Tautology Tuesday: “Cultural arts”

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[This entry originally appeared on Clare Lynch’s blog, goodcopybadcopy]

You’d think that no one truly interested in either culture or the arts would use the tautology “cultural arts”. After all, the arts are a part of culture and culture includes a variety arts. Either “culture” or “the arts” will do – and will certainly be more accurate than using the phrase “cultural arts”.

But 1,540,000 instances on Google suggest many people think otherwise. Indeed, the topic has its own journal devoted to it: the somewhat pompously titled “Aesthetica Magazine – The Cultural Arts Publication”.

The phrase seems to crop up among organisations desperate not to draw a distinction between high art and low art. In effect, they’re trying to rebrand culture as art – hence “cultural arts” can embrace everything from blockbuster movies and popular music to furniture design, fashion and architecture (sorry, I mean “the art of the built environment”).

Forget “Hamlet”, Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and anything at all that was given the thumbs up by Alan Clarke in his admittedly now rather crusty-seeming TV series, “Civilisation”. “Cultural arts” are interdisciplinary, diverse, and unmistakably hip and now.

Unless, like me, you can’t ignore that nagging sound of a box being ticked.

Like all tautology, “cultural arts” sounds desperate, untrustworthy and just a little bit fake. But by now you’ve probably got the message – so this will be my last post on the subject.

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