Gary Hill, Frustrum, 2006, Image via: Gladstone Gallery
I’d like to thank the gallerist at Gladstone responsible for their 2007 Gary Hill press release, as it provided much fodder for my latest piece at the L Magazine. This week I discuss art buzzwords and jargon. Feel free to add a few of your favorites in the comments below.
Lately I've been having this fantasy where I see a talk or read a review in which someone manages to avoid using any art world buzzwords. You know, a conversation that doesn't use the term “conflation” to describe the fusing of various kinds of jargon, or one that refrains from labeling any physical manifestation of this concept as a “reification” (I'm confused already).
Yes, inanity abounds in the art world, particularly in the form of art speak. Just last year, for example, I overheard a puffed-up sales pitch from an art consultant in Caren Golden Fine Art, describing a collage with a few pylons in water as “the detritus of human civilization.” I'd like to reissue my art world call to reclaim the word “garbage” — surely dealers and consultants are skilled enough to sell work and use an unsightly noun from time to time. Other gallery-sanitized art words include “clean line,” a legitimately useful term to describe a fluid line drawn in one stroke, and the use of “erotic” to describe virtually any raunchy sexually explicit material.
Another art-world go-to I've come to dislike finds roots in the world of commerce. “Invested with _____” a turn of phrase that owes its legitimacy to capitalism, isn't actively awful, though I expect the significance of an artwork could be expressed without attributing capital to it. By contrast, “slippage,” a financial term describing the estimated transaction costs and the amount actually paid, is most frequently used in art contexts without its economic connotations, characterizing the ambiguity between one concept and another — the art professional's actual thoughts are typically obscured once this term is introduced. “Slippage exists in the gray areas of language and social interaction,” reads one press release from 2006, never going on to describe what this means. In this case, I'd almost prefer the financial definition — the sentence would become unreadable, but at least it would be specific.
To read the full piece click here.