JUST in time is dedicated to two core ideas -
First - that the arts ought to be presented, marketed, together, side by side, in conversation, sculpture next to film, dance with literature, etc. etc.
Second - art that isn’t reviewed, criticised, discussed in relation to other art, to a larger ongoing debate, might as well not exist at all. Art has to engender passionate argument. Anything else is simply a commodity, a consumer item, which will eventually be used up and discarded.
It is argument, passionate debate, which gives art its justification, its point, its reason to be.
No artist and no artwork exists in a vacuum. All artists and all artworks are part of a continuum, a world, of art, of ideas, of debate, of argument, of the great issues of the day, and of past days.
And yet much of the way the arts is marketed, discussed, thought about, is inimical to this central truth of arts’ essential connectivity.
Look at the arts through eyes half closed, and all you can see are the big beasts, the massive brands, Beethoven, Mozart, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Verdi, Raphael, Picasso, Jeff Koons even - the individual geniuses, the giants who brook no argument, no debate. All we can do, all audiences can do, is try and decide how their work makes us feel; does it give us an intense experience? Does it move us in unexpected ways?
And this response too, is beyond discussion, outside of debate or argument. My feelings are mine and no correspondence will be entered into.
Where does this leave someone who wants to discuss the arts, who feels that the arts should have a place at the table when the big issues are up for grabs?
Or should artists stay in their box, do what they do and stay out of any discussions of politics or economics, of social issues? Should the arts confine itself to single issue debates, where the answer to any question posed has been decided in advance, where the good guys are wearing the white hats?
Art review has become reduced to a score out of five. It is limited to discussions of a work of art in its own terms only. Review seems, from the outside at least, as not permitted to range beyond the very limited parameters of whether or not a particular work is successful within its own isolated frame of reference. And that success or otherwise becomes a function of whether or not the reviewer was somehow moved, felt something, a response which leads nowhere and adds nothing.
Review has become a form of marketing, paid for with free tickets and (occasionally) a glass of wine (which goes to show how much arts practitioners actually value it!)
By consciously isolating itself, by creating a brand mentality, by joining the consumer circus, by encouraging competition rather than argument, art has removed itself from the debate, from the right to a place at the table. It has ghettoised itself, it has confined itself to the back pages of the newspaper, alongside gardening and kitchens, and yet, if it wants to be relevant, to be taken seriously, it needs to focus on its connectivity, its largeness, its fundamental importance, which needs to find expression in passionate debate, argument, discussion, which links all art, painting with drama, literature with music, in a constant, ongoing interaction.
What to do?
Robert Hughes, the Australian art critic, made the point (it's rumoured) that, if you call yourself a writer, and if you aren’t causing offence to someone, somewhere, you aren’t doing your job.
Argument, causing offence, debate, review, criticism these are the obverse of the arts coin - the art one side, the debate the other. One can’t exist without its counterpart, and yet its almost as if criticism has been relegated to something which, really, it would be better if it just didn’t exist.
JUST in time wants to expand the parameters of review, to open the frame of reference to contain everything, to cause offence, to push the boundaries of debate, to offer an opportunity to open the discussion beyond what is considered acceptable, to encourage those who maybe don't want to create art but want to discuss it, argue about it, make it important; more than important, indispensable.
As Jonathan Meades said in his lecture at the Royal Academy of Arts: 'Engagement means abandoning solipsism and squeamishness, taking active notice of the world outside oneself, making something of it.'