Onion Discussion: Press Releases: A Serious Business

I just wanted to add this frieze article. It brings up what I see as the subject framing this whole discussion series, “professionalisation”. and a pretty accurate description of language use in the arts:

“Our own expansion and integration of all these spheres of activity – from making art to exhibiting it, curating, writing, teaching, thinking of imaginative ways to document art or advertise it, sell it, use it to sell other things – has generated an image of consummate professionalism, the feeling that everyone knows exactly what they are doing and how to behave”

“Working for a contemporary art magazine, I get sent a vast amount of press material each day, almost all of which employs a strikingly similar tone of voice. Most common is the one of academic solemnity infused with a barely veiled aggression, as though art were engaged in some cultural ‘war on terror’. Words such as ‘forcing’, ‘interrogating’ or ‘subverting’ occur with incredible frequency. Boundaries are ‘broken down’ and ‘preconceptions challenged’ so often as to make subversion and radicality seem like a mandatory daily chore rather than a blow to the status quo”

” a non-grammatical set of abstractions that have the surface appearance of discussion and the exchange of ideas, but which in fact serve only in order to maintain the illusion of communication and creative dialogue”

“‘Nouns, like material products, appear to be out of fashion'”


Onion Discussion: Press Releases: Translation and Trace

Hello Onion People,

The season has turned and we have moved from winter to spring – a kind of translation you could say!


product_1203.jpg (250×250)


The next (spring) Onion session called Press Releases, is one where we will discuss the written word and how that often frames the work of art as the initial encounter (in press releases), as a contemporaneous mirroring object (in artist statements or interpretative texts during the exhibition, or post-rationalisation of the work (in documentation, catalogues, essays, etc).


These writings are not the work but can be viewed as a kind of translation of the work into words. We have Brigit Connolly as our special guest next Weds who is a translator and an artist, and doing her PhD on translation and art. Brigit will help us think through the nature of translation, its purpose, its operation, and then we can discuss how work gets translated and interpreted. Brigit has sent some pre-reading attached and intros below. There is quite a lot to get through so I am emailing the reading to you early this week.


However, the second aspect of writing in and around the work of art is that the writing itself can form the artistic enquiry. Words are after all another medium/material and writing is experience/process in its own right. If you have time to get Alexander Duttman’s lecture out from the library (on DVD) which he gave on 1 March 2010 on ‘The Contemporary’, he mentions the necessity to “follow the trace of writing”. As a student of Derrida himself, he recalls Derrida saying that “One writes only at the moment when one gives the contemporary the slip”.


As some of you may be looking towards your dissertation, this next Onion on the dual operation of Translation and ‘giving the contemporary the slip’ might be useful.


Brigit’s recommendations are below and attached. And I leave you with a little snippet of Derrida explaining why he is scared of writing.



On a housekeeping note, I thought it would be a nice idea to have a proper meal and do a Korean BBQ. So the discussion will be held upstairs in the common area and we will get out the hotplate. Please bring something that you could BBQ and share, as well as any salads etc. It doesn’t have to be Korean exclusively of course, anything for the barbie will do. But I will make some rice, bring some kimchi, and we can eat and chat in the Korean spirit of generosity, hospitality and communality.


2372070629_ea6401137b.jpg (500×375)


Looking forward to see you at our second last Onion!






———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Brigit Connolly <brigit.connolly@network.rca.ac.uk>
Date: 25 March 2011 15:40
Subject: Re: translation discussion.
To: Jack Tan <jack.tan@network.rca.ac.uk

Hi J 

I’ve chosen three texts:


– Pierre Menard Author of the Quijote by Jorge Luis Borges
This well known text is probably one of the most intelligent and also most easily accessible texts on translation.
It is also Borges’ first short story.


– A short extract about the poet Alexander Pope,
Pope was famous for producing one of the most successful translations of Homer’s Iliad into English
This extract poses the traditional discussions within translation concerning fidelity and freedom, authenticity and the lack of it.


– A list of different languages’ definitions of “translation”. 
I’ve included this, because in any discussion of translation it is also useful to take on board the fact that translation itself is an unstable concept. Different cultures emphasise and value different aspects of it, so it is in this respect culturally bound and open to interpretation. It also gives the etymology of the term and compares the process of translation with that of interpretation, and I think this is a useful to distinction to draw in any discussion of translation and also to its application to writing press releases.


I’ll bring some more shorter quotes on the day, so we can feed these into the conversation.


I’ve also attached Benjamin’s The Task of the Translator, for any keen people who have to time or the inclination to read it.


It’s a pivotal text and its really useful to be acquainted with it.


Food would be great, so we can ruminate.


B xx 

Brigit Connolly
Mobile: 0781 787 5492 


Andrew Chesterman.docx
Data from different language families.docx

A Talk (The one that begins with David Foster Wallace)

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Tim Steer <tim.steer@network.rca.ac.uk>
Date: 23 March 2011 14:32
Subject: Fwd: A Talk (The one that begins with David Foster Wallace)

i think this would be of interest to anyone who went to the artist talk onion discussion…

from previous talks: “

David Raymond Conroy’s talks are an attempt to effectively and sincerely communicate something on the adequacy of expression. We are presented with a selection of various references and parts of works that have some significance to the way in which you could begin to talk about something, or say something. Within each clip there is a certain tension between a formal device or a technique and an apparent emotional content or honesty. What links these images is not just the form of their method but some genuine involvement in the content they express. The way each image corresponds to the next is not actively contradictory or disjunctive, the clips do not go together well, but they form a sort of outline of referents, an object to be taken away.”


Begin forwarded message:

Date: 23 March 2011 14:08:17 GMT
Subject: A Talk (The one that begins with David Foster Wallace)

A Talk (The one that begins with David Foster Wallace)

David Raymond Conroy will be giving a talk at Seventeen on Saturday 2nd April at 5pm, entitled A Talk (The one that begins with David Foster Wallace).

The event will run for one hour, and as always refreshments will be provided.

Attendance is free but space is limited. Please rsvp to tim@seventeengallery.com to reserve your place.