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Manifesto for a Slow Review

The pace of life, our burgeoning technology and the cultures we experience between these are accelerating. The rates of change and the new strata of information we have to absorb have conversely fostered a media and promotion industry which generate rapid-turnover cultural trends, each promotion more hip and important than the one before it (even though very little truly new and original material is actually being marketed). We are never allowed to rest, bide our time or make personally informed decisions about which art, music or film to buy into before the next big thing claims our dwindling attention and finances. In a way we are the willing subjects of trend and hype. We are attracted to the social kudos of being culturally informed and up to date, so we (as reviewers and consumers) keep buying into that hype. The hype is where it all happens, culturally speaking — the eternal present of the promotional Now.

But cultural history is never written by those with the most money to spend on promotion. The truly memorable art is the original, relevant and communicative work that usually dismays promoters and marketers and slips by the mainstream channels to become first an underground classic, then a cashed-in re-promoted classic and only later a part of our general cultural reference. All of which of course doesn’t do anything to dismantle the system of hype and promotion that can afford to spurn such occasional slow burning dark horses. The next big hype is always just around the corner, and the temporal distance to that corner is getting ever shorter.

Contemporary cultural promotion reflects the most profitable ventures. So we’re seeing the same kinds of formulaic films, bands and artists pushed again and again. Consumer’s culture dollars are limited — especially when there’s a flood of culture to choose from. Also, the sheer scale of cultural variety and access has increased rapidly thanks to technologies like the internet, so that every precious marketing minute matters more than ever. All of which compounds into the modern wave of advertising and similitude, with the highly anticipated but indifferent products floating on top, and all the other cultural dross often sinking to obscurity. Despite the fact that so much of our future cultural heritage starts out as this dross. Despite the resultant ennui and jaded media fatigue.

The really significant criticism and force of cultural review should concentrate on this flotsam, separating it from the other mediocre dross that washes on our attentive shores. With a nearly limitless amount of culture being produced and the promotional calendar so crowded, urgency and hype should be the least important concerns in judging a work’s true cultural or artistic value, if any. A reviewer should pick up on things that mightn’t have been fully appreciated at the time, or which didn’t make the promotional grade or whose timing missed the mainstream cultural boat. Reviewers need more time to compare, contrast and savour, rather than being at the compliant beck and call of every slick PR assistant with a bulging filofax. Their modus should be: if it’s really that good, then it’ll still be around in several months, or even several years from now. Because to fully appreciate a work it needs to be unshackled from its hype and promotional or contextual usurpation — the work will always stand up for and answer to its own worth outside of time. The promotional here and now of hype is not real — and it never mattered in the long scale. Great art, says the cliché, is timeless — an not without reason. Like the slow food movement, cultural review and analysis should also be slow and measured, indifferent to hurry and fads, and thereby its enjoyment will be increased.

I propose a Review which will evaluate nothing less than six months old. I propose a Review with a goodly proportion of prose and due consideration. I propose a Review without Hype or Promotional deadline.

I propose The Slow Review.

posted by rino breebaart  # 9:38 pm
And perhaps the review of trajectories - the various guises of reality television and other forms of conscription; the tendency for political and sporting metanarratives to blur, such that only the already structured can become news; the struggles of the CCD worker to produce the inclusive and reponsive work of art against the readily imposing billboard and its authority over the urban thoughtspace.

Is it about time, or attention span, or production-line scheduling, or vertical integration... perhaps it is duration itself which is not marketable? Is the slow review simply critique - destined to take place on a different plane, for a different audience, using different terms? How to bring them together - practitioners and reviewers, academics and artists, consumers and creatives?

Is it also a question of managing multiplicity? That the pace of life accelerates is a conservative observation and makes a moral claim. These aren't questions of time, not exclusively. They are matters of what we tolerate as consumers and citizens - what we condone and participate in by default. Our growing need to be active consumers of culture is hijacked by the false interactivity of reality tv, market researchers and election campaigns. Blogs are public but poorly promoted and distributed. So much work being done, but the question is of connection, access, the possibility of response. This is not simply a matter of time.

Questions of distribution will become the challenges, the artforms of the coming years. Existing mass distribution systems - from public transport to search engines - will play increasingly decisive roles in our lives. The trajectories that are chosen for us versus the ones we hijack and remake for ourselves.
well, yes and no. The fundamental principle is to have a review vehicle that is almost anti-promotional. That works against the hype and media machine of plugs, spots and exclusives to produce a magazine free of the constraints of urgency, that can take its own sweet time with its own sweet writing. Time is the issue; and doing justice to the jetsam of culture that doesn't meet the promotional homogeneity of what's out there in the now.
You make a good point - a discipline of the anti-promotional, a contretemps - if time, or duration, or movement or speed is now defined also by capitalism.

You say a review vehicle - do you propose a new magazine, or website, or collective? Like the slow food or the long time? What first steps?
What anti-promotional spaces still exist?
No, I don't mean some mock-academic journal dealing exclusively in theoretics and critical space and like jargon, I mean a well-written collection of essays and thoughtscapes which are accessible, stylised and eminently publishable, in any age. Think Amis' War Against Cliché. Think real fiction writers minting real review-opinions in prose. Think style.

M/C Journal call for contributions

Reviews occupy an uneasy position in society. There are those that argue that reviewing is an art in itself, that a well-written review stands alone. There are those that argue that reviewers enjoy a parasitic relationship, piggy-backing on another’s creation. Still others see reviews as mere advertisements, one more cog in the publicity wheel. Regardless of which faction you support, however, it must be admitted that reviewing is fast becoming one of the most controversial forms of writing. ‘reviews’ invites contributors to examine the legitimacy of reviewing as a sub-genre of creative non-fiction, and to provide a meta-reflection on all aspects of reviewing and critiquing.

What is it about reviews that make them so popular (or unpopular) with consumers? Can a review really affect the way consumers act or feel? Why will people read the opinions of a reviewer they already dislike? What gives the critic the right to pass judgement on another person's work and when do we consider them suitably qualified to do so? At what point does one move from being 'Monday's expert' to a valid opinion-holder, whose views would be welcome in a wider public forum?

What is the difference between a run-of-the-mill review and a piece that offers a critical analysis of an art form; and why do some readers prefer one over the other? Is reviewing an art form, and when does a review merely provide a platform for the reviewer?

And of course, there are a number of other aspects to the word 'review' itself; from its use as a term implying a need for change to the most literal sense of rolling a ceremonial inspection or presentation.

Article deadline: 26 August 2005
Release date: 19 October 2005
Editors: M/C Reviews editors
Send any enquiries, and complete articles, to review@journal.media-culture.org.au.
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Alternatively, read about it at: The Slow Review or the long blog. Or even Nurture Health

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