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10 Art Jargon Words Decoded
Here are some laughable artspeak at their best....
Entertainment 28 Sep 2018

Get to know your ‘isms’ from your ‘izations’ in this brief jargon-busting guide…
Besides the intellectual lingo we read in Artforum, there is still a significant amount of pompous phrases that confuses readers and art fans. It can make you feel like you’re alone at the North Pole. Here are some laughable artspeak at their best.
20180928_artjargon1_theartgorgeous
Phenomenology: When you need to say something smarter than phenomenon and the words ‘marvel’ and ‘sensation’ are beneath you.
Rationalization: What’s that? The defense mechanism to rationalize yourself out of feelings? Ho-ho. I guess this one belongs to the conceptualists, huh?
De-psychologization: Probably the most frustrating, loathed non-word in the English language, it means you want to psychoanalyze something and then deconstruct it like Lego.
Anti-didactic: It means not doing what everyone else is doing in the art world, okay? But wait, isn’t the art world vocabulary didactic in itself? Onward…
Epistemic imperialism: I got this one from Artforum, I’ll admit. Expert knowledge, this word means! Throw in the word ‘global’ and ‘sovereignty’ and you have yourself a master’s synopsis.
Sophistry: A tricky one to explain how clever arguments can be false, somewhat illusionary. Like what all artspeak does at its best. Use like this: ‘That’s absolutely fallacious, dear sir!’
Conversate: “People converse, they don’t conversate!” Duh. But if art is a conversation between artist and viewer, why would this 16th century word even be allowed in an art review? Next.
Hyper-contextual: If something has more than one meaning but can be read like a tarot deck with unpredictable messages, this is the word to use when describing a diptych or a triennial. Or neither.
Permeate: Just as artspeak snakes through the art world like an invisible, poisonous fog, so does this word. But when it’s used to describe art, it makes it sound like volcanic rock bubbling from beneath the floorboards.
Polemical: If you dress up as Hilton Kramer for Halloween, you should use this word while trick or treating. It’s a nice way of saying that ‘this’ or ‘that’ artist is too far out to have ‘discernible’ talent.
Articulation: If a curator uses this word to describe something but nobody claps, does it still exist? Hashtag existentialism.
This is an excerpt from Biennale Bitch: Adventures of an Arts Reporter, out Sept. 26 with ArtStars* Books.

Text by Nadja Sayej
Photos via popuppainting

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