Why it's time for galleries to dump the jargon

The art world uses words everyone else has dropped

Do you like nature, and art? If so, you might like something called On Vanishing Land, produced by British "sound artists and theorists" Mark Fisher and Justin Barton. What they've produced, which will be in an art gallery called The Showroom from 6 February, is "a new form of sonic fiction from the dreamings, gleamings and prefigurations that pervade the Suffolk coast." Themes "of incursion", by "unnameable forces, geological sentience or temporary anomaly", will, apparently, "recur throughout".

Or perhaps you're more of an urban person, and would prefer a "video work" at the Lisson Gallery by the artist Gerard Byrne? This work, which you can see until 9 March, "examines the slippage between time and the act of image creation" and looks at the "dialectic relationship that exists between individuals and the built environment that surrounds them". It will also "examine the conditions" that "underpin methods of cultural production".

Or perhaps you'd prefer some events at the Tate? On 1 and 2 February, you could have gone to " an experimental congress" at Tate Modern "of artists, activists and thinkers" who want to "unpick the underpinning, pressing questions of contemporary sexual and gender politics" by "exploring strategies that divert and destabilise normative gender and its representations".

Or, alternatively, you could sit at home with a nice cup of tea, and wonder why on earth the visual arts world is still using a language that almost everyone else has dropped. You could plough through some exhibition catalogues, and some visual arts criticism (which often doesn't seem to be all that critical) and look at some galleries' websites, and wonder how it was that people who are often quite young learnt to speak the kind of language that would have gone down very well on a cultural studies course in the 1970s, but which seems very, very, very old-fashioned now.

You might, for example, wonder why they seem to think it's better to use the word "notion" than "idea", or the word "narrative" than "story", or the word "interrogate" than "ask". You might wonder why every piece of art they write about seems to "subvert" something, or "disrupt" something, or "deconstruct" something, and why what it seems to "subvert" or "disrupt" often seems to be "traditional hierarchies". You might wonder what those "traditional hierarchies" were. You might, for example, want to ask if they were the "hierarchies" of a world where art is bought by hedge funders as an investment, and a brand. But if you looked at the art that was meant to be "subverting traditional hierarchies", or "interrogating capitalism", you might wonder why, if the artist hated capitalism so much, the work was so often for sale.

You might think that it was fine for art sometimes to "question" things, but that most of the "questions" that were being raised were questions that had been raised in art quite a lot before. You might want to say that you thought art was meant to be a kind of answer to the world, and that you weren't sure why these artists thought that the answers should always be left to someone else.

And when you went to see the art, you might even wonder if the people who were using language you couldn't really understand were trying to hide something: and that what they were trying to hide was the fact that the work, which they wanted you to think was clever, and interesting, and worth thinking quite a lot about, often wasn't clever, or interesting, or worth thinking quite a lot about.

You might even think that what they were trying to hide, though they would never put it in words like this, was the fact that the work wasn't very good at all.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect