August 19

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Dispute the Possibility of Art

8. Dispute the possibility of art.

I believe that this is one of the most important functions of the critic of the future—not to proselytize on behalf of particular works of art, but to quarrel with the very possibility that any art is possible in the age of new media, whose early stages suggest much more radical changes to come. Continuing to try to prove the existence and importance of art, high or low or in-between, is a losing proposition. It creates the opposite of the intended effect. The only way that art can become central again is if it is attacked repeatedly and from every front, from every angle possible, by critics agnostic about its existence, or even militantly atheist toward it. Instead of advocating for art, the critic of the future should passionately foretell its demise, marshal every resource at his disposal to bring it down, to bring the whole miserable enterprise to an end. This confrontational posture is the only service a critic can provide to art at this late juncture; everything else is mere dishonesty that doesn’t compel strong artists into being.

How can there be art when hierarchies are flattened as never before, when democracy is stripped of idealism, when the canon has been brought into disrepute, when there is no time for leisure and reflection, when war has long been elevated to the highest aesthetic, when there is no ideology, no utopia, no conflict, no desire worth speaking of? What function can poetry possibly serve when all the poetic dreams have been appropriated by the media, converted into debased forms of visual manipulation and aggressive denial?

Anis Shivani, What Should Be the Function of Criticism Today?


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Anis Shivani


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