Last week we were joined by Guardian theatre critic Mark Fisher in the Fine Art Studio. Mark introduced the principles of arts criticism and discussed the demands of the job. Here’s a review of the session by EAC Advisory Board Member Sam Lamont:
A certain air of apprehension was tangible in the Edge’s Fine Art Studio as the motley crew of nine students and staff waited for Mark Fisher’s ‘How To Be A Critic’ workshop to begin. This was only exacerbated by the setting: a boardroom-like table in the centre of a cavernous, high-ceilinged, glaringly-white room. Luckily, the host dissolved this immediately with an amusing explanation of how context, setting and positioning affect our perception, activity which apparently necessitated energetically circling the table and squeezing in between students to illustrate how we each perceive the room differently.
Fisher, whose accomplishments include critiquing theatre for the Guardian and a three-year stint editing The List, brought an infectious passion for the eclectic history of reviewing to the table – in the first half-hour alone we discussed Aristotle, the Italian Renaissance and Jeremy Clarkson. This is not to say that the entirety of the workshop was entirely cerebral – we proceeded to spend a significant amount of time trying to fit all the significant components of a review into a 140-character tweet.
Although this exercise was entertaining, the workshop shone most in the discussion/Q & A at the end. It was at this point that everyone felt more comfortable both with Mark and each other, and what had previously been a lesson transformed into a fast-paced conversation. Various prompted Mark to in turn expound on the responsibility to entertain, the allure of the damning review, and the shallowness of star ratings. Indeed, it is in respect of the last of these that I shall not rate ‘How To Be A Critic’ out of five, but shall simply say that I could think of fewer more diverting ways to spend a drab Thursday evening – and what better review can there be than that.
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