Monday, October 23, 2006

An obsession with prizes

A lot of good stuff in this piece:
There was a time when, as Wordsworth wrote, 'Every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.'

The culture is no longer so patient. In a time of information overload - of cultural excess and superabundance - our taste is being increasingly created for us by prize juries and award ceremonies. Art is beginning to resemble sport, with its roster of winners and losers and its spectacles of competition: the Oscars, the Baftas, the Brits. Indeed, the larger cultural festivals and prizes, such as the Venice Biennale, the Oscars and the Nobels, are consciously imitative of international sporting competitions like the Olympics.

The format for most major prizes conforms to the model of the Oscars. 'It's very much a case,' says English, 'of maintain perfect secrecy regarding the decision, assemble all the nominees, and roll the cameras in hope of catching bad behaviour, poor sportsmanship or just plain unhappiness.'

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