Saturday, September 01, 2007

Cicero's Six and Criticism

“The Six Mistakes of Man”
1. The delusion that personal gain is made by crushing others.
2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected.
3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it.
4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences.
5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and studying.
6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.

- Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 B.C. – 43 B.C.)

One of the problems with writing criticism is that people often confuse expressing an opinion with the last of Cicero’s Six Mistakes: attempting to compel other to believe as I do. For me, as well as all of the critics I know, writing has nothing to do with convincing someone else of my point of view, it has more to do with a desire to share a point of view on something that I find interesting.

Last month I wrote a column for Big Red and Shiny where I laid out an argument about how I thought the art market was ready for Dada inspired art. The argument seemed pretty simple to me: MOMA had a Dada exhibition up for most of 2006, so I thought by summer of 2007 the art market would be capitalizing on Dada’s recent exposure at fairs like Scope Hamptons. In an unexpected way, I received more polarized e-mails on this issue than I have ever received.

I had one person named “Kunty Bush” actually call me a “dueche-bag” because she disagreed with my argument. I had another person call me “retarded”. Another person said that I knew nothing about art and should shut-up. Someone else sent me this message: ”WTF? FTS! UR A JAKAS AND U CAN BMA! US, GAL!” And the list went on in somewhat less humorous ways.

This shocked me on multiple levels. First, because I had to look up what “BMA” meant, which embarrassed me. (Apparently it means, “bite my ass”.) Next, I was surprised that anyone actually read anything that I wrote. Mostly though, I was surprised that so many people had not only missed the point of what I had written, they had missed the point of why I had written at all. It seems as if the anger directed toward me personally had nothing to do with what I had written, in fact a few of the people who wrote very angry letters to me with me actually agreed with my argument! The anger seems to stem from the fact that people thought I was trying to compel them to believe my point of view.

This anger seems to not only be confined to writing, but to the very act of expression itself. I think every artist I know can think of an instance where a viewer was somehow insulted or offended by their work. Usually, it turns out that the offended person was not so much offended by the work, but believed that by expressing another point of view, the artist was trying to change the minds of the viewers and was therefore threatening any other point of view. (I know one critic once wrote that my artwork was attempting to inspire “vigilante violence”. I’m still not sure if it was a good or bad review ...)

So let me make it clear:
When I write something or make something, I am not trying to compel anyone else to change their point of view. I just want to express my opinion.

The next question is then, well why do you want to express your point of view? And it’s this simple: For every negative piece of mail that I received for my last article; I received 10 times more positive pieces of mail. I received mail from people saying that I showed them an interesting point of view. I had multiple people send me contemporary Dada inspired poetry. I had one artist say that my article encouraged him to continue making work that was inspired by the desire to create without inhibition. I had one writer and photographer, Allen Cooley, send me the beginnings of an article that he is writing on the influence of Dada in hip-hop that was inspired by my column.

That’s why I write and make art. Not to change someone else’s beliefs to my point of view, but to share and pass on the energy that goes along with being inspired. If that pissed someone else off or they just don’t get it, that’s not my problem. But I know I always love to hear what other people think of what I write or my work. So please, the next time you’re in a gallery, take a moment and write something in the comment book. And if you had a reaction to this article, leave a message in this comment section, I’d love to read it.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

The Bridge Supreme, an example of hip-hop athletic footwear brand, DaDa

Example of one of my pieces that apparently tries to convince people to commit acts of “vigilante violence”.


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