The formal and conceptual visual language spoken in Fine Art departments around the world, spoken in commercial galleries, and spoken in contemporary art museums is Latin. Until (historically speaking) recent times, Latin was the language of learning, a commodity available only to the wealthy men who could afford it. The vast majority of people did not understand Latin, and were by default excluded from even accessing (let alone contributing to) the canon of knowledge composed mostly in Latin.
Few people have the time to teach themselves or the money to buy lessons in the Latin spoken in the world of Fine Art. The first visual language anyone learns is (primarily) representative, and it is a privilege few are granted to learn a second, Latinate, visual language. To conduct the high proceedings of Fine Art in the language of formalism and conceptualism, i.e. in Latin, is, by proxy, to exclude the vast majority of people.
This isn’t to say that abstract and conceptual art are BAD art. This criticism has nothing to do with one’s subjective opinion on the relative quality of art. Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica is good science independent of the language it is written in. Likewise, the proficiency with which an artist speaks Latin varies dependent on their level of mastery - if a work of art is bad, it is because the artist has spoken with poor grammar or diction, not because it’s been composed in a certain language. The language itself isn’t the problem, it’s the language’s exclusivity that is the issue.
If we believe everyone should be welcome to a seat at the table of the affairs of Fine Art (and, as evidenced by the art museums open to the public across the globe, I rather think we do believe this), then Latin should not be the lingua franca of art. This isn’t to say ‘don’t speak Latin’, Latin has it’s place, nor is it to say ‘pander’, one can and should speak vernacular with all the intelligence one might otherwise reserve for Latin. Let’s knock it off with the esotericism people.
I’m trying to keep this tumblr semi-professional and related to my art but I am this close to going on the catholic tag and reblogging all the “BAWWW LETTING WOMEN HAVE ACCESS TO BIRTH CONTROL IS OPPRESSING MY RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS” with lots of choice cuss words about how fucking inane and…
“If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, that’s not progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. The progress comes from healing the wound that the blow made. They haven’t even begun to pull the knife out. They won’t even admit the knife is there.”
This summer, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD, is asking the public to curate an exhibition of a title and theme to be determined by the public. This is the epitome promoting the production of culture through the public sphere.
Despite the contemporary museum theory of maximized accessibility through public engagement and minimized elitism in art historical scholarship, there has been little real change in the museum field, besides increasingly technological interactives in externally curated exhibitions. Interactives do not make visitors feel more involved in the content of the museum. They may even bee seen as condescending, attempting to over-simplify ideas so that the they are supposedly more palatable for the audience. The Walters Art Museum is finally taking public engagement to the next step. They are throwing out-moded connoisseurship out the window.
Their Public Property exhibition this summer will display various works, from their collection, under the theme of fantastic creatures, based on the interest demonstrated by the public on the Walters Art Museum’s web-based poll. You can still take part in the selection process for some specific pieces, before the planning time runs out.
Museums of the people, for the people, by the people. Finally, a real mode for the democratization of culture is emerging. Thank you Internet!