How to review a show – a manifesto ver 0.2*

NOTE: This is a manifesto-in-progress. It’s not righteous or applicable to everyone. It’s just something I’m working on for myself, to help me (as an artist) better process what I see others creating and to avoid what, to me, are nigh-inescapable eddies of snark, condescension, bitterness, and posturing that come from discussing art.

Enjoy, steal, add, critique, ignore.

  • The measure of success/failure can only be gauged on what the artist herself was attempting to create.
  • Audiences: The only acceptable compliment is sincerity.
  • Audiences: The only acceptable comment is insight1.
  • There are 3 gifts from audiencing a work:
    1. What you can apply to your own work (academic)
    2. What you can apply to your life (spiritual)
    3. What others can articulate (communal)
  • Critique of an artist’s work requires 2 core understandings:
    1. Where this work fits into the artists’ canon. Artistry is a process over a life, a single work unrelatable without the context of its predecessors.2
    2. Where this work fits into the community of local work and global culture. A one-night only reading of a 10-minute play in suburban Chicago relates right now both to the regional playwriting scene as well as to Hollywood, Broadway, Washington, Wall Street, and the internet.
  • Absolutism serves no one.3
  • The way you make art has nothing to do with the correct way to make art.
  • Taste is more important than history.
  • History is more important than syntax.
  • Syntax is more important than accepted narrative.
  • Accepted narrative is more important than personal response.
  • Personal response is more important than taste.
  • Artists: Don’t. (Unless you like to.)
  • Artists: Like to.

* Previous version: 0.1
1 The hollow standby “That was interesting” violates this item. Variation: “I bet you’re proud.”
2 Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter, Mark Rothko, Ann Rice’s Christ the Lord.
3 I remain firm on this point.

One Comment

  1. Joseph wrote:

    I think this is a good criteria for criticism on a work in progress, designed to help an artist better achieve their own goals. However, I think that once a work is put out to the public as being worth the time of others, and especially worth the time of strangers, a couple of these no longer apply.

    At that point, I believe, the experience of the work belongs to the audience, and not to the artist, and so things like the artist’s intentions and his/her personal or artistic histories become entirely irrelevant unless they are explicitly included in the work or the audience member chooses to seek them out.

    Once it is a public work (and by public, I mean put to anyone but the artist), the rubric for success/failure becomes the audience member’s experience, and not the artist’s intentions. Similarly, the important thing is where it fits into the audience member’s life, and not the artist’s life.

    This why it is terrifying as an artist to bring your work to anyone else, but it’s also why it’s necessary: once made public, the art no longer belongs to you, but belongs to the lives of everyone who experienced it, and you can only hope that your intentions for the piece remotely lined up with what they got from it.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink




NY Neo-Futurists
Commonplace Books
Film Forum


‹ Home


  • Advertising
  • Arts
  • Aside
  • Books
  • Cats
  • Cooking
  • Design
  • Do Not Look/Watch
  • Essay
  • Funny
  • Games
  • Mad Men
  • Maps
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Neo-Futurists
  • New York
  • Personal
  • Philosophical
  • Photos
  • Poetry
  • Political
  • Science
  • Sports
  • Technology
  • Uncategorized
  • Tags

    ads arts brooklyn cats charts clever comics cooking criticism cute dance design dogs funny gadgets graphic design haiku how-to japan lgbtq literature math media memes metaphors mta music new york nfl nfl picks ny neo-futurists outings photos poetry political politics religion signs theater tv ads twitter videos want writing wtf


  • November 2012
  • November 2011
  • October 2011
  • September 2011
  • August 2011
  • June 2011
  • April 2011
  • March 2011
  • February 2011
  • January 2011
  • December 2010
  • November 2010
  • October 2010
  • September 2010
  • August 2010
  • Meta

    Log in