Thomasin Sleigh — 2018 — Pantograph Punch
Thomasin Sleigh on the power of ekphrasis in women’s literature.
Let’s say you’re reading a review of an exhibition online and you arrive at the paragraph where the art is materially described. Do you:
Skip it and scroll down to find some images
Google the artist’s name to see if they have an Instagram account
Find the gallery’s website and look at pictures of the show
Open another window and start reading something else
Is it necessary, in 2018, to describe art in words? Images are cheaper, easier and more accurate. I’ve wondered why, when writing for the web, instead of a paragraph describing the art, review sites don’t just have a hyperlink to a gallery of install images and videos. Or just more images; often there are a few miserly pictures dotted throughout the text, when surely it is easy to show the exhibition in its entirety. In the absence of the art, the objects, or at least images of them, the translation into words often leaves a feeling of lack, of deficiency, of not-quite-enough – the feeling that the text is overreaching and falling short. A photograph is a quicker way to get what the reader wants, rather than slogging through the tedium of words that are, inevitably, inadequate substitutes.
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