Speaking about Speaking about Art

Krzysztof Kosciuczuk

Speaking about Speaking about Art

“The language we use for writing about art is oddly pornographic: We know it when we see it”, wrote Alix Rule and David Levine in 2012 in an essay examining thousands of press releases, wall labels, critical texts, and artists’ statements. They concluded that we are dealing with a particular type of language that they termed International Art English. It communicates as much as it obscures. It has “a distinctive lexicon: aporia, radically, space, proposition, biopolitical, tension, transversal, autonomy. An artist’s work inevitably interrogates, questions, encodes, transforms, subverts, imbricates, displaces—though often it doesn’t do these things so much as it serves to, functions to, or seems to (or might seem to) do these things.” This language “rebukes English for its lack of nouns: Visual becomes visuality, global becomes globality, potential becomes potentiality, experience becomes… experiencability.” This way of speaking about art is now considered a skill. Furthermore, it is at times considered the way of speaking about art. While drafting a coherent exhibition text is useful it might be also useful to think beyond and outside the jargon.

In this series of meetings, we will look at how we communicate about contemporary art and experiment with some of the essential tools of discourse analysis. We will also look at different ways in which art has been spoken about by artists, curators, and authors who were not necessarily its native users.

Participants will be encouraged to critically engage with selected pieces of writing, reflect on the role and the impact of language on their own practice, as well as develop their own pieces of writing should they be interested.

This seminar does not require high proficiency in the English language, all participants are welcome. Above all it is an exercise in thinking.

This semester sessions will be held on Thursdays.