Jennifer Allen: How do we talk about art?

From The Contemporary State of Art Criticism

“Before we decide how we talk about contemporary art, we usually decide that we’re going to speak in English.” Arguably, one of the largest discussions in art criticism (or art writing, more broadly) in recent years followed David Levine and Alix Rule’s article at Triple Canopy on what they termed International Art English. When compared with Levine and Rule’s systematic drawing of conclusions from a single, very particular source (e-flux announcements), Allen’s talk on Globish—that version of English spoken by nonnatives, where descriptors oftentimes replace exact terms—is inspiring in the way she considers language. Allen proposes: “What if nonnative English speakers were in fact ‘more noble’ than native English speakers?” And the leap she makes from oral language to the way it affects written language—that Globish could be a stepping-stone toward clarity—is radical. It means that expertise is in communication, not in command of language. And it means that communication is the result of inclusiveness in something that is oftentimes prohibitive, the use of a nonnative language as if it were your own. It allows, or calls for participation in a way that is generous and generative.

Jennifer Allen is a writer and critic based in Berlin.

February 13, 2015

IHME Contemporary Art Festival

Curated by

Orit Gat

About the curator

Orit Gat is a writer living in New York. She is an editor of art-agenda and contributing editor of The White Review.