Guffwatch - The Burlington takes up the sword

December 19 2017

Image of Guffwatch - The Burlington takes up the sword

Picture: The Burlington Magazine

The latest Burlington Magazine editorial is a fine critique of art 'guff'. Formally, art guff is known as 'International Art English', and The Burlington is having none of it:

The concept of International Art English (IAE) goes back to a celebrated article published in 2013 in the art journal Triple Canopy.1 Written by the New York artist David Levine with Alix Rule, who was then studying for a Ph.D. at Columbia University, it is a witty attack on the language of the contemporary art press release: ‘IAE has a distinctive lexicon: aporia, radically, space, proposition, biopolitical, tension, transversal, autonomy. An artist’s work inevitably interrogates, questions, encodes, transforms, subverts, imbricates, displaces [. . .] IAE rebukes English for its lack of nouns: Visual becomes visuality, global becomes globality, potential becomes potentiality, experience becomes . . . experiencability’. As they ask, ‘How did we end up writing in a way that sounds like inexpertly translated French?’

The Burlington identifies a decline in the role of editors as part of the problem:

Editors are rarely involved in most online writing about art, and, depressingly, play a diminishing role in print media. But, as a journal with a wide range of international contributors, we regard editing as central to academic publishing: collaboration between writer and editor means that a ‘foreign accent or non-native syntax’ need not be a barrier to communicating new research and ideas.

To help combat IAE, The Burlington has launched a Contemporary Art Writing Prize:

which was launched ‘to promote clear, concise and well-structured writing that is able to navigate sophisticated ideas without recourse to over-complex language’. The closing date is 26th February 2018: IAE will not be welcome [...]

Writers must be under 35. Good luck! 

More on the latest Burlington edition (Including Canaletto, Rauschenberg and Courbet) here

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