Guffwatch - Burlington Magazine joins the fray

March 4 2013

Image of Guffwatch - Burlington Magazine joins the fray

Picture: Burlington Magazine

Three cheers for The Burlington Magazine, which, in its latest editorial, calls for an end to Artspeak in:

[...] art-historical books and publications. Here, what is striking is not so much the cliché but the inventiveness of the language used, the reckless extensions and elaborations of words, the adverbial decor, the nifty transformation of noun into verb, the plain sentence got up in grotesque academic drag. We have recently witnessed ‘the narrativisation of subversion’ and ‘the spatiality of viewership’, among other portly neologisms. And the more the argument concerns art’s inclusiveness, the collective memory or the demotic gaze, the more the language seems to retract into hermetic exclusivity. Critical and historical writing must in some way be shaped by an intended audience. Style – whether it be complex or succinct, expository or descriptive – is a writer’s personal expression inflected by a sense of that audience. In a good deal of recent art history, felicitous style is rarely a consideration, but the imagined reader is there, drawn from a restricted circle of fellow academics (who will, incidentally, nod knowingly at the fashionable names quoted and cited that give the writer a spurious authority). Articles are couched in a careerist language to be peer read for renewal of tenure. An initial distrust of plain English turns into a positive fear of it, in case of reprisals.

Update - a reader writes:

How many of them are out there I wonder? Sitting on comfy stipends in faculties and institutions around the globe, writing impenetrably cryptic books, papers, monographs and theses that nobody but their identical  peers or hapless undergraduates will read?

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