Objectivity Discussed


by Paul Levy

FringeReview Editor

I know one or two people who will stop short (but only just) of physically attacking me if I use the word “objectivity” in a sentence. They don’t believe in objectivity. They say “objectivity is both impossible and arrogant”. Subjectivity is all there is. We have only our point of view, from where we stand. No one else stands exactly where we stand, and we can’t stand anywhere else while we are standing there!

Well, that’s physically true. But it isn’t imaginatively true. It is possible to “put ourselves” in another’s shoes. It is possible to imagine a situation from different viewpoints, to collect information that has been gathered by others from unique perspectives and to then imagine ourselves into different viewpoints. The imagination is subjective but the striving is towards objectifying it through what science calls “triangulation” – taking more than the subjective perspective into account.

FringeReview is all about striving for objectivity, wherever we can. In theatre reviewing, the priority is to attempt to look at the theatre from an objective viewpoint. Our own subjective response is just one viewpoint among many. But the reviewer’s responsibility is to imagine themselves into other viewpoints. The key position of imagination here is what is often called the “Helicopter view”. The reviewer tries to gain an overview of the show as a one-off piece of theatre. The overview allows the reviewer to look at the show’s various elements – its overall impact, the way it has been designed, staged, written and performed. The reviewer imagines the show as a director might imagine it, a producer, and an audience member might imagine it.

The act of imagination isn’t fantasy imagination. It is imagination that also allows the reviewer to see THEMSELVES and to see their own subjectivity as just ONE PART of the experience. And for me, that’s what I mean by objectivity. We attempt to observe our own subjectivity as an object of observation and, insodoing, perhaps become a little freer of subjective bias in reviewing.

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