A Manifesto, by Various Geezers

Geezaesthetics was coined by ILE’s Jerry The Nipper as a one-word summary of our critical stance. What did he mean? Only he knows (printing this is at least partly a nudge at him to tell us!) – we took it as an affectionate diss, and over a few beers decided to reclaim the word. Since it’s rather a good one.

Hence this modest sort of manifesto, our version of what being a Geezaesthetic might involve. It speaks for itself, but I’ll use this introduction to make a couple of extra points. First of all, the manifesto is unfinished. It will probably always be unfinished, but add to it yourself if you like. Second, and importantly, we know that the word ‘geezer’ carries a gender implication. We also know that everyone who drafted the manifesto is a man. Geezaesthetics, though, wants to show no gender bias: whether it has avoided any is something you’ll have to decide for yourself.

1. We are critics as soon as we listen to a record, watch a film, experience any art of any kind. Any reaction, from rapture to depression of the off switch, is an act of criticism. We’re not necessarily happy about this, but we’re stuck with it so there’s no point being unhappy about it either.

2. We are all about dialogue. We hold that the pub conversation is as high a form of human discourse as any, and superior to most.

3. Our space, at least our imaginary space, is a public space. This might be a pub, but it might not. Everyone is welcome but not everyone will be comfortable. We hope you will be.

4. Criticism is conversation and we want to hear about your reactions, especially if you express yourself interestingly. Disagreeing is part of the conversation, so is adding something new, so is changing the subject. Just nodding along isn’t. Echoing someone else’s critical pose is a bit like repeating Monty Python sketches. Please try not to be tedious and help us not to be either.

5. We do not reject poetry or art. We know we feel rapture and we know you do too, but we also know that rapture is individual and can’t be communicated. Give us something to share, to discuss. Tell us how we might become intoxicated. Or intoxicate us!

6. The worst kind of communication is communication that wants no reply. This applies to criticism as much as it does to art.

7. We place a high value on criticism that makes us think in new ways or about new things. We place an equally high value on criticism that makes us laugh, especially if it makes us laugh at the things we love. Laughing at the things we love helps us think about them in a new way. We place the highest possible value on criticism that makes us talk more, anything to enhance our conversation.

8. We believe however that a certain reserve is to be cherished. We do not wish to be burdened with your ranting on the page any more than we do in the pub. We understand that sometimes expression should be extreme, but that extremity should be saved for the times it’s really necessary, or at least an honest reflection of how you feel.

9. We do not approve of boorish behaviour. We don’t think of ourselves as that sort of geezer.

10. We are not concerned with historical accuracy. We are more interested in our reactions to art, and in your reactions.

11. We like transience and we understand the importance of the moment, but we like our old favourites too.

12. We think a meal or a bus ride can be as interesting as a painting or a record.

13. We are not very interested in specialism or in complete knowledge of anything. There is too much fun to be had to waste our time on completism.

14. We believe in changing our minds as often as seems appropriate and in contradicting ourselves (and each other) where necessary.

15. We respect academic learning but don’t see it has much to do with Geezaesthetics, except as a source of stuff for us to talk about and perhaps misunderstand, hopefully in stimulating ways.

16. We believe thrills should be got where they are available, within reason. We reserve the right to pay attention to whatever we find diverting, and to stop paying attention when we feel like it. Geezaesthetics does not attach itself to any particular aesthetic, subculture or school (though individual geezaesthetes may do so).

17. We like feeling strong feelings from our culture, but we don’t pretend they always arise from the avant garde. We like novelty but we like comfort too. We believe that a strong feeling generated by the familiar is as stimulating as a strong feeling provoked by the shocking.

18. We don’t accept higher critical authorities, whether they are canons, experts or the artists themselves. We’re eager to listen to these
different points of view, but we’ll make our own minds up on matters of quality and even meaning. Reading (and/or agreeing with) an established critic is like going for a drink with your boss. It might be fun, it might be valuable, or it might be sycophancy.