03 July 2010

Artspeak Gibberish is Pathologically Obtuse

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The more convincingly I am seduced by art in all forms, the more I mute the bizarre nonsensical artspeak narratives attached to a wordless experience. 


I've always disregarded them as pretentious, but in France a few years ago I was asked to write as much for a friends artwork and I couldn't, it felt ridiculous. I was staring at a blue canvas - an abstraction of a river - and was completely taken over by laughter. What theorist should I draw reference to to lend credibility and weight to her work? If the artist does not yet have a name for themselves it seems only a theorist like Deleuze could anchor a piece in a fluctuating market and make it valuable, make it a commodity.   


The gibberish that surrounds art has always appeared to be the voice of ego overpowering an intuitive act it did not have a say in producing. The words a last desperate stab at dragging it through jargon like a legitimization car wash soaking the wordless with, well ‘vapid and bizarre jargon’ of ‘falsely applied artistic terms’ (Antoine Coypel, president of the Paris Academy 1661-1722).

An an aptly titled article on Eye Blog, Art Bollocks Is Everywhere You Look dips into the vulnerability and risks of writing more transparently in the art world: 
The "... preference for transparency starts a process of critical thinking, or is at least amenable to it. It also entails honesty and the risk of public correction. This is a matter of some importance, especially if the ideas in question are supposed to articulate a political worldview, as a great deal of art and cultural theory now is. Clarity invites dispute, possibly refutation, and refutation of one’s politics can, for some, be intolerable. The more art is alleged to have some socio-political import, the more likely this discomfort will be, and the more likely it is that clarity will be avoided for the reasons given above. Viewed in this light, art gibberish becomes comprehensible, at least as pathology."
Maybe as the art market continues to buy artworks solely based on the artist's name, rather than the artwork itself, art jargon will become obsolete, to be replaced by just profoundly simple one line artist bios. 

At least there is the candid British art critic Mathew Collings who cuts through rhetoric to get to the meat & bones of it: 
"A new popular audience is obsessed by contemporary art. But I think they are being sold something that isn't really there: an all-in package of spirituality, depth and profundity. I am afraid the official institutions of contemporary art are just lying about this stuff." (Mathew Collings The Bottom Line for the NewStatesman)
Or maybe David Lynch should be enlisted to write non-jargon to the tune of his tweets, like 'It's a pink cookie. Real pretty. I am sure I am connected to it. Enjoy.'


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