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March 8: Public Seminar: Critical Writing in H.K.

Muse Magazine Critic-in-Residence Christian Caryl will speak in a panel discussion at the Fringe Club Studio on Monday, March 8 run jointly by Muse Magazine and the JMSC.

Christian Caryl

Christian Caryl

He will be joined on stage by a panel of two: Muse Magazine’s editor Perry Lam who is a regular columnist for Yazhou Zhoukan, a Hong Kong-based international Chinese-language newsweekly, and Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts Dean of Drama, Tang Shu-Wing.

Caryl will talk about the importance of, and the need for, the traditional critic in an event called Against Manipulation – How the Critic Empowers the Audience run jointly by Muse Magazine and the JMSC.

Christian Caryl is a journalist and critic and is a regular contributor to Foreign Policy, Newsweek and the New York Review of Books. He is keen to defend the role of the professional critic in the age of the internet, because there is a “widespread conception that the internet negates the need for the traditional critic.”

Caryl has taken a break from his writing to teach a class in criticism to post-graduate students at the JMSC this semester.

Frank Proctor, publisher of Muse, a leading Hong Kong arts and culture magazine, is keen to build up arts criticism in Hong Kong to better reflect the city’s cultural dynamism.

“A culturally dynamic city like Hong Kong demands a lively, intelligent discussion about arts and culture in the media,” Proctor said.

Caryl argues that the internet has eased the access to, and prevalence of, regular punters’ views about arts and culture, and that this increases the need for professional critics.

“We need critics more than ever because critics are sophisticated search engines of a kind that software engineers haven’t come up with yet. Critics discriminate — yes that word is politically incorrect — but discrimination means they pay attention. The best critics are experts on the subjects they are discussing.”

He said the best critics can influence the industries they critique through their sheer force of knowledge and authority.

“Some people might say this is elistist: Yes. This is an unapologetically elitist argument.”

Caryl believes that good critics help readers to see things in a work of art they might not have seen and make connections they wouldn’t necessarily have made on their own.

He said he enjoyed reading about the Hong Kong Arts scene in Muse, the South China Morning Post and elsewhere. He said his favourite critics are British: Simon Schama, Christopher Hitchens and Anthony Lane.

“Like everything else in this world, you can learn to be a good critic; we all possess the rational gifts needed to analyse the world. However, you need to work on it to do it well — good criticism is much more of a craft than people realise.”

  • Event: Against Manipulation — How the Critic Empowers the Audience
  • Presented by Muse Magazine and the JMSC
  • Date: Monday, March 8, 2010
  • Time: 7 – 8:30 p.m
  • Venue: Hong Kong Fringe Club Studio

All are welcome.  Seats are limited, first-come first served.