thoughts and frustrations on Melbourne theatre through bright young eyes

The politics of the personal

In my first post on this blog, I said that “you won’t be hearing about projects that I am involved in or how my writing is going…but who’s to say where you draw the line between a personal and a more broadly cultural blog?” Alison Croggon rightly pointed out in the comments below that half the interest in reading a blog is in the personal, and I’m beginning to rethink my position on the issue.

The catalyst for the change has not been sudden and is difficult to pinpoint; while it is true that I feel more inclined and more able to talk about writing and theatre work that I am developing, of equal importance is my feeling that this blog is becoming too narrow, too review centric and probably, too boring. There are other things that I want to be able to say about theatre, both in the context of contemporary Australia and the rest of the world, and some of them extend beyond my analysis as a reviewer and into my roles as writer and director. Some of them are just plainly personal. However, a range of questions emerge from the inclusion of such material in the mix: how does it affect and shape the way people respond to reviews in the light of supposed objectivity? Does anyone really expect objectivity from reviewers anymore, particularly in the internet blogging age? Is it still possible to love / hate a work and not be considered biased? So sit tight while I draw up a new constitution (note: will probably remain metaphorical) and assesses the politics of the personal in theatARGH.


  Alison Croggon wrote @

Hi Chris – I was writing not so much about the personal as the personalities of blogs, as I recall, which is slightly different… fwiw, there isn’t and has never been any “objectivity” in how people respond to art, from the days of ST Coleridge to now – those who claim there are are concealing, whether because they’re not aware of them or for worser reasons, their own ideologies. Critics are not reporters, they are supposed to think about things. And those who cry “bias” are all too unwilling to look at their own… What there is is informed subjectivity. I am all for being informed. And for diverse responses that can be argued about. That’s interesting.

  theatargh wrote @

Oh yes, I completely agree with you Alison. But I suppose when I talk about the conflicting interests of the ‘personal’ and the ‘objective’, I mean in the context of working / writing in the industry, and then attempting to critique it from the outside (inside?). It is something that you avoid by not being a practising theatre maker yourself, although it seems that some people will always use whatever connections you do have to imply bias anyway.

I don’t doubt that there is no such thing as pure objectivity in criticism, but question how the integration of personal experience within the same context of the criticism effects that informed subjectivity. Is the potential impact and ‘worth’ (again, a highly subjective valuation) of a review lessened if it sits alongside anecdotes, and less analytical, more personal accounts?

But I do agree, in essence, that regardless of such theoretical concerns, nothing beats a well-written argument which can be debated.

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