Be Careful What You Wish For

Be Careful What You Wish For

Postby CAP » Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:11 pm

I often wish WWR attracted lively comments threads and had more regular contributors. But after looking at some other sites that do attract these things, I realise it can get pretty ugly. Actually, I remember, it can get pretty ugly. Back in the days of the PaintersNYC blog (2006-8), you’d get all these crazies joining the conversation and just hurling abuse or hijacking the thread for another topic, getting into boring gossip and in-jokes. But back then there were always others to chime in and offer genuinely interesting insights on a topic as well. It did get ugly, but there was some beauty mixed in. My impression lately is that it just gets pedantic. Take the recent post on Clement Greenberg by John Yau @ Hyperallergic (John a senior editor of Brooklyn Rail). John one not afraid to come out swinging against the NYC artworld, even if the blows don’t always connect. In his article he’s really arguing about a view of modern art as a progressive knowledge of the nature of painting, or more generally, about the definition of ‘a medium’ (such as painting) as the ultimate goal of art. His real target however, is tacit followers of Greenberg, such as Raphael Rubenstein, a noted critic and curator and champion of abstract painting.

John’s piece attracted 79 comments, mostly just peevish and resentful rearguard actions in defence of Greenberg. Some of them are frankly condescending. There is one interesting one, by ‘Raphael’ (presumably Rubenstein) again seeking to qualify or revive Greenberg’s position somehow, but in general it’s a dispiriting read. Once I would have jumped in, added my five p’s worth. But now I see there is no persuading some people, they just find other things to disagree with you about. In the old days I just enjoyed the cut and thrust of it, the anarchy and poetry. But back then everyone was using silly tags – like CAP! – now everyone wants to use their real names and build, build, build that network, nail their colours to the mast, attract sponsorship. This seems to me totally counter-productive, when not actually futile.

The best (or most subversive) arguments on the web I think are those put anonymously, where you’re asked to assess an idea or proposition on just the text – never mind by whom, where or why. The appeal is strictly to reason, strictly to your reading ability. That is when you’re actually freest to try it on, test drive it. Check their facts elsewhere; go away and think about it. There are no obligations. But this is exactly what many people object to most about the web. They don’t want to have to decide these things for themselves. They want some authority to vouch for the ideas first, to okay their engagement. They just want to know where to sign, who to vote for.

So I realise I should be content with just putting stuff up here, irrespective of the lack of feedback. Feedback can be a trap! There are other sites for that and from what I can see, there’s a lot of sound and fury, signifying not much more than compliance. :evil:
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