Monday, September 7, 2015

A funny thing happened on the way home, or Platform 8

I sometimes work as a critic. I am learning that this is a very complex role, involving shaping a written reponse from a total chaos of culture, social relations, economics, institutions, ethics, critical and performance traditions, and so on. You are never good enough - after all, your analysis can't possibly take in everything. All you can do is take a position, and try to write - I guess - actively. You become reliant on a particular, mystical kind of poetic energy - a channeling of this complex mass into some sort of articulated statement, something 'good'. Whatever that means. Something which helps, I guess.

There are times when this task is very difficult. It requires, for one thing, an endless, exhausting self-critique: 'is this position correct? Can I argue this?' Mostly, the end result will be an assumption anyhow, based on my limited understanding of 'stuff'. Which leads to one subsequently asking - what's the point? If it's just going to be a claim anyhow - if it's just an opinion, then why do the work at all? Why bother sweating over tiny details, staying up at night thinking about a particular social or ethical problem, punishing yourself because you didn't get an actor's name correct? Why bother - if it's inseperable from the hate speech posted on the next blog?

There are no clear answers to this, and indeed, I ask myself these questions regularly, especially in the context of today. This is very much about capitalism, the global system and what it is doing to people. I am aware, and I have been told, that for a critic, my writing is more than usually subjective, more than usually activist, more than usually non-neutral. It takes a particular position, that position is informed by certian phenomena and a certain reading of the global system and its local manifestation in politics, the ways in which both are oppressing people, and by its ultimate compromise of being written by a writer-perfomer(-director).

What has suprised me since I began writing this blog is the lack of objections. You would think that someone writing from a subjective position - in fact, with little or no instutional authority - would be cut down fairly quickly. The opposite has been true. People have, for the most part, been, somewhat worryingly at times, agreeable. Performers, especially, have taken things I have said about their work to heart, but not as negatives - as shortcomings of their own. I know this because they have told me. Even when I have claimed to them that, no, they must be mistaken because the response was so personal, so based on my own specific critical frame - they have (mostly) corrected me.

If this sounds like self-flattery, I cannot explain to you how useless it all feels when faced with a Metro Station filled with refugees. Part of my critical stance, and also my art work, maintains that the future is defined by massive-scale humanitarian crises, caused especially by climate change - but other factors stemming from the new, self-erasing ethics of capitalism. This is not an opinion. If you want, you can also do this research, or I can argue it in dialogue. In short, although you can put it different ways, capitalism removes excess time, excess energy, and excess money from people, in order to force the individual to comply with its dominant ideology, which can then be manipulated, and prevent them from ever acting collectively and changing their conditions. Not a new idea - but it hasn't become less true in the last two decades, although it has all but disappeared from public discussion.