/ 13 September 2018

When a Culture does not need Culture

Culture in the media slowly loses its place, wether it is about theater, film, literature, fine arts or music. On the front pages of newspapers, in the main announcements of radio and TV news or on the first pages of the electronic editions of all media it is more and more likely to see funny news, trivial stories, information suitable for the yellow press, scandals and gossip, which means that the entertainment industry becomes dominant in that influx of tabloidization, and culture looks as if it has the weakest immunity, so it slowly loses its space. On its pages or in its minutes, we hear/see/read about divorces and relationships of celebrities, their expensive operations and gifts, their quirks and attempts to be in the center of attention, which certainly involves media attractiveness.

     Nowadays, specialized programs and culture shows almost do not exist. Even the casual screening of the prime contents of each medium, the informative editions of television and radio (the briefs and the news), the front pages or the first pages of the electronic press releases, gives the same impression and the same conclusion, without exception:

  • Culture is always at the end of the events of the day, on condition that it is an event itself, which means that there was indeed a cultural event that day;

     - Articles, news and information from culture come after the news of the world, somewhere before the sport and the weather forecast, whether it is a major event with worldwide significance (Adam Zagayewsky is the winner of the "Golden Wreath" at Struga Poetry Evenings, Simon Trpceski performs with the orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater in Skopje, the books of Goce Smilevski and Nikola Madzirov are published in over 20 languages ​​on all continents, almost at the same time) or a local event and with local importance (exhibition of watercolor paintings in the House of Culture in Veles).

     The treatment of culture and of the journalists themselves who speak both professionally and personally from the reading/listening/viewing experience is alarming. Journalists from cultural departments and editorial offices feel like "the last Mohicans". They think that the new generations of listeners/readers/viewers are condemned to the vacuum space that has been created over the years.

The same thing that happens to the media in the world, in the neighborhood and in the region does not pass by us. Some time ago announcements on television and radio stations, as well as newspaper headlines, bombarded us with information about the wedding and the divorce of the star Kim Kardashian, as if it is our personal right to know her private life or as if our lives depend on her fateful YES and NO.

I ask the question about literary criticism now – Where is it? Does it have its own space, or is it on the margins of the cultural map of my country?

When I think of criticism, I think about a special kind of criticism – criticism for the news – adjusted, related to journalism, framed in a number of signs and words, in a maximum of 40-70 lines of a journalistic text, or in a minute and a half or two minutes, like it was in the happiest days of a radio or television. This is the critique about which editors and colleagues teach you that it should be clear and precise, to have a point, a good title, but also a good subtitle, a header and a small text that can be placed in a frame. Such an expose on the radio should have parts that can be separated with the background sounds, so a thought could end with music or be accompanied by music, because the musical illustration gives a special charm to the radio expression. It is precisely such critical article that you are taught that it should not be poetic, pathetic, romantic and ambiguous, such fully customized article, that disappears today in Macedonia.

Observing the processes of moving backward, suppressing and shortening the space and time for culture, I thought of one concept dominant or recognizable in contemporary scientific and literary-theoretical thought of the 20th and 21st centuries – exile.

It has become a kind of "trademark" of postmodern theorists and thinkers who have launched a new chapter of revision not only of the scientific, but also of the cultural space of East and West, as well as opposing, synthesizing and confronting the two seemingly different worlds. The term exile in the most general sense means an unavoidable connection and association with the names of Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Julia Kristeva, Amin Maalouf, Jean Baudrillard, Roland Barthes.

It was exile that seemed to me to be the most appropriate to depict the environment that haunts culture, a culture that does not need culture. But thinking about the criticism, I had a little suspicion that the word exile might not be strong enough to show what actually happens to criticism in Macedonian media space, maybe the more appropriate words here would be persecution or total extermination.

Although I am talking about the exile and its consequences, I deliberately do not choose to concentrate on the problems and the possibility of changing the identity of the criticism, but I rather consider the danger of its absence and the option that it might remain only an academic discipline designed for a small circle of "dedicated/initiated "people.

In the last few years, with rare exceptions, literary criticism is published only in specialized cultural magazines that come out few times a year, which we share in literary-scientific meetings and are most often read by those who write it themselves. That is precisely why I am speaking and asking about the criticism written by journalists, the criticism that would appear in the media so it can reach the majority of readers, and it would be echoing the release of a work or an event in our literature, and it would be an assessment of it. It should have the power to trace the life of that work; its travelling beyond our borders, its escaping the boundaries of our language, and even its reaching the European and world competitions and recognitions.

     As a journalist, one of my favorite questions that I often ask my interlocutors is – Will the Internet kill the book?

     Of course, I think about Umberto Eco and all his studies and predictions about the future of the book, yet one of the most optimistic answers I have received was from the Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov: "I am perhaps the last optimist, (I think that) the book will not only survive, but the focus will return on it. It's a very interesting psychological moment. We live in a very stressful time, we need to grasp something lasting, and the paper proved to be much more durable than any device, and it gives a special feeling."

     I am optimistic too and I believe that books, literature and criticism will survive. The new media and social networks are just a new page and a challenge for them, a new way of communicating the message and the beautiful. Of course, now there is Facebook as the main tool for social and all kinds of networking, but that's a question for another topic. I will wrap this up by saying that journalistic criticism should and can find its way through the new media and social networks. But here I am troubled by a dilemma, which may not be as significant as that of Eco, but it is very important for all who write criticism.

I write it down and imagine it as a status on Facebook: Criticism can be both a post and a status, it may be shared, liked and read, but will it be valued?

Press “like”!

Translated by Vasilka Pernova