4 Language and art
In the second half of this course we look at a particular context for linguistic creativity, which we can use as an example of some of the ideas we have discussed above. The context we focus on here is the ways in which language is used in – or sometimes alongside – works of fine art. We will look at what one might call ‘language art’ or ‘text-based art’ (works of art which involve language as a key part of their composition), and assesses how language operates in these contexts. One of the reasons for looking at this is that language art is, by definition, an explicitly ‘creative’ act or product. It is a forum where the way in which language is creatively used is purposefully to the fore and presented as something for the viewer to contemplate. To put it another way, one of the defining features of art is that it is presenting itself (or, more accurately, someone is presenting it) as art. It is understood as the product of a creative act, and thus its use of language becomes, by implication, an explicitly creative use of language. Consequently, examining how language is used in this context is a way of looking at a particularly creative type of language use. In our exploration of what is understood by ‘linguistic creativity’, language art presupposes from the outset that what is being done falls within this category.