Art Criticism and the Art of Criticism
an essential feature of intellectual activity, enables cultural communication
within a community. The quality of criticism, that is, the criteria
it applies, is a yardstick for a certain communitys cultural maturity.
More primitive conditions generate primitive symbolical structures of
Liberal democracy and market economy open numerous opportunities for
criticism. Largely uncultivated in Soviet times, political criticism
is taking the lead and pushing aside the critical thought on theatre,
arts, and music.
Simultaneously culture and art criticism is literally in a rut. Media
coverage of literary and artistic events and trends reflects mercantile
market tendencies and servile interests of archaic culture administration.
Sincere interest in arts is missing. Such a role of criticism is determined
by the duplicity of values typical of a post-Soviet country where liberal
democratic ideals coexist with the relics of socialist mentality and
the bureaucratic state patronage of culture. Though artists, musicians
or writers, each have a different relationship with the government,
they all want to please the popular tastes and the bureaucrats
in charge of scholarships and different funds. This leads to a competition
so cruel that it leaves everybody totally indifferent to the work and
achievements of others. It is very dangerous to criticism.
Cultural criticism of a modern society is impossible without symbolical
and more or less universally important centers of criticism. In Lithuania,
it would be difficult to find any of these besides editorial clans
of different publications.
The sluggishness and shallowness of Lithuanian art criticism is determined
by the lack of cultural communication with the wider public. Competent
art critics and historians seem to be there, yet they fail to launch
a more influential art scene. One of the reasons is extreme specialization
inherited from Soviet times, the guild-mentality, and the overall separation
of culture from its user.
Referring to the sluggishness of Lithuanian contemporary criticism,
I have in mind coverage of current events in art in periodicals and
TV. Art reviewers seem to be failing in fulfilling their mission of
informing a reader if things they are covering are worth of his attention.
Music or art critic functions as his guilds press spokesman,
while popular periodicals provide the public what they expect, a blend
of the popular and scandal. The biggest problem with critics is not
their lack of professionalism, but the lack of independence. Another
serious problem is a certain cult of unquestionable authorities in arts
and culture in general.
During the years of independence art criticism seems to have remained
more independent from public funds and less involved in lobbying. This
provides for more variety in art criticism, attempts to analyze and
interpret works of art are also obvious. This leads to conclusion that
the true domain of intellectual criticism should be situated far away
from the ministries and their funds.