Henry James once proposed three questions you could productively put to an artist’s work:
- what is the artist trying to achieve?
- does he/she succeed?
- is it worth doing?
In the great little book Art & Fear Bayles and Orland examines James’ questions, and comments:
The first two questions ask you to respond to the work itself, without first pushing it through some aesthetic filter labelled Behaviorism, Feminism, Postmodernism or Whateverism. But it is the third question — was it worth doing? — that truly opens the universe. What is worth doing? Are some artistic problems inherently more interesting than others? More relevant?
More provocative? …