What kind of arts critic are you?


Put on your thinking cap.  We are going intellectual this week.  Do you have an opinion on a song, film, painting, play, sculpture or a work of fiction?

If your answer is yes, then you are an arts critic.  Read on and establish with mathematical precision the kind of critic you.  

The world has two kinds of critics: Arts for arts’ sake and Arts for a purpose.  The first view maintains that art has no practical function whilst the second insists that art is functional and serves a purpose. 

Socio-economic Categories 

In the Western and Third Worlds, we all belong to each of the following six socio-economic and racial categories: – social class, race, gender, country location, education and talent grade.  The categories are further divided into two sub-categories – the upper and the lower.  As a first step towards knowing the kind of critic you are; place yourself in each of the six sub-categories.

A brief description of each category follows: –

Social class:  The upper and middle social classes form the upper sub-category.  This group owns the means for creating wealth and of communication, has technical and scientific knowledge, enjoys steady occupations and owns properties.   

The lower sub-category is comprised of manual and clerical workers, vendors, peasants and the unemployed.  It has little or no property.   

Race:  Two broad racial groups – Whites (upper sub-category) and Blacks (lower sub-category.)   

Gender: Males form the upper sub-category and females the lower one.  There is unequal treatment of individuals based on gender.  Females have fewer opportunities for advancement and access to goods and services.

Country Location:  The two sub-categories are the Western World and the Third World.  Third World countries supply the West raw materials, cheap labour and are a market for finished products.  Note it’s possible to live in the Western World but indentify with the Third World and vice-versa.    

Education:  Whilst education can be regarded as part of social class, it’s so important that it merits a category of its own.  The two sub categories here are the educated and the non-educated.  The upper sub-category consists of those with secondary school education coupled with vocational/professional qualifications.  The lower sub-category is for those with four years secondary education and below.

Talent Grade:  The two sub-categories are the talented and the non talented.  The talented have an inborn ability to raise their social class.  Talent is acknowledged if it has been demonstrated and publicly appreciated, not just its potential.

A tabulation of the categories is as follows:                                                                                                             

Category Social Class Race Gender Country Location Education Talent Grade
Upper Category Upper Classes White Male Developed World Tertiary Talented
Lower Category Lower Classes Black Female Developing World Non Tertiary Non Talented

Position Matrix

The kind of critic you are is determined by your overall score on the above table.  This is arrived at by establishing your score in each of the six categories.  Where you belong to the upper sub-category, you score a point and where you belong to the lower sub-category, you get zero.  Your final score out of six is your Position Matrix.

To illustrate how we get to the Position Matrix, let us use two guinea pigs – Prince Charles and a female, Black street vendor we call X. 

Prince Charles is an aristocrat whose family owns large tracts of land.  He therefore secures a point on social class.  Vendor X scores zero. 

On gender and race, the prince collects two points whilst Vendor X gets two zeroes. 

Vendor X lives in a township in Zimbabwe whilst the Prince belongs and identifies with the United Kingdom.  He gets another point on country location and Vendor X gets a zero. 

In education, the prince boasts a Master of Arts degree from Cambridge University.  Vendor X, an orphan at an early age had to drop out of school when she was in Grade 6.  A point for the prince and a zero for Vendor X.

Should one score at least four in the first five categories, talent is automatically added.  Prince Charles has already scored 5 and is thus awarded the talent point.  If Vendor X has talent, it is yet to be discovered.  She therefore gets zero.

The final score is 6/6 for Prince Charles and 0/6 for Vendor X. These scores are the Position Matrixes for our guinea pigs.

What is the practical use of this Position Matrix? It quickens our assessment of how an individual views art.  The lower you score, the closer you are to arts is functional school of thought.  Conversely, the higher you score the closer you get to arts for arts’ sake camp. 

An example of practical use of the Position Matrix could be in understanding the saga of the then South African President Zuma’s Painting.  In May 2012 the President Zuma asked the High Court to issue an order that the display of a painting depicting his genitals violated his constitutional rights to dignity.  His black lawyer Gcina Malindi argued that the painting was a ‘colonial attack on the black culture of this country.’  However the white Judge Neels Claassen responded: ‘what evidence is there this is a colonial attack on the black cultures of this country?

What are the Position Matrixes of Gcina Malindi and Neels Claassen?

 Malindi gets three points on Social Class, Gender and Education.  In addition to the three points Malindi gets, Claassen garners another point under Race.  Claassen’s quizzing of Malindi reveals that though he lives in a developing country, he identifies with the Western culture.  He therefore scores a point on Country Location.  Like Prince Charles, Claassen is awarded the talent point.  Thus their Position Matrixes are: Malindi – 3/6 and Claassen –  6/6. 

Malindi’s comparatively lower Position Matrix is a mathematical expression of his view that art has a function.  In the Zuma painting, the function was to denigrate his culture.  With a 6/6 Position Matrix, Claassen views the painting as pure art, nothing more.

What about you, what is your Position Matrix?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s