All the better for being vague? The authority of text | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 13, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1753-5190
  • E-ISSN: 1753-5204


In , George Eliot makes a claim for the superiority of writing over painting: ‘Language is a finer medium’, she has her character claim, because it is ‘[…] all the better for being vague’ (1871: 140). This is a perceived advantage that many artists would find it difficult to agree with as we find the use of text in both academia and in relationship to visual art to be anything but vague. On the contrary, language (and specifically writing) is the means by which hierarchies of power are established and reinforced and it is crucial in defining and conveying the meaning of images. For artists, this poses particular, well-rehearsed problems as we try to find a path between the ‘not-knowing’, the uncertainties of the visual and the authority of the written word. Rather than becoming trapped in the conventions of authoritative text, this article argues for a different way of writing in both academia and in the art world at large: one that reflects the processes of visual practice and thinking. Drawing on current experiments in collaborative writing, it argues for forms of texts that are more akin to speech: texts that forgo the authority of the word in favour of approaches that provide a space where uncertain and imperfectly formed ideas can be expressed and tested.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): authority; collaboration; feminist; text; uncertainty; visual art
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