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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Are We TRULY HONEST When Judging Artistic Works?

This will be a serious entry. So before going into it, I'm wishing Guestblogger Justin, Blogathon partner Lune and longtime net (occasionally real-life) pal, Aik 'Egg' Tiong a very happy belated birthday. The first two are now 21, the latter is now 20.

As my two pals, Justin and Lune are both artists, I intend to do an entry about artistic works. Now, I shall start asking you all, my dear readers, do you judge an artistic work, be it a painting, a book, a film, anything, based solely on artistic merits? Or do you factor in intent as well? Do you also factor in the personal status/situation of the author of this artistic work?

Dan Schneider, webmaster of the great cosmoetica.com site (introduced to me by Justin) is a poet, writer and literary critic. A great one. However, he is egoistic and very very outspoken. (check out the so-called literary greats he criticizes on his site, hell, even Shakespeare's sonnets aren't spared!). Back in 1999, a newspaper printed an article about him, where he pointed out the 'incestuous' nature of Minnesota's poetry scene. He has a very confrontational attitude, and most poets in Minnesota were pissed off with him, but he did gain quite a lot of fans himself.

This article had me thinking: Are people actually direct and honest enough when voicing out their opinions of an artistic work? A mother lost her child, and wrote a sad poem about the child, but this sad poem, alas, happened to suck. Are you going to criticize the poem? Or are you going to feel sorry for this woman, and choose to commend her instead? But would commending her stunt her ability to improve herself further? "Awww, what a sweet sweet poem, I want to weep for you!" Are you weeping because of the poem? Or are you only weeping for the poor fate that befell upon the woman?

I will use myself as an example. You happened to watch my short film, Forced Labour, you felt that it sucked so you decide to say so. HOWEVER, you found out that I was terminally ill (touch wood!), will this niggling little fact prevent you from being honest? And thus you end up applauding me for my efforts instead? Or, maybe I'll use Yvonne Foong for example, she's a neurofibromatosis patient and a freelance writer. If she happens to write a shitty poem, is anyone going to point that out? Or will they just nod and say 'ahhh, it doesn't matter, she's such a brave girl, her effort to fight neurofibromatosis is commendable, thus her poem is commendable!'. My opinion? This is rather insulting to her because you are PITYING her, and not being entirely HONEST!!!! How the shit can she improve if no one points out her flaws? Back to me as example, me having terminal illness (touch wood again!) or not will not make Forced Labour any better or worse, wouldn't it be better to tell me what's wrong with it?

Artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers tend to cling to their works, and that shouldn't be surprising considering the amount of effort they have placed upon them. However, I feel that people should be less tolerant and more honest when criticizing these works. If the creators of these works are deluded, they will choose not to listen, and most likely let this hinder them from improving. (if improvement is really what they seek) Then perhaps, they do not deserve to be artists.

I went to a Poetry Challenge with Justin a few weeks ago, and there was this old man telling his sad tale about his mom and dad, his feelings when each of them passed away, and then reciting these two poems he wrote to deal regarding all these. I don't find his poems particularly remarkable, in fact, I would say that they were mediocre at best. His intentions may have been noble, but I just wish that someone would point out their flaws or something. But was he seeking for criticism? Would he appreciate them? I seriously don't know. I guess situations like this can be kinda tricky. At least after that, I was inspired to write my own poems...

I welcome constructive criticism, and even during the days when I write fanfics, I am usually annoyed with one-liner reviews, even if they are positive. Because, well, they are just not constructive. 'haha! veli funny wei!' 'wow, you got good sense of humour!' 'lol!' etc. Some people had said to me that I should be more gracious, because reviews aren't easy to write. But how can I be gracious if I don't even freaking know which part is funny to them? From fanfic writing to filmmaking, I always strive to improve.

Should all artists and entertainers form more and more support groups? Where everyone would pat each other's backs, complimenting their works ceaselessly just because of the process took the achieve it, and more or less neglecting the merits of the end product itself? Or would resembling a critique group work better? Even though it can be pretty stinging and harsh to actually criticize someone's work when the someone happens to be, aw shucks, such a nice NICE person?

"I'm not a racist or a sexist. I object to bad poetry, bad thinking, naiveté, this magnifying of the personal into Plathian melodrama. How can you call yourself an artist and object to that?" - Dan Schneider
I am always afraid of affiliating myself with such invisible groups and cliques formed by artists because I know that by becoming too close might actually affect my rationality and judgement upon these works. Of course, sometimes, I guess this stems more from my loner attitude and is more of a personal quirk. After all, despite feeling that Guestblogger Justin is one of the best writers I've ever met (look at his Xiaxue poem, look at his Ayumi Hamasaki poem, I daresay that both are beyond most published poems I've read these days), even so I still try to be honest with him when I have to voice out my opinions of his writings. Let's take his short stories for example, despite their technical brilliance, some just didn't work that well for me in an emotional level, and I point that out. Of course, I wish I can have the opportunity to be more honest with other artists.

This is pretty much a befuddling dilemma. Ultimately, it is something both parties, the artists and the audiences have to work upon.