Oh Deviantart, thank you once again! Yet another DD. You continue to be incredibly kind to me. This particular DD really belongs to the photographer, the one and only ~DalaiHarma
. The concept and its execution came entirely from her head. I just had to lie around naked and brave holding meat. So, if you like this image, please go and give her praise.
I am so sorry for my continued absence! My new show opens in one and a half weeks and I am just flat out. I don't know when I last had a day off and I don't know when I'll next have one. Happily, I absolutely love my work. I am so excited but this show but I am just as excited about the next show and can hardly wait for this one to be over so I can launch into the next.
Once again, thank you DA. I haven't forgotten you! I am just struggling to breath for all the art going on.
Here is a review published in The Guardian on Tuesday August 16th, 2005 by journalist Phil Daoust:
Tim Minchin winner of the Melbourne comedy festival's director's choice award arrives in Edinburgh trailing cloudlets of glory. The Australian comedian/ musician is popular enough to pack out one of the festival's biggest halls, and to be cheered after every gag and comic song.
It's enough to make you believe in mass hypnosis. Strip away Minchin's fretful porpentine hair, white piano and willingness to fall off the stage for a laugh, and you're left with a bog-standard stand-up with a silly voice and a few good songs, most of whose material would have seemed dated in the last millennium. He must be the last person in the world to be surprised by the spread of mineral water. When he does address more topical subjects, such as smug environmentalists, what should be bite is all gum. And I don't think I've ever heard a lamer attempt to change the subject than: "Hey, is anyone married?"
The self-satisfied gurning seems to last for centuries. Then Minchin makes the unilateral decision to give us an encore, the last thing you need in a festival where acts stack up in the wings like jets over an airport. He even congratulates himself for keeping the next performers waiting. Whatever happened to that fine old tradition of tarring and feathering?
Now, I believe in critique. I really do. As a theatre maker, I fight to get reviewers into my shows, as terrifying as this is, because we are reliant on them to bring us an audience. We pad our portfolios with our favourite quotes and years down the track we might even go back to a bad review and agree with the writer. 'In retrospect, yes, that work did fall short in that regard. I hated you for saying it but yes.'
But what is so disgusting about Phil Daoust's review of Tim Minchin is that it essentially says 'I hated the show and Tim is a really bad person'. And Daoust isn't the only reviewer who writes like this. Artists have to cope with this all the time. 'I hated their art and therefore they are a shitty excuse for a human being. How dare they subject me to that!' This particular review also includes a nice little punch in the face for any audience member who might have enjoyed the performance by suggesting that their tastes could only be the result of 'mass hypnosis'.
Anger is fun to read and I understand this but I wish vindictiveness could stay out of art critique. I read spite constantly in reviews (and I am talking mainstream theatre and art reviews, blogs and responses to photos, drawing and writing here on sites like deviantart and flicker). Fury that the artist dared to make art that was either a) not to my tastes b) too ambitious for this their limited skills or c) on a topic that I didn't like.
And the thing that disgusts me most is how little justification reviewers need to condemn something. Buzz words like 'self-indulgent' really concern me. A reviewer can drop this little bombshell into a review and never have to say in what way the art was 'self-indulgent'.
I am for critique. I truly am. Part of my post-graduate studies involved a weekly class on giving and receiving critique and I loved it. (This was at a very prestigious arts college and the fact that this was a compulsory part of the curriculum should tell you that the art world thinks critique is important also.) I am for intelligent, well thought-out responses to art and I am for dialogue with the artist. I am not for malice within these responses. Not for dismissing art because it is over-ambitious or not to your tastes. Not for personal attacks.
Now reviewing and critiquing are a world apart. I get this. But I wish they weren't. The best critiques will never come in the form of a published review. They will come from the people you invite along to see your work and whom you shout to a coffee (or wine) later. They come peers and teachers and they come from a basic level of mutual respect. But wouldn't it be wonderful if we could expect something like this conversation to appear in print?
I completely understand that bad reviews are sometimes deserved but I would like to see reviewers, 'critiquers' and bloggers justify and support their opinions. I would like to see them encouraging art and furthering artistic discussion with artists but I would settle for them not being mean.
Now, as promised, Tim Minchin's response to Phil Daoust's review. [link]
PS. There are some amazing theatre bloggers out there who are starting to make a real difference and are starting to have a massive impact on art debate. Here in Australia, the most prominent of these is Alison Croggon and she almost always seems to hold the exact opposite opinion to every other reviewer, which is pretty entertaining. I really hope that the internet continues to facilitate and change artistic response and debate.)