Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization

On his TIME magazine blog, culture critic Richard Lacayo writes this in response to my Tuesday post, which he found “funny/depressing”:

Why is so much curatorial writing so dreadful? Why is it so clogged with the decrepit formulations of academic artspeak? Why does so much of it sound like it was written by an anxious schoolkid delivering a labored term paper?

My first assumption is that there’s a generation of curators who went to college and grad school in the 1980s and ‘90s, when the congested language of Deconstruction, Critical Studies and so on still seemed important, intrepid, and even a little glamorous. I get the impression that even if a budding art writer wasn’t fully committed to those lines of inquiry, the incredibly turgid writing they produced infected the academy in all directions.

But the industrial strength rhetoric of so much museum writing is also, I suspect, a defense against anxiety by curators and catalogue essay writers afraid to simply say out loud and in plain English what they suppose the work might be getting at.
What if they get it wrong? Better to fall back on clichés that stand in for thought without furthering it.

Finally bad writing is just insider talk. It’s not directed to the public at all, but pitched to the coterie of other curators and academics who use jargon to signal to one another their initiation into the world of…jargon.

Read complete article

Richard Lacayo in TIME on the Whitney Biennial


highlowbetween said...

your post is very timely, I linked to an essay called the "the artworld is not the world over" at Long Sunday.

I'm new to Art Vent,h added you to my blog rolhl - keep up the great posts.

Anonymous said...

So what's your response?