Question: why does art use funny punctuation?
Might seem an odd one to ask so early in the life of this ning site, but I've noticed a really odd use of inverted commas in art, which bugs me.
Unlike any other discipline I know, people who write about art seem to use double quotations for direct quotes, but single quotations for those sort of remarks that one would maybe wave one's hands in the air for. What this ends up meaning is that quotes of one or two words become single quotes, quotes of more length use double quotes.
This is a sentence from an article I'm just editing:
The artist Trish Adams then concluded the day by talking about ‘machina carnis’, an interactive installation developed after Adams changed adult stem cells from her own blood sample into beating cardiac cells, declaring herself to be her very own “human guinea pig.”
As an editor, this bugs me. It's not echoed in other areas of writing that I've met. There's nothing about it in the Guardian style guide or similar. I can't find anything to justify it in Fowlers. Although you might assume that 'machina carnis' is a concept and "human guineau pig" is a direct quotation, if you start thinking about it, they're both concepts and they're both quotations, so the distinction is artificial. From my point of view, nothing is really gained by this use beyond a kind of finickyness.
And yet the use is really widespread: am I missing something?
[I promise not to ask anything as tedious in future]