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Vienna, the 14th of September 2012

Critical Endeavour 2012. A feedback.

We were asked to exercise a lot of critic. Not only critic on the performances we saw, as
one would think, of course, in the first place. The critic we were asked for on which I
will emphasize here is a critic on the program itself we participated in: Critical
Endeavour 2012.

I will start with the best part, the praising part. This will (or can only) be made through
an analysis – I mean a few thoughts – on general issues, on potentialities, on those things
that exist before the whole gets the substance of reality. And I will come back to this
issue in succession until the end of this small text.

The Idea, to begin with, is good. Or even great – It could be compared to a lab: a situation
built in the way that one is able to reach to what is the most essential when writing in
the way we call “art‐critic”: precisely those things to write about. The program is
situated at the core of a festival of dance and performing arts, Impulstanz 2012, which
means, for us participants, in our range of reach happens a lot: Let it be the workshops
for dancers during the day or the performances on the Viennese stages at night, both is
material for participants of this program.

****

Of course ameliorations could be made for the realization. There were different Ideas to
cope with a problem that is, in the end, not the less important: the one of forming a
group. Even if a group would be formed very fast, or would enter into discussion very
fast – to find a consensus on which every one agrees, or, a bit more humble, to find just
something everyone is interested in will be harder to reach. It is lees the group itself but
more the concentration on working – and this means for a program of this kind: working
together and learning from each other – a group is able too that is interesting here. Some
ideas (brainstorming‐like) went into the direction of making everyone prepare some
material before entering the program, or making the ‘experts’ guiding or supervising
everyone individually on each one’s interest.

The only question to ask – aside from: how to build a situation that is able to give –
would be: How to establish a situation of concentrated work. This does not only depend
on the way participants ‘are’ or work individually – it is a question of organization. A
question of frameworks.

We could agree that, after all, dissatisfaction of this kind will always be present – you
can’t serve a dish everyone likes – just to come up with a second‐class metaphor.
But I think that a situation can be ameliorated without loosing too much. And I think
sticking to the core of what it is about – critic – will still be the best choice. What I want
to emphasize on here is a more formal aspect, but this could be the reason why most
people (maybe) would not have problems on this: concentrating on watching and
writing. (What follows are mere ideas, not even suggestions.)
This means, (1), as simple as it sounds: Use the situation that is given. And, again, this
means – this time concerning the specific organization – coordinating the participants in
a way that they can see the same performances at the same evenings. We had, 2012, a lot
of performances to go to, mostly more than one an evening. And the best experiences (I
am talking only about my own experience here, of course) were those few where we
could have the possibility of a short discussion on what we saw.
This leads to (2): I am thinking here about a ‘line’ that leads through the whole timeplanning
in the way to assure the discussions about the very specific performances we
saw happening aside the individual program (of lectures for example) the ‘experts’
would offer us.
To finish the argument with an example: the mornings for the experts’ own lectures, the
afternoons for the work on seen performances. (The important part would be that these
afternoon‐sessions would not need an expert on their own, regarding the difficulties of
booking a person for the whole time of three weeks, but would be the second part of the
mornings’ experts’ job)

****

The interesting part on this, and the reason why I deepened this line of thought, is that
one structural pattern transcends a second one: the work on seen performances
transcends the pattern which is the succession of different experts changing every few
days, with their own ideas on what to do with their time.

To contour this in an abstract way: two patterns, of which one transcends the other. Or
using a projection into geometry as metaphor: One pattern directed horizontally, having
beginning and end at the same time as the duration of the program, and one pattern
directed vertically, in succession, starting every two to three days from the beginning.

This relationship can be found in every work, or at least in the work that is, for example,
art in general, and the writing of a critic in specific. When ‘work’ is being done bound to
very specific appointments and objects (for example a piece to write about for a
newspaper), it is always at the same time ‘work’ for an issue transcending those
numerous “small tasks”.
Concerning Critical Endeavour, at least regarding my experience participating this year,
this program gave writers the chance to concentrate exactly on these general aspects. It
gave the chance to concentrate on the ‘transcending work’. Mostly by means of creating
a situation that would be unusual in a professional field: emphasizing the “input”
opposed to the “output” being the most important in professional life. It is still the trias
of “watching, any kind of work or thought & writing” I am concerned about here, which
can be translated in a lot of familiar concept: process & product, input & output, etc. But
the only reason to gather those words or ideas on this field is to emphasize on the useful
potentialities a situation creates. To emphasize on the usefulness of a good answer to
the question: how to build a situation that is able to give. And, as written above, this
situation, this festival, is able to give.

****

I don’t believe in the power of deconstruction (and I want to use this word without
referring to any specific school of thought – shall they tell me it is not possible), I rather
prefer mere construction. Just as humble and generous as it is, as vulnerable is it. But
this is the point on which to weigh the power of this generous critic, something this text
wants to be. This text wants to defend, in the most honest way, the Idea of this program
and its value for the work of those participating, which means, now in a more clearly
political way, the work out of which emerges art or culture.
Gilles Becker

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