PARTICIPATORY SPORT FOR CRAFT ARTISTS
I witnessed a bunch of troublesome ‘discussions’ this past week. Not on crafthaus and not directed at me personally, but troublesome nevertheless. They also weren’t real discussions either, as in: a respectful exchange of opinions where one side hears the other out. It was more of a mud-slinging contest taking place on facebook where people seemed to be hellbent to go at each other with full force. Using foul language, making hurtful and disparaging remarks for no other purpose than aiming to signal to the rest of the audience that the critic alone knew what was right and that their goal in life was to set everybody else straight.
Really? Who died and made you Elvis? Why is it ok for you to piss on (pardon my French) someone else in the field who is not there to defend himself? How does that serve any purpose other than intimidation and making you feel superior? How is this helpful to you, the person criticized, or our craft field overall in any way? The worst part was that the offending parties had no insight into their counterproductive behavior, they seemed to feel entirely justified because they were ‘only telling the truth which needed to be said.’ What a complete disregard for other peoples' efforts and for where they are on their creative paths.
There's plenty of blame to go around here and this really cuts both ways as the academics and the traditional makers in all craft fields seem to have made it a habit to go after each other as if there’s no tomorrow. Please keep in mind: there’s really much more out there that unites us in the craft world than what divides us, we are all shooting ourselves in the foot if we allow behavior like this to happen.
I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of the unmerciful, self-anointed experts on either end of the spectrum who think nothing of dragging someone else down publicly and having their buddies cheer them on to boot. This is called bullying in my book and it really has to stop! I encourage you all to take a stand when you encounter hurtful commentary online. Tell the bullies that their behavior is unacceptable. Let’s agree that at the very least everybody, no matter what kind of work they make deserves a modicum of respect and tolerance - whether the work is to our taste or not is really not the question. If all else fails, the old adage still holds true: ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say - just shut the hell up.’ (I am paraphrasing.)
This certainly doesn’t mean that ‘everything is ok’ and that we now have to applaud all work no matter how mediocre. It just means that we should give fellow artists and makers a break every now and then, just let them be. If your intent really is to be helpful, by all means send a private message to the artist and offer constructive suggestions. Lastly also: whatever happened to civilized discourse? Agreeing to disagreeing? Are we not all adults who left High School behind a long time ago?
As always, feel free to disagree with me in your commentary, but please, let’s keep it civil. Thanks.
Image: Chamber pot with head of Napoleon - Britain, ca. 1805.