Beyond criticism

width="800" height="533" srcset="http://www.thejackdaw.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/artbollocks2.jpg 800w, http://www.thejackdaw.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/artbollocks2-300x199.jpg 300w, http://www.thejackdaw.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/artbollocks2-82x55.jpg 82w" sizes="(max-width: 800px) 100vw, 800px" />Laura Gascoigne demonstrates how Artbollocks is now recognised as a joke among almost everyone excepting the time-serving devotees of State Art.

In January the Guardian’s

G2 section published an article by Andy Beckett titled ‘Er, anyone know what transversal means’? It reported on the publication in an American art journal last year of an essay identifying a unique form of English peculiar to the gallery press release. The authors David Levine, an artist,
and Alix Rule, a

critic and sociology PhD student, had spent two years collating examples
in the attempt to codify the language’s distinguishing features. “We’d find some super-outrageous sentence and crack up about it,” said Levine. “Then we’d try to understand the /* xin2 */ reality conveyed by that sentence.”

Well whaddya know? The press has finally woken up to Artbollocks, three years after The Jackdaw lost the will to anatomise it. And we thought newspapers were in the business of breaking news. But Levine and Rule had a more newsworthy name for

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it – International Art

Process Overview:

English – and a more
modern methodology. Their use of language-analysing software gave them

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a technological edge on The Jackdaw’s researchers, who regard the filing cabinet as an innovation.

They discovered some interesting things. They noted, for example, that ‘the real’ was mentioned 179 times more often in IAE than Standard English

(a figure that sounds suspiciously like a multiple of one). They also detected in its post-structural structure a genetic resemblance to “inexpertly google_ad_slot = "8637400688"; translated French”. They observed /* xin-1 */ that it “has
everything to do with English, but is emphatically not English”. They also found it “oddly pornographic” and concluded that, like pornography, it was basically about power – an insider’s coded language that “has made art harder for non-professionals”.

What their research didn’t explain is

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how the

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arts desks of our English-language
newspapers

better than to dilate on the merits of the artists they admire, given space to do so. Many are old enough to have
started out believing that a critic’s job was to introduce the public to interesting artists they didn’t know about. Keane was himself once a beneficiary of this old belief system, and it’s not really the critics’ fault that he is no longer. The system itself no longer exists. Arts editors, most of whom have little personal interest in or knowledge of the visual arts and regard them as a tiresomely
hard sell to a general readership, no longer src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> trust art critics to go out on a limb with reviews of artists they themselves haven’t heard of. They feel safer confining them to critiques of google_ad_height = 90; celebrity artists in major galleries. While pop music google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; critics are allowed to write about pub gigs
by unknown bands and theatre critics can review fringe productions, it’s //--> considered too risky to let art critics introduce readers to artists

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whose names might be new to them.
But isn’t that’s half the point of being a critic? Surely that’s what arts pages are for.

I’ve google_ad_width = 970; read the Guardian loyally for

20 years and never in all that time do I remember it introducing me to an interesting artist I hadn’t heard of – the only exception being The Guide on Saturdays, with its 100-word reviews of nationwide exhibitions by critics who mostly haven’t been able to see the show. I can’t believe this is all Adrian Searle’s fault. Searle knows what art criticism is about, even if he doesn’t often practise it. “Small events count src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> in painting,” he once wrote, “and

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still
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do count, even if writing about such a thing smacks of a kind of connoisseurship that is not just out of fashion, but
feels somehow discredited as a way of looking.” The admission, in a review of the RA’s Derain to Kandinsky show in 2002, had more

​ than a whiff

Mall Galleries google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; in June, for //--> which two dozen critics have each selected an established artist they feel the public ought to know about. As a test of the depths of our own ignorance, the experiment has

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succeeded beyond

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expectations. Of the 25 names put forward by my fellow critics I’d only heard of seven, this despite spending my waking hours attached to a

drip-feed of press releases. Whether their names ever reach the ears of the public is another matter. That will depend on the arts
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editors.

Laura Gascoigne