A recent conversation in Beijing got me thinking again about the media we use for criticism. Simply put, we use language to deal with all other media and modalities.This is a complicated way of say that reviews are written about exhibitions, but also about theatre productions, films, musical performances, etc. I’ve made sputtering attempts in the past to get ‘visual reviews’ working on this website; the idea is to use an image to ‘review’ an exhibition or art event; click here for a few examples. No longer would we be in thrall to the verbal, etc.

In that recent conversation I was asked whether music might be used to review an exhibition. Interesting question. Mussorgsky came to mind, and I suppose Pictures at an exhibition does count as a review, or perhaps as a catalogue essay. Certainly a lot of artists have attempted to make music visual, though this would not count as reviewing.

In the end – and this is undoubtedly down to ignorance – I could only think of one ‘proper’ example of a nonverbal medium being used to review another work in the same medium, and it’s not exactly high-brow. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet home Alabama is a ‘review’ of Neil Young’s Alabama and Southern man (more on that here). [1] Sweet home Alabama turns up on a lot of film soundtracks, but the dodgy bits are usually tactfully drowned out.

And of course I’ve stretched the point – Sweet home Alabama is not exactly nonverbal, but it does seem to count as something more than written text; and it certainly is popular.

[1] See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Man