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Dan Fox defends pretentiousness


Over at the Guardian, frieze editor Dan Fox writes about pretentiousness in all its shapes in forms, even coming to its defense. It seems Fox has dipped his toe into writing for more wide-ranging audiences than a trade magazine such as frieze would allow. Check out the full longread via the Guardian.

The pretentious flaws of others affirm your own intellectual or aesthetic expertise. Simultaneously, their fakery highlights the contours of your down-to-earth character and virtuous ordinariness. It is your plain speaking that makes you trustworthy. That person’s pretentious use of words hides the fact that they do not have anything of substance to say.

It is axiomatic that pretentiousness makes no one look good. But pretension is measured using prejudiced metrics. The baselines against which authenticity and pretentiousness are calibrated vary wildly. Antipretension critics conscript words such as “logic”, “reason”, and “the facts”, to make their assessments look objective. The accuser of pretension – naturally thinking themselves to be the real deal, in possession of an educated and discerning mind – believes that somewhere else in the world there is a genuine article that the pretentious thing or person aspires to be, but is falling short of or exaggerating it.

This accuser rarely itemises both what is being aspired to, and just why it is that the subject in question fails to make the grade. When a person decides that a restaurant is pretentious, the “authentic” restaurant to which it’s being compared and the values that provide The One True Restaurant with its bona fides are seldom revealed. The tendency is to understand it as the cousin of affectation, one of the dark arts of charlatanry. To be pretentious is to be deceitful, untrustworthy. If a book on pretentiousness is deemed pretentious, no example of a plain-speaking, salt-of-the-earth study of the topic will be given. There is no need. Pretension just is.

*Image of pretentious feline via Buzzfeed