More Criticism, Less Support

More criticism, less support…

In the past couple of years, I’ve found myself working with some really extraordinary writers, thinkers, and artists. They challenge what I say, what I think, and how I write. I must say, I went looking for these people. If one wants to be great, one ought to look for the people doing and creating phenomenal things as well as illuminating the public. Struggle, uncertainty, and failure is imperative. Yet, do Bay Area artists struggle to excel? Is it true Bay Area (San Francisco)? Do you tell people they look great in a dress when they look more like a pug wrapped in saran wrap?

Too much of something can become bad. Excess of anything is probably not a good idea in the long-term. I was having a conversation with a friend about the Bay Area and how many tools (across disciplines) for creative types to innovate and create some phenomenal work (whether it be writing, artwork, or music) is quite abundant. Yet, the Bay Area suffers from an abundance of, are you ready (wait for it) – support (or, coddling). Although support is a great thing, it can be debilitating.

Does bad art exist? Yes!

I want to believe everything made on this earth is inherently good and possesses value (because that’s the optimist and the art lover in me). Yet, for an artwork to truly captivate and take me on some ridiculous intellectual and/or psychological ride coupled with tremendous mind-blowing epiphanies, innovation and something reflective needs to exist. Do I experience that feeling? Truth be told, not so much.

We can bust on the Tiger Mom all we want but at the end of the day her kids can sight read music and excel in school while college students across the US struggle to write a basic essay. My point: We need more critical discussion and discourse. AND, for goodness sake, stop telling people their art work is strong and awesome if it isn’t. Improve it by discussing WHY it is strong or weak. Don’t just say something is amazing, derivative (lame), poorly executed, or just plain sh*t. DISCUSS and make people deliver on their intent.

We can all learn a little something from Statler and Waldorf… 🙂

4 responses to “More Criticism, Less Support”

  1. #1
    I love it! I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been in audiences where everyone claps enthusiastically for every poet after each performance. I’m sorry but many times, I’m bored sick with my own poet-kind.
    If you’re moved- move. If not, lay silent, ponder, even (shall I say) dismiss and feel no shame.

    Yes People lower the bar and muzzle the fire. We need the heat. We need the heat so bad. Luke Warm will do nothing but empower indistinguishable mush to pose as form. We need the heat to for pressure, for reaction, for friction. So, let it rip. Drop your best 1st thought when you next meet your friend or stranger ~ the artist, the poet, the interdisciplinary everything. Give in to your snarky self, please. I can see it in your eyes, anyway (how you really feel).

    1. 1. I think it’s great that people are enthusiastic but I’m starting to realize it’s completely okay if something doesn’t resonate with me. I used to feel really bad but I accepted the fact that I’m not going to like everything I see and experience BUT it’s a way for me to engage. I can actually have a conversation about why I don’t like or enjoy something. Or, why something doesn’t “speak” to me.

      2. Agreed. I think that’s a major difference between a place like New York and San Francisco. Both are so energetic and filled with life but I get the feeling that NY MAKES its inhabitants work. Work hard and live (really live) and not be coddled. Granted, I’m such a California girl and I don’t want to boil it down to region but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why the Bay Area has so much innovation but the by-products don’t supersede the innovation, if that makes sense.

      3. Heat and pressure are great (yet another epiphany). These are things I’ve always known but it’s good to be reminded. You’ve got fail and get rejected to know your potential.

  2. “Do you tell people they look great in a dress when they look more like a pug wrapped in saran wrap?”

    Hahahahahahaha! Love that image! (I think pugs are cute, btw. 🙂

    Anyway, your polarization of criticism and support made me ponder what “support” really means. Because I don’t see the two as opposites, but actually one as essential component of the other. For working scholars, and I would imagine artists as well, true support is composed at least in part of constructive criticism, criticism that will hone the work and make it ready for the larger world; this is what you expect from dissertation advisers, for instance, and mentors and collaborators more generally. As an example, the reason that I really loved the recent film Midnight in Paris was the way the artists and writers interacted with one another, with passionate, blunt critiques and praise. Even when feelings inevitably got hurt, you could see that the hurt party would come back…because the critiques were valid and constructive. Gertrude Stein as the foremost critic in the film, in multiple languages no less!, made the scholar in me really happy. 🙂 Perhaps this might be in part the kind of support you are looking for.

    1. I think Pugs are adorable as well just wanted to give some kind of visual.

      Interesting point about not seeing criticism and support as opposite. I still think they are separate only because ANYONE can criticize. Most, if not all, people are GREAT at doling out their negative opinion. I think what I meant by support runs more along the lines of ‘coddling’. Less coddling. I think some artists get too much coddling. Some people love artworks because they don’t want to stifle someone’s vision but if someone’s vision is not coming across I think they should be told that. Then again, this entire response can be yet another post.

      Bottom line: Anyone can criticize, but I think offering up authentic and productive support means telling someone that something is NOT working. There’s a lot of stuff not working…

      By the way, I need to watch Midnight in Paris! Thanks for the reminder, Gladys!!

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