The Orwellian art-speak.


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“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.” – George Orwell.

I was recently a guest at the fancy Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris. It´s a truly amazing museum. A must see for all art lovers! Inside the astonishing halls, I came across some “stupid” modern art. I know, you know – how that feels. You roll your eyes and smile sarcastically and think – WTF, is this art? Normally I just walk along to the next piece – thinking “oh dear”, but that day – I was particularly fresh and ready for a mind-boggling challenge. So I read the visitor-friendly description, and it made me wonder about the language art communicators use to inscribe “worthless” objects with symbolic, cultural and economic value. Is it just an elegant metaphysical/artistic sales pitch? Or does the meta-artistic language hold some hidden insights and teachings, which unlock new modes of perceptions?

I for one don’t know. It might just be taste and preferences, but let’s investigate the matter and find some perspectives, which can drive us towards understanding the question. Let’s start this journey on art-speak or the right term: International Art English – from a critical Orwellian perspective. I call it: The Orwellian art-speak.


Follow the trend, stupid!

My opinion on this question is, that good descriptions and titles can unlock new modes of perceptions. I found a wonderful page: It just gives you the cool descriptions of artistic work, but the physical objects and brand/artist names are hidden from your gaze. It´s a wonderful experiment. Check it out! But most of the time it’s a sales pitch for the work. We try to engineer a specific value into the object as we build the ideological content of any artist.

You always need to talk the talk and follow the trend. So here are some of the most important artistic buzzwords.  When talking in the tongue of art-speak:

“Anti-capitalism, appropriation, artist, avant-garde, become art, blur, boundaries, but is it art? Cerebral, challenge, comment, complex, confront, consider art, contemporary, cutting-edge, daring, declare to be art, dialogue, difficult, dismantle, disrupt, disturbing, edgy, emerging artist, enigmatic, engage, establish as art, examine, expand, experimental, explore, force, gallerist, global, ground-breaking, innovative, intervene, invent, investigate, make, make a statement about, new, object, outrage, plasticity, probe, progressive, provoke, push, push (press) buttons, push the envelope, push the boundaries, push the limits, question, quirky, raise questions, redefine, refuse, retrospective, resonating, require, risky, seductive, subvert, unconventional, untitled, visual culture.”

The main point with the buzz is that you would not wanna be the opposite, like a non-provocative, plain conformist artist, with nothing to say about the world. Imagine the curator saying something like this: It´s a room devoid of reflective thought. There is no chaos and absolutely zero revolutions. No cutting-edge here. Just plain titled unseductive shit. And if it too much – you can always exit through the gift shop – and rejoin the capitalistic consumer orgy.

I do love museum/design shops! I confess it!

Here´s a quote to from a Danish art show:

”Vi ser, søger, slår itu, ødelægger, forstyrrer, laver rod og leger med kaos som en del af den kreative proces for at give et bud på en ny form, et nyt budskab. Længslen efter dekonstruktion fører til en genopfindelse af begreberne håndværk, social kunst, skulptur, maleri, performance, film, talte og skrevne ord. I et møde med andetheden sætter kunstnerne spørgsmålstegn ved deres sociale status og persona. De udstillede genstande repræsenterer en praksis, der står i modsætning til den kapitalistiske kulturs gennemkommercialiserede overflod. Ved at skubbe til de alment accepterede grænser for ideer, materialer og processer, tilføjer TRUST en ny ekstra realistisk dimension.”

It includes a lot of the markers for bullshit-buzz-words:-/ One day, maybe it would be really liberating if a curator said: “I found some cool art – and I think you should see it.” And nothing more…




Brand building – “The Artist”

This might get a bit like touching my own shit, sorry. It´s very self-reflective. Maybe too much. The brand building process: Is a special form of creative communication. The point is to make your creative vision and work common knowledge. How you talk and represent the art – influences how the brand builds its statements; As if it’s a well oiled aggressive canvas-selling PR-machine. Yes, this brand building process is indeed interconnected with a capitalistic art market. You should not refuse the obvious.

Please try to follow these guidelines:


1: Don’t oversell the art.

2: Really don’t oversell the art with fancy buzzwords.

3: Stay true and brave in your descriptions. Use Ockham’s razor… All things nonessential to the artwork must die!


Do you agreed with this Orwellian perspective?




Thanks for reading:-)