Connoting without denoting

Dalrymple’s essay for the June issue of The New Criterion is available online, and it’s his best takedown of the modern art world and its foundations in the radical, left-wing academy. This hornet’s nest of anger and resentment produces art that is ugly, uninspiring, solipsistic and overtly and almost solely political, and its members justify and defend their art using what we refer to here as “intentionally impenetrable and pseudo-scientific jargon”.
Dalrymple provides a good example by quoting from the catalogue that accompanies an exhibit at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester:

This revolutionary experiment provided an alternative means of imagining events and its effect: in the gap left by splitting apart the image of the maternal body from that of her child, the temporality of the objects displayed emerges as an aesthetic device, in which the process of collection and the presentation of objects plays a key part, tracing the process of change but holding time in suspense, stretching out, in its document’s materiality, into the future.

What does he make of this “higher drivel”?

For the authors, “profundity” is by definition polysyllabic: it means something too precious to be exposed to the uninitiated by the vulgar employment of the right word in the right place. Language is, for them, the iconostasis that preserves the holiness of the sanctuary within; only the clergy may enter, the congregation remaining strictly without, uncomprehending but adoring—preferably adoring because uncomprehending.

…Only state-dominated education and funding of cultural institutions could have resulted in this prose, which, incidentally, makes that of Leonid Brezhnev seem like Mark Twain’s.

You can read the essay here (purchase required)

6 thoughts on “Connoting without denoting

  1. Jaxon

    “the gap left by splitting apart the image of the maternal body from that of her child”

    “stretching out, in its document’s materiality, into the future.”

    With my Freudian head on, I suspect there is something here of the guilt of severing what should be the sacred tie between mother and child (contrast with art of Mary Cassatt).
    A crass Materiality of appetites has been allowed to obtrude as substitute for our future, our legacy – a recognition of a violence to our dearest domestic ties

    “In this choice of inheritance we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties; adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchres, and our altars.”

    Edmund Burke

    Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves.


  2. Jaxon

    Actually, with regards to tie between mother and child, I should probably have just gone with ‘dearest domestic tie’ or equivalent.

    But then there’s lots of ‘probably should have’s’ in what I write.


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