The Wire

In Writing

The Mire: Tangents, threads and opinions from The Wire HQ

Nu-linguistic programming

Mark Fisher

Infinite Thought's diatribe against artspeak raises all kinds of issues. The soporifically ubiquitous language against which she rails is part of the reassuring background noise in what passes now for high culture. It is the institutional artworld's revenge on Duchamp and Dada's idea that nonsense could be revolutionary. But the problem with this language is its oversignfication as much as its lack of content, the excess of meaning with which it freights objects and shows, fixing them into a pre-defined cultural place via the use of a laudatory linguistic muzak that combines portentous gravitas with vapid weightlessness: all those notions that are negotiated with, those boundaries that are blurred, and everything, of course, is radical... This is the soundtrack to the postmodern conversion of events into exhibits, a process so total, so relentless, that it has become invisible, presupposed. An old story: those who sought the destruction of the art space and its prestige find themselves the objects of the latest retrospective ... And just wait for all those May 68 commemorations next month...

This 'nu-language' is more than a matter of institutional inertia. It is an expression of an interlock – a synergy – between art, business and promotion. At the End of History, all language tends to the condition of PR . And lurking not far behind all this is the spider bureaucracy, now rebranded as 'administration', since funding bodies require artists – practitioners - to themselves internalise and proliferate nu-language. This can't be attacked at the level of discourse alone – as IT suggests, nu-language itself puts into practice the occlusion of objects under referent-free discourse – but, by keeping faith with the events of the past and anticipating events yet-to-come, criticism can surely play a part in the attack on nu-linguistic programming.