I would like some bad-acting and wrong-thinking. I would like to see some art that is courageously silly and frivolous, that cannot be construed as anything else. I would like a bunch of 23-year-old troublemakers to become so enthusiastic, so noisy, and so involved in some stupid, seductive, destructive brand of visual culture that I would feel called upon to rise up in righteous indignation, spewing vitriol, to bemoan the arrogance and self-indulgence of the younger generation and all of its artifacts. Then I would be really working, really doing my thing, and it would be so great!
It may well be, as Hickey says, "a loser's game," but at its best, criticism shares if not the shape of art, some of its functions and effects: It focuses through its subject to study the workings of the wider world; it abuts philosophy, assails received ideas, questions the common wisdom, and is less concerned with having the final say than with keeping alive the conversation. It seems to me that Air Guitar succeeds in all these respects - though, of course, it may just be that I agree with the author more often than not. At any rate, it's a jolly read, full of interesting twists and turns and unexpected connections. Left to my own, I'm sure I would never have noticed that the lowrider aesthetic expresses "the Catholic language of material light, of chrome and polychrome," nor heard in the music of Chet Baker "the cool economy and intellectual athletics of long-board surfing," nor concluded that "In institutional cultures there is neither failure nor success, only the largess or spite of one's superiors" nor that "all songs are sad songs, borne as they are on the insubstantial substance of our fleeting breath." This is good, useful stuff.