Criticism vs Feedback

Posted on January 6, 2014 by


Criticism vs Feedback

I was inspired by one of my client’s who sent me a video of a performance he did on New Year’s Eve. I asked if he wanted feedback and his response was this:

Please pick me apart. I love constructive criticism. Thanks!!!

This brought up some thoughts I share herein because I want to draw a distinction between “criticism” and “feedback” and why I think criticism can be such a dangerous word to use.

Certainly there are objective measures in what we do — are you actually executing the underlying technique of the move itself? That is a question for which one can answer objectively “yes” and “no” and as a result, one can effectively criticize the technique to speak to the execution of the move itself. That is to say, if the goal is to actually express a specific move. Other than that, however, what we do when we spin our props and create in the flow is about art and expression. This is completely subjective and relative.

For one person to think they could actually “criticize” someone else’s expression makes no sense to me. Criticism is about “indicating faults” … as if any piece of art could have a “fault” in it.  Art is subjective; to think we can criticize the expression that it has just gets me a bit riled up since I don’t think we are serving each other when we say, “you should have done this” or “you should try this” because how would we know what the other is intending or “should” do?

I therefore prefer the infinitely more generous and in my opinion, far more accurate word “feedback”, as if to speak to my own personal experience of the art presented to me. Feedback is about the specific loop of energy exchange that happened between the artist and onlooker and isn’t about something being “right” or “wrong” whereas criticism, best as I can tell, is.

Now I grant you, there are times when it’s very clear someone has a lot of mastery over their props and equally so, when people don’t. To some extent, one could “criticize” the performance and say, “The technique was not executed with much skill.” Of course, that is also relative to one’s own ability to comprehend the level of difficulty of what is being executed as well. So even in that domain, the commentary being offered is subjective and about one’s personal response to this.

I wrote a much longer piece on this called The Ego Of Performance some years ago which touches on these ideas and some others. What I think is most important here though is that idea that when we buy into other people giving us “criticism” we are entering into an agreement where we say their criticism is valid… as if they have any authority of our own individual art. I contend entering into a conversation like this is actually disempowering to the artist and falsely bolstering the critic as an authority. And therefore, quite dangerous because it continues to foster the idea that one person’s opinion is more valuable than another’s.

The deleterious effects of this leaves the artist feeling attacked and often, is to unduly suppress young/newer artists because they buy into the idea that someone else knows “better” when, in reality, this art form is so infantile and so little has been accomplished, we are, as a community, far too young to even have a remote clue of what great flow performance art will become in a decade or two.

With all that said, if you have a video and you’re looking for feedback, email GlitterGirl (GlitterGirl <fancy at symbol> TempleOfPoi <daaaaaaught> com) with a link to your clip and an idea what you’re looking for and and subject line that’s meaningful (Example: “Can you provide video feedback please?”) and she will get back to you. If you don’t hear back as soon as you’d like, do follow up. We get lots of communication here and it may have gotten lost in the flow fray. 😉

Written by Temple of Poi founder and visionary, GlitterGirl, who has been a full time flow arts coach and instructor since 2002. If you seek professional guidance associated with creating a safe performance, obtaining a permit in San Francisco or other personalized coaching, contact GlitterGirl directly for a free consultation (GlitterGirl <that pretty little at symbol> TempleOfPoi <daaaaaaaught> com).