Do not Sell “Young” Because of Young

– the criticism on “young critics”

Li Xin Mo

Of the “Young Critics” is a term that I feel doubt. Now that term has been widely disseminated, and even the “Young Critics” are calling themselves “Young Critics”. It appears that the youth is the capital, the youth will secure them to be with the time, and the youth will warrants their statues of art critics for up and coming art criticism. In short, everything goes timely as long as you are young. The “Yang Critics” seem to have appearance of “Frankfurt” scholars, and all are doing serious jobs of intense criticism, however if you read their essays you should have no difficulty to find what they care are less relevant issues, they do repeated criticism, on issues that have reached consensus, such as the “Vulgar Sociological” Art Criticism”, the “Gaudy” and the “Cartoon Generation” art criticism, and the “70’s and 80’s Criticism” (the criticism on artist born after 70’s and 80’s). We could also find easily that: they advocate what they have criticized, they portray themselves as designated “Young Critics” and state that they were born “After 74” and so on, are good proofs.

“Young Critics” tend to be proud of they being “Academics”, since they graduated from fine art academies, and had professional trainings on art theory and art criticism, they claimed having read many books, have a rational thinking, and could perform a logical interpretation of an art work, and do an analysis of it (in fact this way of thinking has long been outdated), and all of that they use as their best reasons in criticizing the critics who is not an “Academics”. However, we could rarely find their own opinions, instead, we see that they appropriating terms and concepts that are awkwardly translated from English in their articles. As Cheng Xinmei points out: “It seems that no one can do art criticism any more without the rhetoric of the art criticism.” The professional standard for an art critic is whether he or she could play the rhetoric balance of art criticism between “what it can mean”  and “what it mean”, and that type of art criticism practice could produce only boring and perplexed text. Let’s take a look at art history writings of the West,we will see a diversity of writing styles, for example, E.H Gombrich’s The Story of Art, it is so simple and witty, hardly any terminology, it presents art history as if telling a story. Another example, The “Camera Lucida” by Roland Barthes, an important book on modern photography, actually written in a form of prose, the shortest section of chapter consists only few lines. There is no way for Roland Barthes to be considered as an “academics” in China because he writes this way. I really don’t understand what happened to some of our Chinese critics and scholars,          why they turn their own Chinese language in to broken Engniese? And why this is considered a desirable quality for a professional?


I have not seen any “Young Critics” offers any unique insights. Their own view such as “art needs to intervene in society” is a borrowed one. I do not see the “new” of the “Young Critics” or so called “The New Generation of Critics”, because they are repeating what their teacher did. They often claim that they are different from the old generation of critics; they demonstrate that they are practicing the “Micro Narratives” in opposition to the “Grand Narratives” which the old generation critics have practiced .  However their work evidently shows that they are using “Micro-Narratives” Methods in supporting of the “Grand Narrative” ground with some specific issues and case analysis which appears fresh and fashionable but worthless. I really couldn’t see anything constructive about the “Young Critics” other than the mane of “Young Critics”, I couldn’t find an individual of the integrity with an independent spirit in the fields of art theory and criticism, quite the opposite, everybody is busy putting an additional destruction on the ruins, its meaningless.


How an art critic can be named without renovation ideas and independent spirit? And the title of the “Young Critics” was given by whom? The story is very simple: it is the nepotism. At the Annual National Conference of Critics, well-known critics have their young disciples designated as conference members, then repeatedly to hold such conference for several times, the well known critics usually have influence in the institutions and the media, thus the “Young Critics” was born. They are outstanding with professional knowledge and social ability and I believe that they were rebellious and had independence spirit when they got out of the school, however  once they become the profit sharers, and a part of the “high society”, their spirit of fighting the wrong got lost. Perhaps this is a nature law that could applied to anyone. However, this is against the principle of the criticism; a critic must be the “lonely ghost”, must maintain the spirit of independence and integrity. When critics began to be “assimilated”, the criticism is dead.


In West, there is an invisible rule for critics; a critic must be independent  not make living out of his criticism, and most critics keep distance from artists  in order to maintain art criticism critical and fair. But in China, there is also a hidden rule; critics have to be close to artists and forming critic-artist faction, they do criticism for fame and money, they write only for artist who has money. There is a difference: the older generation of critics are a bit shy and taking money  secretively, they only praise, no criticize, the “Young Critics” asking money  blatantly, yet put on a rebellious gesture.


There is no age boundaries in art creation and art criticism. It is not true that the young are better understanding of young, the older are more understanding of older, or older artist could only do old fashioned art, young artist make new art. The concept and the division of the “old generation” and the “young generation” are precisely the formulation of dualism which is a typical conventional mode of thinking. The “Young Critics” promote the “Linguistic Transformation” but use the old method of linguistics, how could they convince us to accept such transformation? I guess that the true artist and art critic is always rare and never would be a batch regardless of the time. It seems that China has a new generation of critics, therefore  China’s art criticism has hope, however I would say that these young critics could be the replica of the old critics, and when they assume the power to run criticism,  They will become the new privileged elites, and like their former generation of critics, they will continue to rule and control the Chinese art.


Note: (1) I am an After 76.



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