Words that think for us: Art by any other name

Prospect Magazine

Words that think for us: Art by any other name

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There’s a deadening logic to the anti-language of art criticism

The language of art criticism has long been a byword for preciosity and pretention. Part of the problem lies in the nature of the task: how can an experience of light and colour be translated into words? The very attempt seems bound to produce large volumes of gibberish, as well as the odd flight of poetry. But it does not help that most writers on modern art are steeped in continental philosophy, whose obscurity they mistake for depth. The result is a kind of linguistic knickerbocker glory, with words chosen more for assonance than meaning. “In voicing the void, Kapoor returns us to the discourse of the diagonal. How does the transitional nature of true making—spatially out of balance, temporally in between—relate to the myth of ‘originality’?” Thus Homi K Bhabha on Anish Kapoor, but similar examples could be drawn from many sources.

Postmodernism is an easy target, and an

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Author

Edward Skidelsky

Edward Skidelsky
Edward Skidelsky is a lecturer in philosophy at Exeter University. His book "Ernst Cassirer: The Last Philosopher of Culture" is published by Princeton University Press 


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