I love cultural criticism whether it be for the plastic arts, architecture (as mentioned in my last post), or some other art form, no don’t tell me, it’ll come to me in a minute.
However, cultural critiques cannot be a holistic look at a thing. Indeed, the art should be a tool for the critic providing evidence and insight to the underlying philosophy. As such, one doesn’t generally want to focus on a single piece, but to look around more broadly for support for one’s thesis.
Indeed the focus on one piece or one creator can be interesting when fame is involved. People long to get into the mind of Dickens, and the Freudian tricks allow for that feeling. That might work fine when the artist in question is long dead, however it is almost offensive when the artist is still alive or only recently departed.
The critic can overcome this over-presumptuousness personal assault in many ways. Firstly, by being personal about himself rather than about the artist, rather than unfounded speculations on what the artist intended, the critic can discuss what he feels, and how he feels about it. Secondly, he could discuss it like a technology with what it really consists of and what direct influence it has that can be substantiated with evidence. Essentially, the critic can be subjective or objective, but not to pretend to be objective about the artist’s subjective mind.
However, there is undoubtedly a desire in people to talk culturally about works being produced in the present. The way to do that is to talk about many works, from many artists to back up that thesis. To talk about one work with one thesis is to do a mall job in every way.