Who is a critic?


When I learned what the subject is of this conference, I was surprised. Maybe not so much surprised at how much convinced that this is yet another manifestation of the tendency to transformation of criticism in the scientific discipline or expansion of academic criticism. Given the tightening of the presence of journalism reviews in the press, radio and television and dispersion in the network (Internet) – that is the academic criticism has become step by step a kind of the last line of defense against commercialization, the inevitable process of absorption by the system of buying and selling. However, such a defense is not without cost, without loss. It leads to distancing language of criticism and the literary language that is accessible to specialization, which annihilates the criticism as an art. I always thought that criticism is part of the literature, but only meta-critics belongs to the order of science. I fear the times when the critic already from no one but himself to understand or sometimes his colleagues.


But when I looked at the questions and suggested diagnosis of the situation, it turned out that the theme of this conference is very strongly associated with the changes that have taken place in the world of theater and criticism.


As my own experience confirms the criticism increasingly changes roles: there are quasi-theatrical performances or events in which the reviewer – as another viewer – is a subject of manipulation and becomes a participant in the spectacle. It also happens that animates the critic himself some events around the theater or opera, for example, by public meetings with the artist of the theater, which become a kind of spectacle. So the question of distance, the relationship between the observer and what is observed is fully justified.


I’d like to present my specific experience as a critic during the festival in Turin, last year. It was extra original for the reason of the new position of the viewer-critic who (especially myself) has transformed from the role of the observer to the role of the performer. The new situation has taken the new gains: you had to be active participant of the event and you had to be observer of this event and finally you had to be writer that will give a report/review from this event. That is a clinic situation of the inter criticism or self criticism.

In Turin, Judith Nab, performer, prepared an installation – trap „All the people I have not met” in the heart of the city , the seat of Teatro a Corte in Cavallerizza Reale , or the Royal riding . There usually have participated in the show from a dozen to forty people, but made an exception for me, I was alone group, and so will meet with the installation of ” alone ” . Prior to the entry you receive instruction along with a quote from Pirandello 's novel , „One , one and a hundred thousand „:” Everyone has a special place in the imagination, for another . „

The manual contains a warning that the installation has neither beginning nor end, that no actors in it , written and approved text, script , and even here there is no representation. Everything depends on the entrant.
It was the beginning of my Turin critical adventure.


And here is the manual installation:

1st You get your first ticket and enter . Leave your bag before entering, you allow it to be easier to navigate . Turn off the phone .
2nd Save your second name on a piece of paper that you give .
3rd When your third number will be displayed climb inside.
4th Turn left, open the black door and pick up the phone .
5th After the call, go to the great room.
6th of the island will see a big room chairs and tables . Choose a chair, sit down , where you can watch , listen, chat and read, answer phones or do nothing.
7th After 25 minutes, the seventh installation was repeated, but can be longer if you want.
8th exit doors are located in the middle of the room on your left.

Start of the procedure. Gives up his things for safekeeping. Replaced by a ticket ” 839 . ” On the piece of paper print your name. Soon, the number appears on the ” counter „. I go , turn left. It’s dark , almost nothing in sight. When the eye is accustomed to the situation , I see the phone side and four monitors . The phone rings , take the handset. He says something to me in Italian , that were so, Let me know , I know very little Italian , and besides, it turns out that the phone is silent , because only one way , he says to me insistently , but do not expect a response.
I look at the monitors: on each of them I saw myself being tracked by a camera from another site , and slightly from above , from left, right profile, the back and front . Best seen his bald head . A little to begin drilling on the phone , especially since someone always says something, but I do not listen to. Suddenly I see someone in the dark. It looks to me like a hunter. Who’s the hell ? The phone goes silent , hang up the phone and head toward a strange figure. It’s me , except in the mirror. While there , he seemed a little bigger than me and starts with a delay relative to me, and so it is a projection of the spectrum . I turned toward the door and after a while I go to a large, sinking in a mist of space. On the big screen, a group of people flits sea. After a while I see emerging from the darkness of the desk , monitors , computers , chairs armchairs, some papers , small lamps , toys , crayons . I go to the nearest desk to sit down and get used to the ” terrain „. Someone else is there , diligently taps some articles . Before I come to hear the hiss of the chair , rushes into a new portion of fog lamps on the serpentine arms are skipping in a strange dance. I sit down . Inside the hollow desks , and in the bottom of the tiny screen. On it is also a group , maybe the family flees the sea, hear the sound of waves . Monitor asks for something , but I see badly , I left my things before , and glasses. I’m sitting , drilling is . The girl who a moment before there was already married . I am alone. Change my desk. Here are the children’s drawings with captions : „This is my home in Turin , „” Here I live , „” You want to live . ” No, no, I will not draw . Go to the next desk. Monitor flickers slightly , encourages cooperation . ” Write to me, „he encourages . ” Is anyone there? ” I ask . The machine opens the line of response , but I’ve got the same answer , the machine does not talk to me . So I unsubscribed for a while so some insignificant pieces , and the fact that I do not have glasses, so I’ll probably do a lot of mistakes, etc. I change my desk. Multiply , since nobody else is here . How Winnetou, who pretended the whole detachment Sioux , emerging from behind the next hill , leap over the desk in the desk. I am making these transitions artificial crowd. Again gushes portion fog light bulb sways , as if to threaten me that I make too much noise here . So now I sit quiet and watch the video. Sea, some quiet conversation, footsteps. Few seen. Who are these people? I know someone here?

In the leaflet, inviting to the public installation by Judith Nab promised to find relationships with others. Well, yes, but then, when 40 people entered here. But if I am alone … This is the end , nothing else happens. Just outside the door I poured the midday sun and fun rhythm and set the output to the radio. The brightness of the dark ?
The next day, talking with Judith Nab. There I met people who do not know, I say. I met only one. Himself. I really do not know how to keep what I do , or exceed the limits of cool observer. It turned out that those who do not know, I am. Is that what you meant?
– Actually , I’m very sentimental – says Judith . – This installation is a map of characters that are open in my drawer , your memories. I did not think it would be a way to get to know each other, but, as usual, at the ends. not get away from each other .


So, what is the connection between this experience and our conference. I think it shows the process of changing from the privilege observer to the active participant, but I’m not agree with opinion that it is absolutely new situation in the history of performances and it changes the role of the critic. Critic is the participant of the performance and the observer and he has to create a specific bi-role (as a critic and as a quasi-performer). But I don’t think that it is a big revolution.


I remember our debate in Toronto. It was the idea of the professor Don Rubin, York University from Canada: to organize an international meeting of the theatrical critics devoted to their professional experience.


The intention was very clear – the organizer has been very interested in the accumulation of the rich material from many regions and countries about the professional path leading to the contemporary shape and profile of the critics. Don Rubin would like to do the first step and, maybe, lay down the new practice in our international community: creating a specific database of the critics. I think it was a very good and important step, very precisely planned and very thoroughly prepared. We could acquaint much information about the theatrical commentary, about our tradition. I’d like only notice one of the speech by Micheal Handelzaltz from Israel. Whoever knows him should not be surprised: Michael likes the connection with Bible very much. This time, we found that the God was the first critic… But for me, another topic in his speech was more important. He recalled Samuel Papys, a good known diarist of the Elizabethan age, who wrote down his impression about Shakespearean “Midnight Summer Dream”. Michael Handelzaltz told a tasty anecdote about his conversation with the artistic director one of the theaters in Tel Aviv. Michael would like to publish his review about a first night in the next issue of the newspaper and asked the director how long the spectacle lasts. Director was very surprised and asked why he wants to publish his review so fast, what is the reason – the performance should be not only one day event. Maybe – answered Michael – but a first night is not the event, the event is that it is me who was in the theatre this night – it is the news. Yes, it is only a joke, because, in fact, the reviewer today, and it links him with Mr Pepys, is the diarist, is somebody who notices his impressions. That’s all. And that’s a lot. If the critic is nobody, his remarks are of little importance, but if he’s Somebody…
So, when Michel was talking about diarist mission of the critic I realized that I’ve been writing the diary too for many years in various magazines under the title „My theatrical diary”. What a coincidence! It must be significant, it isn’t only an accident.


Tomasz Miłkowski

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