Post #169 • December 5, 2003, 3:14 PM
(I'm kind of in a rush today, so here are some things I posted on 2 Blowhards.)
Self-criticism in art was first aimed at the imitation of nature. Once that was pretty well-figured out, by the 19th C. or so, self-criticism turned on the act of art-making and gave us Impressionism and modernism. Once that had a good run, self-criticism turned on the surrounding culture of art-making and gave us Pop and pomo. I believe the next logical target of self-criticism is self-criticism - a re-evaluation of what parts of the self-critical enterprise are worth keeping, now that it has been taken to such absurd conclusions.
I believe that self-criticism got its start as a problem-solving mechanism in early human consciousness and is far brom being a modern idea. To be able to change what you're doing to be more effective (make fire, kill bison) you have to have a feedback loop and the will to use it (cold and hunger are powerful motivators). The imitation of nature, being so difficult to do and providing such stirring results when it is acheived, drove art towards increasing realism from Sumerian aminal style to Roman portraiture and again from Medieval sculpture to 18th C. French tenebrism. You'll remember that the Impressionists wanted to be called Realists, and there was even an effort at one point to hang the Realist label on pure abstraction, since it was only concerned with the reality of the materials from which it was composed. Pomo has a streak of this as well, insofar as it strips down cultural assumptions in an attempt to find what's really happening when we look at and make art (although its conclusions, when it reaches them, are often mistaken or beside the point.) Througout all this is a drive to find the truth, the essence, the reality. If I'm right in thinking that the next target of self-criticism is self-criticism, the next phase of art is going to be characterized by less doubt and more faith.