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Thursday 20 October 2016

What did you say?

It kicked off with a conversation about language with a colleague and an attempt to introduce him to the delights of the arty bollocks generator, I've touched on this before, but this time, horror of horrors, it was off-line. Mildly embarrassing to head for the reveal and be left with "page cannot be displayed" or a similar message. Happily, the loss was temporary and before too long the generator was back at work.

The temporary denial set me clicking around the Internet, trying to discover where it had gone and in the process stumbled on a cornucopia of generators, all of the same ilk. Brothers in Arms of the ABG and I was introduced to International Art English, after David Levine and Alix Rule's 2012 essay in the TripleCanopy magazine and a variant, one might call it a dialect perhaps, International New Music English explored by Danika Paskvan in cacophonymag.com.

With a liking for word play and a fascination for how language changes, naturally and by mangling and mutilation uncovering the various generators became a serious distraction, touching on the conversation about triggers, safe spaces and the less than tolerant attitudes expressed in both these areas. I left the heavy stuff for another day; returned to the generators and International Art English.

Levine and Rule explored the premise in their essay that the language of art whether by accident or design confused, obfuscated and segregated. Knowing the language was a way of breaking into and advancing through the ranks, without the knowledge advancement was near impossible. They lay some of the responsibility for the development of International Art English with the interns of the art world, at one point describing the language as English inexpertly translated from French.

The pair take it seriously, and many of the art world do, fluency is a mark of the Insider, and Levine and Rule describe it as a unique language, English that definitely is not English. Their research involved running thousands of press releases through the language analysing software, Sketch Engine, to uncover the workings behind it all. IAE uses more words not less. Its structure under analysis pointed towards the badly translated French origin and Levine and Rule pinpoint its arrival via the magazine October, a critical journal founded in 1976 in New York and drawing on French post structuralism's ideas and prose style.

Where ever it began, the language is now as global as its parent and an established part of any exhibition or installation, for good or ill.

I digress, that's how it's been for a couple of weeks, it started with the ABG and went waltzing (without matilda) across the Internet. The original intention of locating the downed ABG sent the click rate soaring and a web of connections. Nowhere seemed safe from jargon of some description or other and the humorous generators were never far away.

IAE was born out of post structuralism and post modernism got  in on the act too, the post modern essay generator was high on the search rankings, click the button and another wordy treatise of intellectual gibberish appears on the screen, and business has its adherents at the commerce B.S. generator. A simple click throws up a snippet of..., click it again and another one appears.

It does seem the art world is assailed by more than its share of generators, maybe an extension of the inevitable creativity expressed through art, but that hyperbolic verbiage comes under ruthless assault - hang on a moment, did I just slip into...?

The Art speak generator offers a quick fix, the Critical Response to the Art Product - the FLA is pretty clear  - offers a quick retort in a tight situation. The apposite comment you wish was in residence all the time visiting fifteen minutes after you turn the light out at night.

The right words at the right moment, what a rare gem that can be!