How-to-guide: Speak Like You Go to Art School (*if you don’t already)

In art school, whether that may be Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), or School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), us art kids quickly adapt to “art school talk” and the language used within art academia to rough it through harsh critiques and papers.


  1. To discuss two works/comparison of anything: “The conversation…” or “The dialogue…”

Using the word “dialogue” or “conversation” when comparing a work to anything is automatically going to enhance what you’re talking about, making the comparison seem alive and well. It’s the easy art school trick to sound smart as hell.

Example: “The conversation that is happening between the developed clean public green space where you film your performance and being held captive by wearing dense garbage bags suffocating the body’s skin creates an interesting dialogue within the area of environmentalism, pollution, and the human body and how the trapped body interacts within the space.”


2. To discuss the work you’re not sure why you made it: “The body”

Now many artists are truly and genuinely dedicated to the work around the body and the human form, but for many students in art school, using the term “the body” to describe your work (*that you’re unsure of why you made it) is a surefire way to earn some brownie points.

Example: “This piece really sparks the conversation (*refer to #1) I want to have within the human experience and the body that we live and thrive in. Our permanent home is the body, and to discover and to explore the movement within our capabilities and what the body can do in all sorts of experiences is the source of inspiration.”


3. Self-awareness

This is easily understood outside of the art school experience, but somehow once you enter those doors, you’ll be hearing this on a regular basis.

Examples: “They were self aware within their performance work and you can see it in their x, y, and z.” ;; “My work is the dialogue I want to have about the body and becoming self aware within that space.” (*when you get really good, you can combine #1, #2, and #3!)


4. Phallic

Suddenly, somehow, everything is phallic.


Now you can speak like you go to art school.