Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In

Impenetrable prose, continued

April 4, 2008 - 6:49pm -- Carol Diehl
The dialogue goes on in the comments on Catherine Spaeth’s post entitled "Being at Ease with Difficulty" where she takes issue with what she calls TIME critic Richard Lacayo’s (see yesterday's post) "call for censorship" :

Short of requiring by law that all wall texts be written in haiku—try cramming “problematize” into that little compartment—I’m not sure what can be done about this….Here might be a modest way to start. Let whoever edits museum catalogues—does anyone edit them?—ban just these five words, which are arranged into rhetorical daisy chains in every other catalogue I see.

1. Interrogates
2. Problematizes
3. References (as a verb)
4. Transgressive
5. Inverts

To those I would add “juxtaposition” and “informed” as in “his work is informed by…”

You are free to add your own.


these are all nice and useful words you are discarding. i would easily find a penetrable use for them.

i strongly protest.

not all good texts are easy to read. often complex and insightful ideas ideas inform the narrative a layer of seeming incomprehensibility.

you may not like it but writing and reading critique actually requires... effort! and mental effort at that...

God Forbid!

I’m all for “effort! and mental effort at that”—-just not while I’m on my feet.

Jargon is dandy if it helps experts explicate their ideas to one another, however when applied as here to museum wall text and other information designed to be read by the general public, gives the impression that the authors are incapable of thinking through their ideas enough to state them clearly.

My lament is that the art world is not rigorous enough, far too eager to accept the blather that’s constantly being generated to pump up work that could not otherwise stand on its own—-and that words have become substitutes for actual experience with art.

The trendy word I can't get over is "gallerist." Carol already has pretty much the key terms in meaningless praise, especially since overly broad use of "deconstruct" passed out of fashion. That verbal use of "critique," though, is in all the dictionaries I have, and I think it's useful, as it's not exactly either the more impartial "analyze" or more judgmental "criticize."

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