Re: serious work & critiques

Mark Coniglio (
Tue, 9 Sep 1997 09:12:51 -0500

Andrea S. said

>For this reason and many others, it becomes very important to be cogniscent
>of your critiques. Most of us are not professional critics but in the
>emerging field of dance and technology

I think that Andrea S. makes an important step by presenting an outline of
things to consider when making a critique. This is a discussion to which we
could all contribute.

There are many different styles of critique. One made famous in the NYC
dance scene by the late Bessie Schoenberg's was her dictum that you could
never say the words "I like" or "I didn't like" when speaking of a piece,
an encouragement that forced you to talk about the work itself and not
about your feelings towards it. Then there is kind of critique that I was
exposed to whilst in art school (CalArts) where the everyone was encouraged
to be as clerverly brutal as they could manage. (Believe me, some of the
stuff I heard during my four years would make Richard's post seem like the
fluffiest of fluff.)

>There is a middle ground, albeit precarious. It
>requires the critic to 1.) educate themself on the respective work 2.)
>disregard to the best of their ability their ego and personal
>bias/judgement/prejudices 3.) view the piece/artist in the context of the
>medium,its history, resources, etc and 4.) consider yourself, not so much
>an authority but more of an informed audience member.

I think I agree with Andrea's point 1 and 3, and 4 too (but with some
reservation). On point 2 I disagree I think, because it is the differing
egos, personal biases, prejudices and expertise that attract me to
participate here. As I said previously, each person on this list that is
using dance with technology approaches this integration in a unique way. It
is each reaction from each of these particular perspectives that will allow
me to see my work in a new way, so I welcome the comments bathed in each
person's unique bent. My reservations on point 4 relate to my disagreement
with point 2, in that I want people's expertise to inform their critique of
my work.

Of course, my perspective on 2 allows for the possibility of being
lambasted for this or that. Certainly there are some people that do not see
any reason to have sensors that would allow live performers to control
stuff from within the performace (this is what we do at Troika Ranch). Such
a person could certainly discount what we are doing out of hand and say
that it is all a waste of time because of h/er narrow (!) view. Now, I
could take such comments personally, which would make me grind inside, or I
could acknowledge that this person is not interested in basic tenet of our
work, and let it go at that. I prefer the latter because it allows the
person in question to speak passionately and unguarededly about what they
care about. DOWN WITH SENSORS, they might say! Good for them! This is so
much better to me than stuff that gets layered in mock softness.

In the end, I agree with what I think is the subtext of Andrea's post. I
will say it in this way: speak honestly and passionately about the work of
others, but do it with a sense of respect. No matter how great or small
another artist's work may seem to you, if it is "serious" work (in the
sense of Imma's post on the seriousness of intent by an art maker) then
they deserve respect.


Andrea, forgive me for being such a blockhead, but what exactly do you mean
by this? I don't know what you mean by 'American Dance Criticism'. Please
elaborate for the uninformed.


Mark Coniglio, Artistic Co-Director |
Troika Ranch |