Artspeak for artspeak’s sake

I once worked on the arts desk of a regional daily newspaper, and the press releases that we received about art exhibitions were always a source of mirth. At best, obscure; at worst, prime candidates for Pseud’s Corner.

When it came to translating this nonsense into a readable news piece, though, we often gave up.

I occasionally train editors on plain English and my advice on dealing with a particularly difficult piece of prose is ‘work out what they are trying to say; then say it for them.’ The problem with artspeak is that it is not always possible.

While on holiday in Dorset I came across some examples that made me cringe, both part of the same exhibition. In one case I thought I had worked out what it meant. The artist, it said, ‘works with both traditional making methodologies and what he terms “post-craft” processes of production.’

I think he actually meant: sculpture and computers.

The second example was more baffling: ‘a symmetry that examines notions of digitisation as a filter in which the world is explored.’

That verbiage didn’t tell me anything useful about the art. But it did tell me that the artist is not as clever as he thinks he is.

‘Methodologies’ isn’t a posh word for ‘methods’. It’s a different word entirely.

And ‘synaethesia’ isn’t spelt like that, either.


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