Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Colonic irritation

I don't know about you, but I am sick of the colon. Not in everyday writing you understand: five minutes' perusal of my blog will have revealed that clearly I am a habitual user; a persistent offender; and a pedant of the first order. No, specifically I refer to the habit -- some might say the dreary convention -- of art historians to craft double-barrelled essay titles, requiring a colon to separate the fancy bit of the title from the meat-and-potatoes of what the article's really about. You know the sort of thing I mean: 'One off the Wrist: A History of Expressionism in New Zealand Art'; or 'Hee haw, Hee haw!: Creative New Zealand Goes to Venice'.

While the only use anyone under 25 has for the colon is to make emoticons :), the contents pages of the artworld are in thrall to it :(. Just take a look at the last few issues of Art New Zealand if you don't believe me. Or the Auckland Art Gallery's otherwise excellent journal, Reading Room.

Studying the contents page of the last-but-one issue of Art New Zealand, one might wonder if there was an editorial policy requiring the double-barrel. Or if William Dart has a jumbo pack of letraset dots with a use-by date sitting on his desk.

Here's the line-up:

William Dart Building on a Tradition: Auckland's Holloway Press
Ngahiraka Mason Reflection & Reconciliation: Pakeha Now! at Nelson
John Hurrell Tumbling Whorls of Hazy Chroma: The Recent Neon Reliefs of Paul Hartigan
Alan Wright Plane issues: Geoff Thornley's Constructions 1978-82
Richard Wolfe At the Altar of History: William Dunning's Visions of Colonial New Zealand
Gail Ross Art & Industry: Frederick Halford Coventry (1905-1997)
Damian Skinner Edgar Mansfield: New Zealand's Extraordinary Artist-Craftsman
Peter Ireland Shaking to Pieces: The Photographs of Richard Barraud

In the issue before that, Edward Hanfling amazingly managed to get TWO colons into eight words with his article 'Salon of 2007: Turbulence: The Third Auckland Triennial'. Not his fault, you might argue, as he was only quoting the already conjoined exhibition title: but it's the kind of snafu that likewise occurs when two people with double-barrelled names have children. What if someone quotes Hanfling's essay title in the title of their own article? Where does it all stop, etc.?

So, full marks to Ron Brownson, writing in the latest issue of Reading Room. After 'Archives Become Him: The Giovanni Intra Archive' by Robert Leonard, and Lars Bang Larsen's 'The Surface No Longer Holds: Affect, Powerlessness and Obscene Fluctuations of Meaning in New Occult Art', there was Ron's sturdily no-nonsense no-punctuation title -- 'Graphic Works by Edward Ruscha at Auckland City Art Gallery'. Let's have some more like this, please: thank you very much. ;)


Courtney Johnston said...

The colon is one thing - but here's an object lesson in why you wouldn't want to delete a food critic's final indefinite article.

Ron Brownson said...

I have been enjoying reading your great blog!
Ron Brownson