The Future of Criticism
Written by Jean-Paul Bavard
(Originally appeared in The Journal of French Semiotic Theory, Vol. 2, Issue 33)
Translated from the French by Daniel Davis
illustration by Ans
For centuries, critics of the Arts have been searching for the best, most effective way to communicate to their audience the very essence of a given work of art, in the most enlightening, informative, entertaining, artful, and thought-provoking manner possible.
They have all failed. Until now. As the world’s preeminent Music/Film/ Literature/Fashion Critic and Semiotician, I have dedicated several painstaking hours of research and experimentation to finding a new way to evaluate and then communicate the very deepest essence of a given artwork. I have succeeded where no one else ever has.
The key concept to accomplishing this was to understand that the conventional approach to art criticism – an essay on, or a review of, say, a film or recording, for example – must be rejected and replaced with une superior system. But what system to replace it with? The answer, which I alone have discovered: There is no better way to evaluate and understand Art than through other Art! Mon dieu, it is so very simple yet so very true!
But which works of art could possibly be so universally understood and appreciated, so widely respected and admired? Which works of art could possibly be so wildly popular yet personally moving; so passionately inspiring yet intellectually challenging as to illuminate other creations with their blinding glow of brilliance? Which works of art could so touch the heart, yet also stir the soul and intrigue the mind? Which works of art make the whole world sing songs of love and special things? It is obvious: The songs of Barry Manilow! C’est vrai! Then it became clear: Every work of art ever created by man can be explained to its very deepest essence by quoting lyrics from Barry Manilow songs.
The impact of this dramatic achievement will surely be felt throughout Western culture for centuries to come! Think of it: There will no longer be any need for the likes of Gene Shalit, Spin Magazine, or art history majors. Superior critics, such as myself, will have more time for theorizing, interpreting, and chat show appearances. Lesser critics will have more time to find employment that is better suited to their skills – perhaps mopping, or highway toll collecting. I boldly predict that this glorious Utopian vision is the very future of all Art Criticism!
Here are some examples from the disparate worlds of music, painting, and film, that can all easily and accurately be summed up with a few brief lines from Barry Manilow song lyrics:
Music – New Releases:
Busta Rhymes, Genesis:
“It had the kind of rhythm that would fill the hall, the plinkin’ and the plunkin’ drove ’em up the wall, and they would dance and drink their gin, and when the fuzz buzzed, they’d join in.” (from “Jump Shout Boogie”)
Mariah Carey, Greatest Hits:
“Still in the dress she used to wear, faded feathers in her hair, she sits there so refined, and drinks herself half-blind.” (from “Copacabana”)
Cypress Hill, Stoned Raiders:
“And a new day will begin, burnt out ends of smoky days, the stale court smell of morning.” (from “Memory”)
“I don’t even sing it well, I try but I just can’t, but I sing it every night.” (from “This One’s for You”)
Garth Brooks, Scarecrow:
“It’s all very nice, it’s not very good.” (from “Ready to Take a Chance Again”)
Wu Tang Clan, Iron Flag:
“We started out with a bang and at the top of the world, now the guns are exhausted and the bullets are blanks, and everything’s blank.” (from “Read ’em and Weep”)
Britney Spears, Britney:
“Caught up in a world of uphill climbin’ the tears are in my mind, and nothing is rhyming.” (from “Mandy”)
Pink Floyd, Echoes: The Best Of:
“Even now, when I never hear your name, and the world has changed so much since you’ve been gone, even now I still remember and the feeling’s still the same.” (from “Even Now”)
America: Tribute to Heroes:
“When every mother’s son was going off to war, they had to lift their spirits high, for Uncle Sam, motherhood and apple pie.” (from “Jump Shout Boogie”)
Jackson Pollock, “Yellow, Gray Black,” 1948:
“I’ve been lookin’ I’ve been lookin’, I’ve been lookin’, I’ve been up, I’ve been down, and tryin’ to get the feelin’.” (from “Tryin’ to Get the Feelin’ Again”)
Salvador Dali, “Persistence of Memory,” 1948:
“You remind me I live in a shell, safe from the past and doing okay but not very well, no jolts, no surprises, no crisis arises, my life goes along as it should.” (from “Ready to Take a Chance Again”)
Waking Life, directed by Richard Linklater:
“This one will never sell, they’ll never understand.” (from “This One’s for You”)
Harry Potter and the Big Pile of Money, Directed by Christopher Columbus:
“Oh now, hold on fast, oh could this be magic at last? Could it be magic?” (from “Could it Be Magic?”)