International Art English

For those of us studying Art and anyone who walks round a gallery encountering  International Art English (IAE) can be a bewildering experience.  In Gilda Williams book “How to write about Contemporary Art” she looks at the phenomenon that is IAE and the fight back against it.

“Some of IAE’s tics are:

  • habitually improvising nouns (“visual” becomes “visuality”)
  • hammering out fashionable terminology (“transversal”, “meta”, “involution”)
  • abusing prefixes, with para-, proto-, post-, and hyper-.

In an ARTFORUM book review responding to a pair of recent books on curating, critic Julian Stallabrass lamented the “thick and viscous vocabulary” he found there, rewording some sentences in plain English:

For instance here is the concluding section: “Exhibitons are a coproductive, spatial medium, resulting from various forms of negotiation, relationality, adaptation, and collaboration between subjects and objects, across space and time.” Rough translation: people work together to make exhibitions using objects. They exist in space and time.”

Williams book goes onto to help avoid these pitfalls and is well worth a read.



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