Where does the right to judge come from?

Ingrida Gerbutaviciute and Andrius Katinas during Ne[w]kritika seminar in Vilnius

I’m always thinking about how it started. How and why, and where I found the right to talk about other people’s work like I know something about it? Like I know something more, something special, and something others might not know or might not think about, something worth sharing? This is an introduction to the question of becoming a dance critic or a person who writes about dance and spreads the word in public space. I thought about it again in the dance writing seminar for young writers “Ne[w]kritika” taking place in Vilnius during the festival “New Baltic Dance ‘13”. The young writers were confident. I thought about it when choreographer Olga Zitluhina told me about the conflict she recently experienced between practitioners and theoreticians. People of theory know how things should be in practice and they try to impose that on practitioners. The ones from the practical side, however, don’t think they know how to write theoretical texts.

So where do the writers come from and for what are they needed? I am sure that when readers are not satisfied with the texts (because it’s badly written, because it expresses a different opinion, because artists don’t need negative reviews worthless for press kits), when they are not satisfied they ask – Who the f… she is? How the f… does she dare? What the f… does she know? Why the f… do we need those critics at all?  I don’t have any answers. But I will try to name a few questions that might have influence on becoming a person that judges other peoples deeds publicly.

It is a position of trying to tell what one really thinks knowing that the one criticized might listen. With the increasing role of social media, this role is not so unique anymore, that’s why the role and need of arts critics is more and more questioned. Will the aspects named show a difference between a regular online socially active person and professional arts critic? I doubt it. So where is the difference? Probably again in the positioning of yourself, as it is now with many things and jobs. But there is a saying – if you are good poet, you burn what’s written; if you are bad, you aim for publishing. I know there are people who write reviews for themselves and never share them. Anyway, why not  try to name few of the reasons which might mean that you are potential or actual arts critic?

  1. A degree. What degree? Degree in dance or in writing. What is degree in writing? Writers’ school? There is no such school. Degree in dance? If you can dance it doesn’t mean you can write. If you can write it doesn’t mean you can write about dance. So we need a degree in dance writing. Is there such a degree? Good that there are at least more and more workshops and projects dedicated to that.
  2. Knowledge of art form and its history. It is possible to read all of that without going to school. Is it true that the more we know about history the smarter we are about the contemporary situation?
  3. Ability to verbalize nonverbal stuff in an acceptable way. Is arts criticism literature? Do we look for interesting things to read or do we read only what interests us?
  4. Outside impulses – you are good at that! Who decides that the critic is good – readers, artists, editors?
  5. The awareness that writing is needed, it helps the art form. If there is no reflection there is only PR, and that makes the world superficial and unintelligent. Really? So we come with mission to build depth? Or with a mission of public feedback to artists which later helps them out with PR?
  6. Love of the art form. Loving dance so passionately that you want to spend so much time with it that seeing is just the first stage. Love wants to get out, wants to be expressed? Expressed in very passionate words, not always sweet.
  7. Wish to know better than others do. The wish to get into the center of essence, to know more, to know more than artists do? To know more and use the knowledge to make others informed us well? To use knowledge to be a better person?
  8. Taste for interpretation. It is so cool to take something and make a story about it. Who cares how much it has to do with what was meant. My creation is interpretation.
  9. Graphomania – obsession with writing. Once you start to write, it might be needed often, it might be needed fast, so may be graphomania helps to be a regular, i.e., a professional arts critic?
  10. Failed artist. This is one of the most popular myths about who the people are that write about arts – the ones who wanted to be professional artists but were too bad for that, that’s why they found another way of being professional within arts. It might be true in some cases. But failed is failed. Does the one failed there become successful here? Failing is a feature not an objective measurement.

Thanks to Ne[w]kritika, Writing Movement at www.kedja.net and Ingrida Gerbutaviciute personally for inviting, inspiring and supporting!

The text was originally published, May 24th, 2013 on Dance.lv Journal

Inta Balode is the editor of Dance.Lv Journal, a dance critic and the Latvian coordinator of Writing Movement

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