Curt Cloninger on Artspeak
by Liza Sabater


Personally, I suspect that the most successful pieces evince their underlying workings and concepts without the need for a bunch of accompanying explanatory text. Without the accompanying text, the artist is allowed to hijack more of the user’s context. This gives the artist the ability to dialogue with a more holistic/gritty area of the user’s mindspace; it makes the work less antiseptic and quarantined. Granted, the artist who is comfortable relying on accompanying explanatory text may object, “But what if the user doesn’t get it?” My knee-jerk response is, “Then it’s probably not that good.” But things are probably more complicated than that. I’m coming to believe that a piece of work may well be enhanced by accompanying explanatory text, *provided that*:
1. it’s absolutely necessary
2. the tenor of its copy is in dialogue with the approach of the piece.
3. it serves to contextualize the piece rather than de-contextualize it. [cf: ]
4. it isn’t full of a bunch of blah blah Adorno-quoting art school bullshit [cf: ]. Oftentimes the accompanying explanatory text is used like overabundant A1 sauce to mask the rank taste of an underlying cut of bad beef. If your piece sucks, alluding to John Cage isn’t going to make it any less sucky.


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