Saturday, 17 March 2012
There will always be a temptation for an artist—most especially, for an artist who is not enjoying either popular or critical success, but who does not therefore necessarily entirely give up on the merit of their art—to gravitate to the notion that there is such as a thing as ‘intrinsic aesthetic merit’. What I do is too sophisticated for the vulgar herd, and the critical community is too full of fools and knaves to appreciate it. And so on. It’s never a very likely explanation for artistic failure, but we can follow Bruno Latour and dismiss it altogether. Aesthetic merit is not a ‘presence’; it is not something that just ‘is’, lying like an undiscovered pearl. It is the product of a complicated series of interacting actor-networks, involving the work, its author, publishers, reviewers, fans, other readers, awards, bookshops and so on. Bad news for me, I suppose.