It’s a translation thing?



This summer I participated in a workshop at Creative Capital on “Exhibiting and Working with Institutions.” Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I posited that at least in “emerging fields” there may be a translation problem between what an artist says and what a curator hears. The language is specific to the art formerly known as new media, but it may also apply, at least in spirit, to experiments with art in public places.

What you say: I’m a new media artist

What they hear/think:

    A. You’re a technophiliac who doesn’t understand contemporary art.
    B. Maybe he can fix my email.
    C. It’s not real art.

What you say: The process is as important as the end product.

What they hear/think:

    A. Has a hard time meeting deadlines.
    B. We’ll have a page on the website that explains the process.
    C. It’s not art.

What you say: The work is only completed by the audience; it’s participatory.

What they hear/think:

    A. No quality control.
    B. It will drive our guards crazy, if the visitors can touch the art.
    C. It’s not really art.

What you say: It’s research.

What they hear/think:

    A. Still trying to figure out what to do.
    B. It’s boring and academic.
    C. It’s not really art.

What you say: My work is open source.

What they hear/think:

    A. I’ll take two this month.
    B. Does that mean anybody can do it?
    C. It’s not really art.

What you say: It’s online.

    A. That’s cheap.
    B. No one will see it anyway, so why not.
    C. It’s not really art.

What you say: It’s new and innovative.

What they hear/think:

    A. THAT will burnish our image as a cutting edge organization.
    B. I bet we can get a ton of funding from some tech company, can’t we?
    C. It’s not really art

What do you say/hear/think in your experience?

The full text of the talk is here.