Theatre and Judgement

2 Oct

We have a predilection to judgement. It’s a good thing. It powers our moral life. Only the most naive think that a predetermined set of  rules can guide you through the complexities we face. We constantly have to judge the best course of action.

However, our faculty of judgement is often corrupted. An example of this is when we judge the person not the behaviour.

Is it also possible that it’s a corruption of our faculty of judgement when we apply it to art? I appreciate this is a radical suggestion.

Imagine you were on a panel to determine which theatre maker might receive a $1 million grant. (I’m obviously assuming you have a healthy imagination.) Unless you’re going to pull a name out of a hat, your decision must be based on something. Perhaps you will suggest the grant be given to the artist whose work would most benefit society. (This, of course, would be difficult to determine, but that’s why judgement is a serious matter.) If you choose to give the money in this way you would be making a moral judgement.

However, if you merely attend an evening of theatre and afterwards make a judgement, what is the moral component? I’m not arguing there isn’t one. Perhaps you’ll judge the production to be promoting racism or sexism. Or joy and acceptance. Or you might simply decide it’s presenting an unnecessarily narrow vision of life.

But if you judge the acting to be poor, or the costumes to be garish, what exactly is the moral component?

Well, it might be you who is promoting an unnecessarily narrow vision of life.

Of course, you could counter that I’m ignoring the category of aesthetic judgement altogether, or unfairly collapsing it into a minor subset of ethics.

Perhaps I am.

And perhaps my qualms about the passion sometimes displayed in our aesthetic judgements are indeed misplaced, and we should shout and scream about what happens on our stages, and in our stories, while somewhere else children quietly starve.

Veronica Kaye.

One Response to “Theatre and Judgement”

  1. Gina October 2, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Judgement rests in the eye of the beholder, just like beauty. No two people will judge equally. A moral or immoral compass lends itself open to scrutiny, regardless of judgement. At best, we can assume a benchmark, a bar in which we have measured our own previous observations, and make a call this time around. Who is right, who is wrong? Do we aim to please, or express ourselves, regardless of judgement?

    So many questions! 🙂

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