Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Artspeak Quiz: Real or Randomly Generated?

Wiktionary defines "artspeak" as "the specialist vocabulary associated with art and artists." I might add to that definition, ". . . characterized by intellectual posturing and meaningless, self-referential signifiers." Everyone claims to hate artspeak, yet it doesn't seem in any danger of becoming a lost language anytime soon. Art magazines, exhibition catalogs, artists' statements and grad school art departments continue to crank it out at a furious pace.

So I decided to have a little fun with it. I designed the quiz below to see if you can tell the difference between actual quotes from an art magazine and those from two random artspeak generators.

The Instant Art Critique Phrase Generator asks you to type in any five digit number, click "Create," and "enjoy your ready-made Critical Response to the Art Product (or CRAP). " The Market-O-Matic 1.0 [fine arts version] is more like a game of Mad Libs, letting you choose words or fill in the blanks and then hit the "Crank Out the Crap" button to generate an artist's statement.

The "real" art quotes I found by searching the online archives of a leading national art magazine using keywords from my randomly generated artspeak. See if you can tell the difference:

Which of the following pairs of quotes is from an actual art magazine? (Answers appear below after the video.)

a. With regard to the issue of content, the reductive quality of the figurative-narrative line-space matrix makes resonant the eloquence of these pieces.

b. Hancock's talent lies less in the originality of his tropes and more in his deft adulteration of our culture's organizing memes, presented here in an entertaining meditation on the relationship between creativity, sustenance, and asceticism.

a. As a consequence of the reductive parameters of these conservatisms, such as rigid canons, fixation on objects and absolute field demarcations, activist practices are not even included in the narratives and archives of political history and art theory, as long as they are not purged of their radical aspects, appropriated and coopted into the machines of the spectacle.

b. Helmut Kremling's work investigates the nuances of vibrations through the use of stopframe motion and close-ups which emphasize the mechanical nature of digital media. Kremling explores abstract and correlative scenery as motifs to describe the idea of cyber-intuitive artifice.

a. With the synergy of the electronic environment, the mind is reaching a point where it will be free from the body to transcend immersions into the parameters of the delphic reality.

b. His morphing forms, use of motifs, and flattened spatial dimensions bring to mind the stylized and reductive nature of classic cel animation and low-bit computer graphics.

a. ... but while prior explorations of the erotics of violence—and its larger cultural implications—have been the subject of both profligate veneration and generous satire, here the only complications to the libidinal theme are those supplied by irony and farce.

b. The mind creates, the body accentuates. In the trans-gender reality, art objects are calculations of the musings of the mind -- a mind that uses the body as an organism to deconstruct ideas, patterns, and emotions.

a. Work of Proto-Art in the Age of Artificial Reproduction contains 10 minimal dhtml engines (also referred to as "soundtoys") that enable the user to make morphing audio/visual compositions.

b. The disillusionment with the idea of “progress,” the stylistic promiscuity, and the correlative critique of “sincerity” that we associate with postmodern attitudes were up and running in him far in advance of the zeitgeist.

This video was created by Ivy Creek Stoneware for Clay Times Magazine.

quiz answers:
1. b, 2. a, 3. b, 4. a, 5. b


Congratulations to Offramp Gallery artist Anita Bunn. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art photography department recently purchased a series of her prints. The series consists of four photo-lithographs of selected stills from the digital video Measure (2008), which were made by Anita in collaboration with Francesco Siqueiros of El Nopal Press.

Ongoing at Offramp Gallery

Mark Steven Greenfield: Doo-Dahz
May 15 - June 26, 2011

Closing Reception & Artist's Talk, Sunday, June 26, 2-5pm

Press for Doo-Dahz:

ArtScene Preview 6/1/11
Visual Art Source Preview 5/20/11
Huffington Post Preview 5/11/11
LA Weekly Preview 5/13/11
Artweek.LA Preview 5/9/11


  1. Artspeak is not confined to the art world. I am in business and meaningless jargon has infiltrated company descriptions of themselves so much that it has become almost impossible to determine what a company actually does amid a flurry of "robust scalable solutions".

  2. Once again, you have hit the nail on the head. Am still laughing. High fives on this one, Jane.

  3. Taking this outre reticulated and much inter-voluted test manifested a plucky sense of flabbergast in me: yes it did!