriving at complete conclusions. Let’s consider its realism—an entire input involves every, absolute detail that attempted to create an intended (keyword!) output. Is there an unintended output? How about an unintended input?
Because we previously attributed “art” with an association an artist creates between their intended output and the steps they would take to create this output, we could not draw a distinction between an intended input and an unintended input. However, we can observe a progression of the input with an artist’s own progression with an artistic project. Consider, now, that external factors affect the input by influencing a project, whether directly or ideationally. If these external factors are realized, then they—at the very least—ideationally affect an artist’s input simply through interaction. If they go unrealized, we can make a case for separating intention and unintention; but with yet another “however,” we may not consider this part of the art on an individual scale, like we had previously separated perspectives of art.
With that, you might realize the definition of art I provide justifies itself in its separation between art as is observed globally and individually, but is this my own definition of art or how art should be best defined? It is a distracting question, but assume that everything had already been answered and that this was a means of explaining it. A key confinement to consider is that art relates to human expression—if my constraints on what can and cannot define a kosher perspective of art revolves around an open interpretation that deals with art like it were fully human or human fully (hahaha), maybe my constraints are valid.
And if I say “human,” know that I mean it only relatively to how we use “humanity” or relating to the “soul.” Wikipedia is behind the times, and you know it.
But what’s the big idea? Art, if it can be separated into bits and pieces at all—yes, at all—can only be separated at a level where everything defining intention is removed from everything defining the observable. This really only works if the line of separation is marked between those who create art in the first place: humans.
And basically: artwork cannot be properly reviewed without knowing everything that went into it. An adequate “everything” could be everything that a person has done to express their creativity (not necessarily for the sake of expressing it, but necessarily that everything plays a role to lead up to an artist’s expression).
But we know this is unrealistic. How could we know everything that went into something? Everything that could have went into something? Everything that would have went into something? The very basis for critique is flawed just because of this: we don’t have enough information, but all of this information defines art as it exists.
Then how do people isolate art? Isn’t that how reviewers critique products—by referring directly to a piece as it is? Yes, and it’s too superficial to work with as a legitimate criticism of the art. Considering everything that goes into creating a piece, understanding that the piece would not exist as it exists with the crux of everything disappearing, context is important.
I think it’s good enough for us to say we like something or dislike something just because, but labelled critics must be forced to examine a piece with as much of its entirety preserved in a critique as possible simply because a superficial opinion, weighted with all its popularity and potential influence, does work its way into a global output surrounding the piece conceptually and can sway so much through presenting its own ideas about the piece. And in my opinion, the baggage that carries is too heavy a burden to bear; why show less when you could show more?
Fundamentally, I’m complaining about the gross disregard for positive influence in the world of art. Through presenting more and critiquing based on more factors, our understanding of what makes “good” art will be both more informed and—dare I say—more appreciative of works we may otherwise disregard.
I’ve always wanted to expose people to art they hadn’t yet been exposed to through reviewing individual works, but I always found myself in a pickle when faced with that important question: what is there to talk about?
With all of this now in mind, the next thing to consider is leveling the plane of influence. With renowned critics publishing lengthy, pretentious articles all over the media and influencing their consumers’ opinions by process of reaction, something to be mindful of is that sharing ideas through discourse is an extremely desirable outcome that can come of critique; but what we cannot forget is that no monopoly on ideas should exist. I would actually—yes, actually!—encourage reviewers with more influence to express neutrality, or better yet, uncertainty with pure opinion that allows others to tone down reaction for response.
And I know it’s such a tiny thing… but tiny things like that can matter so much in the right hands.