Thursday, October 1, 2009

Prairie Artsters: Farewell, Anonymous*

Moderating online comments has become necessary to maintaining a relevant dialogue

A few weeks back, I was asked to informally share my thoughts on the subject of criticism. Leaving with more questions than answers, I wrote a column on my experiences as both a critic and as a subject of concentrated critique.

Just barely one month later, that initial piece—which concerned itself with devaluing anonymous online criticism—has ironically become fodder for anonymous online critiques to the point where I now feel obliged to moderate all comments on Prairie Artsters.com.

Criticism, as a basic feedback system, is an intensified response. Done well, criticism could be a sensitive and conscious response to an expression. Not everyone wants to engage, but there are those who are so vehement in their engagements that their arguments are more aligned with monologues.

It has been said that anyone who comes up to the artist immediately following a performance or presentation of their work with either accolades or criticisms is a selfish foe. Genuine or helpful criticism tends to take time—to formulate all the facets and considerations of the experience of an expression. Criticism can be informed in a number of ways, and if done properly, the opinions shared are heard as productive insights rather than defensive reactions. In addressing criticism, especially in an era of instant communication where process time disappears and alternate personas are privileged, instant feedback forums slide into a war of weightless words and egos that add little to the heart of an issue.

As both an active venue and archive for dialogue, Prairie Artsters continues to shift in mandate, starting first as an across the board reviews space, then growing into contextualizing works to their place, to its current phase of addressing regionally, if not nationally and internationally relevant issues facing contemporary artists by using Edmonton-based works as examples.

In this new role of monitoring the flow of feedback, there is now a check and balance to the issue of generating dialogue rather than just picking fights. Not responding only goes so far, and even responding only goes so far, but in actively shaping the conversation, a productive feedback system can now acknowledge the merit of all comments said by simply publishing or rejecting them in relation to the overall arch of a discussion.

This has all been tried and tested through print publishing, but in the realm of online publishing, the accessibility for anyone and everyone to partake in discussion remains its grace and its Achilles' heel.

While I concede anonymous voices are capable of producing incredibly fruitful and profound insights, let's be real that the anonymous voices we're talking about are a specific handful of anonymous or moniker-wielding voices that have rarely, if ever, offered anything fruitful or profound.

They are the equivalent of hooded hecklers, espousing rants without taking responsibility in connecting their words to their real identities. Although most of us know who these hooded voices are, in the long run there remains a very palpable lack of credibility and respect for opinions offered by real artists who choose to separate their opinions from their real persons.

In my desire to move past the moot points of Edmonton's potentials and short comings, past entrenched stances of idolatries and -isms, I, and anyone else interested in moving the conversation along, need to let go and bid farewell to all that does not inspire and feed us.

As an end note to those who have entertained themselves and many Prairie Artsters readers for the past two years, this is very likely the very last acknowledgment I will ever make of them. Take care and good-bye.

*First published in Vue Weekly

4 comments:

Franklin said...

Perhaps this doesn't need saying, but this policy will work as expected only if you apply it with absolute evenness. If you continue to allow your pseudonymous supporters to chime in while moderating critics away into oblivion, it will become clear that you're trying to shut up a spirited opposition, not nurture a conversation.

With that established, we now get to see your response to signed criticisms. What I've seen so far strikes me as a start, at best. "Your notes have been duly noted." Indeed. It takes a measure of courage to allow such criticisms to appear. It takes several more measures of courage to publicly admit the aptness of those criticisms and promise to do better.

Allow me to express my astonishment that Vue thinks that this topic interests its general readership.

jenniplease said...

...and good riddance!

Bellows said...

Good for you to finally realize that your writing for the most part has mostly angered the general reader, you have in my case made things less confusing for now I can see that your VERSION of criticism comes with a wedges of dictatorship, if you mean anything from all the years of writing this should be most obvious.

The voice that you have created should have at some point grown some thick skin like mine and then we wouldn't have this problem of your "concentrated critique" may have vanished, but no you choose to ignore the advice that began some 2 years ago and you have held on to some hope that you would convince these "hooded hecklers" that you are RIGHT and they are WRONG.

Please read the following and PLEASE let it be part of who you are from now on.

David Smith, Perceptions & Reality, December 17, 1951

"To understand a work of art, it must be seen and perceived, not worded. Words can be used to place art historically, to set it in social context, to describe the movements, to relate it to other works, to state individual preferences, and to set the scene all around it. But the actual understanding of a work of art only comes through the process by which it was created - and that was by perception."

Oh by the my Name is Mark Bellows and I am not hiding or afraid of you or anybody else, minus maybe the Hells Angles.

Glenn said...

"There are many people who love to opine pedantically and express all sorts of provocative opinions -- as long as they don't ever have to confront criticisms of those views. People like Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol will stay hiding on Fox News where they can spout all sorts of claims without challenge, but then refuse to be questioned about those views by someone like Bill Moyers. Rachel Maddow constantly invites prominent Republicans on her show so she can interview them, but most refuse. ...

That's why I've debated journalists I've criticized and have even gone on right-wing talk radio to discuss columns I wrote, and routinely respond to criticisms in the comment section to the posts I write. For reasons I've explained before... seeking out a public forum in which to express controversial views... entails the obligation to confront critics and criticisms. Refusing to do so is irresponsible cowardice that singularly enables reckless opining ."