Hello Rufus, hows
my favourite broadsheet art critic?
Im very well
thanks, Max. How are you?
Flourishing. What are
you up to at the moment?
Im on the panel
of judges for the National Poetry Competition. Weve
been working on the shortlist this morning.
Any front runners,
No, although it will
be one of the usual contenders that gets it.
How can you be so
sure? Arent the identities of the writers
kept secret from the judges until youve
selected the best work?
God no, Max! That
would lead to complete chaos.
Well, theres no
way of telling, just by reading it, whether a
poem has been written by one of the greatest
contemporary British poets or by a dyslexic
fourth former from Neasden Comprehensive. If we
awarded prizes to other than credible,
established poets, the whole literary edifice
In that case, Rufus,
how do you choose the winner?
matter. We usually drop all the shortlisted
entries in the toilet and then flush it. Usually
one doesnt go down the pan properly, so we
fish it out and declare that poet the winner. Its
the shortlist thats critical.
In what way?
shortlisted writers must be publicly recognised
as poets and be able to talk knowledgeably about
poetry and literature and about those who have
been their literary influences. If someone can
convincingly expound the right pseudo-intellectual
bullshit, it will be accepted that his or her
writing must be suitably profound to be, somehow,
special and different. As long as such a person
wins, then the credibility of the art-form is
Is that also true for
the rest of the Arts, Rufus?
photography: These days theres no knowledge
required to take a technically good photograph.
Any spotty kid with a camera on his mobile phone
will regularly take pictures that are
indistinguishable from those of leading creative
photographers. If that fact got out, it would
never again be possible to hold fashionable
photographic exhibitions or launch stylish photo-websites.
I must admit I had
wondered about the Turner Prize.
A very good example
of the same thing, Max.
Why should we be
conned into believing in a fantasy world? Shouldnt
this deception be exposed?
Too dangerous, Max.
Because Art reflects
Life, Max. People use it as a way to understand
the world. If people saw through the Art
Delusion, where would it all end?
We saw in the stock
market crashes after 9/11, Max, how financial
stability is based on investor confidence. Just
think of the consequences if people really
understood that the money in their pockets was
only real for as long as they believed it was
real? What would happen if religious beliefs were
seen as a convenient collective understanding
rather than as objective fact? There would be
financial and moral meltdown.
So, Rufus, if the
creative arts are ever seen as meaningless self-indulgent
fantasy, people might start to recognise other
critical institutions in that way too. That could
lead to the end of civilisation as we know it!
Absolutely right, my
old friend. Now, Ive got the shortlisted
entries for the National Poetry Competition in my
briefcase, do you know the way to the nearest