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Still a shame about those critics! 1 reason to buy the new Boekman.

Is there any reason to buy the magazine 'Boekman 106′? For me, yes, although I should immediately throw a magazine that claims to be the Dutch forum for art, culture and policy into the dustbin for displayed arrogance. After all, with a circulation of only 1,400, and appearing four times a year, how can you put such a pedantic accent on your 'it', unless you really have no idea how big your world actually is? Perhaps that is precisely what intrigues. 'Number 106' is dedicated to the demise of 'the' art criticism. At least,

that is what is evident from most of the 12 printed articles: all sorts of things may be happening 'on the internet', but most authors feel that with the end of the printed 'longread' in newspaper or magazine the genre is buried. For most authors, whose past is deeply rooted in paper, the internet is a place for quick opinions, lists, and - above all - amateurs. All not what it should be about.

Permanent service

Author and researcher Miriam Rasch sums it up well, in my opinion. She states: 'If there is a crisis of criticism at all, it seems to be mainly that of the critic of the (paper) daily or weekly newspaper, who can write in-depth articles on a permanent basis.' The sentence that follows indicates exactly where the critic's raised finger swears: 'Not a diverse company, where newcomers only enter with difficulty.'

The loss of exclusivity is a problem for the critic, who suddenly can no longer count himself among the exclusive, 40-headed company of feared, and sometimes loved, authors who can collect their ticket at the special press desk, who get to wander through an empty museum with 20 colleagues, and who get their books sent home with a perfumed note from the publisher. This exclusive company increasingly finds itself flanked by 'hordes' of 'youthful' 'bloggers', from blogs with inimitable names. Or as Miriam Rasch observes: 'What happens when this is opened up by new publishing opportunities where money and depth cannot be taken for granted, but which offer unlimited space and accessibility ?'

Good question, with one problem: in the paper media, money and depth were never taken for granted either. That suggestion was perhaps occasionally created by the limited space.


That the old media are losing their hegemony is not necessarily a bad thing. Because even though the internet seems to be a big marketing machine where depth has fallen victim to likes and shares, is not that new. In the grand scheme of the publishing industry, which reached its economic and influential peak in the 1980s and 1990s, it was also about likes and shares, only there was so much money coming in per day that a luxury thing like an art page could get rid of it. Only when the economic crisis in publishing failed to pass at the beginning of the 21st century, and people started looking cautiously at that internet, did the readership figures of the art pages start to count for the chief editors. And those readership figures turned out to be low, even in highly educated media like NRC and Volkskrant.

Sad is such an optimistic 0.03 per cent readership for a theatre review in the 2002 NRC, of course, only if before that you thought all the then 260,000 subscribers of the grindstone of the mind spelling out your pieces. When you realise that a reflection on this site is read by an average of 400 people (they also take 4 minutes to read it), you suddenly realise that that weird internet with all that space is not doing so badly at all. We have long since overtaken the NRC. Sad according to some, joyful according to others.

2.5 stars

In a summary account of a study on the role of art criticism for citizens, researcher Marc Verboord touches on this. In the survey, a relevant sample was asked about the extent to which they found certain opinions about art normative. People could rate this with 1 to five stars. Only 1 category of people (internet users) managed to rate one particular category of 'guides' with more than 2.5 stars, and that was a participant in a book panel on DWDD. The rest of the categories (newspaper reviewer, ako judge, literature professor, other reader, book website) were all rated with 1 to 2 stars. That is very low.

Even sadder for the self-awareness of the traditional critic is the 'general rating' statistic. This shows that only, and only 0.2 per cent of readers have the same with a music critic.

[Tweet "1 per cent of book readers place 'very high value' on a book reviewer"]

People are more attached to their own value judgements, it turns out. And that's not so strange, of course.


There will be critics who are now walking around with suicide plans. They need not despair. After all, a huge amount is written and discussed about art, it's just that we have all lost our way a bit about where the really relevant things are being said. The stage is huge, and it is searching for those places where THE things are happening. That's determined by which relevant crowd is pouncing on which relevant author.

And then the essence of the whole magazine emerges, the reason why, with a little interest in art and forming opinions about it, you can still take a cautious look at this world magazine. In the middle of the magazine is a wonderful, well-written and above all well-spoken interview with Arnold Heumakers, now grand old man From the once authoritative NRC. Researcher Esther Op de Beek draws fine words from a man who knows what it's all about. Heumakers understands that all those great examples from America (The New Yorker is often quoted) have one important thing in common: they are brilliant authors, who know how to captivate a reader with beautifully written pieces. In short, erudition is of little use if you cannot express it in a beautiful way.

So we do not so much lack a good and multicoloured art criticism, because everyone writes and blogs to their heart's content. We only need good authors, fantastic and unique writers, born storytellers who know how to attract a large, but above all relevant audience.

Bookman 106 is available from: . There will be a meeting on this topic on 22 March. This programme will take place in the 'OBA Theatre' of the Amsterdam Public Library, 7th floor (5-minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station); Oosterdokskade 143, 1011 DL Amsterdam.

Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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