Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back Further to the Future

Blogger and critic Alison Croggon has some thoughts on the age of the internet critic and the supposed Golden Age of print criticism:

Once upon a time (say, a decade or so ago), it was enough to work for an august masthead like The Age or The Australian to ensure a certain status. It didn't matter if your work was relentlessly mediocre, as were Leonard Radic's reviews in his three grey decades as Age theatre critic. The institution guaranteed status and respect. "Authority", in other words, was vested in an institution rather than in the quality of a critic's work. In the best circumstances, publications gain lustre from the quality of their critics (Michael Billington for The Guardian, Kenneth Tynan for the London Evening Standard). But in the worst, as so often has been the case in Australia, the situation has been the other way around: the critic has been important because of where she is published.

This assumption has seriously disintegrated over the past five years. What we have now is a noisy and merciless marketplace in which a critic's authority has to be earned in every piece of work he writes. And the evolution of serious, engaged and intelligent critical conversation has shown up many established print reputations as the shabby pretences they actually are.

You can read some of Alison's reviews and thoughts on her blog Theatre Notes.


Thomas Garvey said...

Well, my hat is off to the Australians! But I don't think Alison's wonderland has taken hold here in Boston. Our local web critics seem just as mild-mannered as their print counterparts (Bill Marx's mediocre Arts Fuse is just the latest example of this trend). I think I'm the only "edgy" critic on the local scene, and certainly the only one who regularly attempts "pure" criticism - that is, an essay on an aesthetic question untethered to a review of a particular show. On the national stage, things aren't much better - the Clyde Fitch Report still has an edge (partly because I can be read there!), but most of the other well-known blogs have long since settled into predictable political or personal ruts. And it strikes me that Croggon's "Golden Age" may be short-lived anyway, as digital devices like the iPad drive the public to more app-driven content, which print brands like the Times may be able to dominate. So if this age is indeed gilded, it may also be fleeting.

Art said...

Another interesting question is what will happen when critics at major news outlets disappear behind a pay wall?

Thomas Garvey said...

That could provide an interesting wrinkle in the dynamic. But of course they were behind a "pay wall" in the old days, too.

Thomas Garvey said...

I spoke only minutes too soon! Apple announced today it will begin selling newspaper subscriptions for the iPad and other devices.