Friday, September 19, 2008

Smelling Salts

Who's to say that I can't talk about medicine (art???) if I'm not a doctor (an artist???),  if I talk about it like a dog (god???)?

-Gilles Deleuze and Ludwig Fischer

Let this be my preface to the reader—a reader drunk not on the blows of critical wit but on the slow and dreary pummeling that passes today for critical acumen.  Punch drunk and dim is what we’ve become, engulfed as it were in a northern fog that has drifted in unawares.  For who, pray I ask, even after a cursory glance at that demented beast we call criticism, has not been struck dumb, left puzzled, by the shear asininity of the spectacle?

“Asinine” you say.  “Is that not a tad hyperbolic?”  But I say to you, lipstick on a beast is still a filthy beast. Let us agree to call a beast a beast and refuse all word mincing or tongue chomping.  The time has come for a roast.  There is more than a little dissatisfaction with the gruel that’s been served up.  

We are in the presence of a major symptom.  An obscure disaster.  And we artists should be worried by the absence of our corrosive colleagues, our daemonic partners and the battleground that they engender.  Yes, the clamour of critique has fallen silent.  Yet, this silence, which blows eardrums in our city, has not gone unnoticed. 

The time is nigh then to plunge my boot into the bog, to sharpen my knives and to commit myself to the patient labour of critical incision.  The time has come.  The boil must be lanced.

I, Ludwig Fischer, am no gangrenous fob, and I care little for the wretched accoutrements of taste or the platitudes of the market. We can no longer settle for the critic as purveyor of urbane opinion.  What artist who stakes a claim with their work can invest in such a rubber stamp?  Please don’t misunderstand. This is not a finger wagging, nor a grotesque lamentation of the glory days in which the critic reigned supreme.  Such fictions hardly amuse.  Rather it is a call to combat. 

True critique succeeds only when it enriches with each blow, illuminates as it razes to the ground. A critic must have just a little thirst for annihilation.  Yes, just enough to keep him and his patrons honest.  Critique is not for the brittle backed and succeeds only when it buckles spines and explodes kneecaps. 

“A theatre of cruelty,” you say.  “You are offering us one long unreadable bit of pain.  A thumbscrew.  And the tone.  So cynical, so scathing.  You bastard, you low-down filthy bastard."

I cannot promise readability.  Nor the critical euthanasia that solemnly bears the name today of sound judgment.  However, I must insist.  The tone is neither scathing nor cynical.  I take the vocation too, too seriously for that.

And if you require a confession, I am indeed a bastard.  But I come from a long line of bastards.  Too long to rehearse the now hackneyed self-pity that is the bastard’s stock and trade.  We have grown weary of that.  As my father use to say, “Rather the spittle that clung to the great Wissenschaftler’s lip than the sewer water that spills from the lips of the talking heads.”  I have learned from my lineage.  To be truly against, one must first be for. 

"For what?"  My allegiances shall become clear.  For the moment let the following affirmation suffice.  If the avant-garde is nothing but a carcass—a commonplace uttered by those in the know—let there be no shame in those of us who find more vitality in specters than the pallid hew of the living.  There is certainly more integrity in open fidelity to an embalmed corpse than the embrace of a living present that takes pleasure in spreading napalm over the living.  We’ve become too tolerant of such cruelties. 

Yes, we have become too dull, too accommodating, saps for fellow feeling, masters of consensus.  In short, our nostrils have become too accustomed to the funk.  If indeed the diagnosis is correct.  If we are reeling from the blows, drifting punch drunk, nauseous from our own ill-humour, then what we need today is a little smelling salt. 

Let us then unscrew the cap and take one long, deep breath.


over the TOP! said...

I can't wait to read the next post!

Chet said...

ja wohl. aber ... was? criticism is dead, long live criticism?