On Criticism (Thinking in Action)
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In a recent poll of practicing art critics, 75 percent reported that rendering judgments on artworks was the least significant aspect of their job. This is a troubling statistic for philosopher and critic Noel Carroll, who argues that that the proper task of the critic is not simply to describe, or to uncover hidden meanings or agendas, but instead to determine what is of value in art.
Carroll argues for a humanistic conception of criticism which focuses on what the artist has achieved by creating or performing the work. Whilst a good critic should not neglect to contextualize and offer interpretations of a work of art, he argues that too much recent criticism has ignored the fundamental role of the artist's intentions.
Including examples from visual, performance and literary arts, and the work of contemporary critics, Carroll provides a charming, erudite and persuasive argument that evaluation of art is an indispensable part of the conversation of life.
approaches from the onus of evaluation, since the evaluation of an artwork is focused on what has been done in an artwork relative to its purposes. But what has been done as well as what was meant to be done are connected to artistic intentions. Thus, insofar as Deep Interpretations bracket intentions in favor of determining forces that exert pressure from below the intentional stance, Deep Interpretations may be detached from evaluation. In this, they may even lay claim to be contemporary
not what the audience does that is the object of criticism, it must be what the artist does (or what the artists do) with or by means of the work. Furthermore, the idea that the audience might be the target of our criticism doesn’t square with ordinary critical discourse. When we chide an artwork for its shortcomings, our disapproval is not aimed at the audience. They are not responsible for the defects in the artwork. The artist is. So, it is what the artist is doing or has done with respect to
may provide the artist with his brief or charge, it seems that I only consider the artistic execution of the brief for purposes of evaluation and not, for instance, the worthiness of the content of the brief. And that sounds like a kind of formalism. This is an aspect of a very complex issue that will be taken up primarily in the next and last chapter of this book. However, for the time being, let several comments suﬃce. First, it need not be the case, on my view, that the execution of the work
Mondrian did not know what he wanted until he got it. But there is no reason to think that artistic intentions are not clariﬁed in the process of creating the work and that those are quite often the kind of intentions to which the intentionalist critic is referring. The creators of the motion picture Darjeeling Limited, for example, did not originally plan the baggage motif to be interpreted as “baggage” in the psychological sense, but recognized this possibility in the course of ﬁlming, ratiﬁed
anthologies of bad poetry,7 or it may be that the art on display is work of questionable value by an inﬂuential artist or patron which must be shown for economic or even political reasons. Indeed, turning to the art of ﬁlm, a producer may release movies in a certain genre not because he evaluates them positively, but because he needs product for a hungry market. Of course, one might say in defense of Danto’s view that usually when a gallery, or a museum, or for that matter a publisher or a ﬁlm