Friday, April 4, 2008

Impenetrable prose, continued

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.

12 comments:

CAP said...

I still struggle to accept critique as a verb.

Carol Diehl said...

My ex-husband (undisputed head of the grammar police) had the same problem with "curate" as a verb, as I do with "impact."

highlowbetween said...

well at least we are spared 'pitch perfect'. which seems to be the only means of description in publishing these days.

cjagers said...

I would add the following two:"deconstructs" and "investigates."

Thanks for bringing attention to this very annoying problem.

BTW, very nice meeting you at the blogger talk @ Red Dot!

Catherine Spaeth said...

OK, OK...I think I'm guilty of using the verb "articulate," as a verb, a little too often. (But that doesn't mean I want to wipe it off the face of the earth - Please don't take my Derrida away from me!)

Carol Diehl said...

Oh, and I can't bear "gallerist". I think making the term gender specific would help--as in "galleristo" and "gallerista". Don't you agree that has more flair?

Carol Diehl said...

I also dislike "insightful" but may concede that it has its uses.

Pretty Lady said...

'Reify.'
Also 'historicity' and 'teleological.'

Hi, Carol! So lovely to meet you at Red Dot, and I love your blog!

Carol Diehl said...

Ooh, I just came across the word "impactful" in a review and had to note it.

elijah shifrin said...

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!

Carol Diehl said...

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.

John Haber said...

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."