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International Art English – How to read nonsense press releases

Posted August 11th, 2012

Curators, Media, Text


“The internationalized art world relies on a unique language. Its purest articulation is found in the digital press release. This language has everything to do with English, but it is emphatically not English. It is largely an export of the Anglophone world and can thank the global dominance of English for its current reach. But what really matters for this language—what ultimately makes it a language—is the pointed distance from English that it has always cultivated. ”

Alix Rule and David Levine of online magazine Triple Canopy had enough of the hogwash. With the help of Sketch Engine, the new issue analyzes what they call “International Art English (IAE)” and they are “quite serious” about this project.

The art world constructs sentences which are essentially meaningless most of the time. Using adverbial phrases such as “radically questioned” and double adverbial terms like “playfully and subversively invert” most press releases sound like a bad joke or a parody of itself. It’s a world where people get away with smoke screens like the following quote from a press release for the 2006 Guangzhou Triennial: “The City has been regarded as a newly-formed huge collective body that goes beyond the established concept of city. It is an extraordinary space and experiment field that covers all the issues and is free of time and space limit…..”
WTF? What’s that supposed to mean, dude? And why invent your own grammar?

Rule and Levine write: “Our guess is that people all over the world have adopted this language because the distributive capacities of the Internet now allow them to believe—or to hope—that their writing will reach an international audience.”

Triple Canopy has analyzed thirteen years of e-flux press announcements and the results are stunning. Let’s say it’s worse than we thought, but you should really read this incredibly inspiring and radically questioning article yourself. It’s well worth your breathtakingly constructed brain’s time.

Image above: London collective BANK corrected gallery press releases and faxed back the markups. Check them out at www.john-russell.org. Hilarious stuff.

Via Hyperallergic.