Thanks to the nitpicking morons of the art blogosphere, the Village Voice recently dismissed its art critic Christian Viveros-Faune due to his self-declared involvement with two art fairs. The foggy bloggies, who never tire of circle-jerking each other with praise in their dull, redundant musings, began to call for "regulating" critical speech like the blue-nosed cryptofascists they are, while ignoring the free market manipulations of the auction houses and blue chip galleries they love to suck up to. This is analogous to a bunch of Boy Scouts pushing an old lady into the street for crossing against the light, while the mugger cruises by in a stolen car.
Puerile desires to reign in critical freedom can be put to rest by merely citing the histories of the greatest critics in fields other than fine art. George Bernard Shaw was the greatest theater critic of his age. All the while, he was writing plays, raising fees for their production, mingling with actors and producers, and dabbling in Fabian socialism and vegetarianism for good measure. His successor as greatest theater critic, Kenneth Tynan, also wrote his own plays, raised funds for their production, palled it up with playwrights he covered like John Osborne and Alan Bennett, got drunk, screwed around with both sexes and was the first to introduce full frontal nudity on stage.
Peter Bogdanovich wrote groundbreaking film criticism for Cahiers du Cinema about Hitchcock, John Ford and Francois Truffaut, while directing and producing his own films, going hat in hand to everyone in Hollywood for money and party favors and seducing a Playboy playmate who later died at the hand of her jealous husband. Virgil Thomson, the greatest newspaper music critic of the last century, collaborated with Gertrude Stein, wrote his own opera, for which he had to solicit funding and favors, entertained a long series of male lovers and protégés in his gorgeous rooms at the Chelsea Hotel and died happily if grumpily at a very ripe old age.
Al Aronowitz, the greatest rock critic of the 1960s, spent the night in a hotel with the Beatles, snuck in all his rock star friends to meet them, hung out with Bob Dylan in Woodstock, lived off the land for every kind of substance, stimulant and handout, and took free promotional records by the thousands to boot.
What critical mass is is the ability to be in the arena and part of the action while shouting out to those outside in the streets. This is the freedom of the pen and it cannot and should not be regulated, though, God knows, I defy you to name one country in the history of the earth that hasn’t tried to do so. The bloggies can’t write or think, much less regulate, but I will always, with a lightness of spirit, defend their right to do so.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).