Connect - Seminar on Social Practice Art

Questions Sparked by the Articles:

  • How can artists make social practice art that avoids white saviorism or a colonialist mindset?

    • In that way, is it possible for artist who do not share the identities and experiences of the people who the social practice art aimed at to make this style of art?

  • Does art always belong in a museum or institute?

  • What are some positives and negatives of this form of art?

I am most drawn to this type of art because of the way that it bucks the system. The article by Randy Kennedy mentioned that institutions struggle when it comes to the question of, “How can you present art that is rarely conceived with a museum of exhibition in mind, for example community projects, often run by collaboratives, that might go on for years, inviting participation more than traditional art appreciation?” (Kennedy) However, to me this is exactly what makes social practice art so appealing. The style overturns the capitalist notion that art must feed into the national or international art market in order to be valuable or important. Art and artists that are groundbreaking is often decided by how much a piece can make at Sotheby’s or Christie’s. Beyond, that it is decided by how large of an institution the piece is held in. Is it the Guggenheim? The Tate? All institutions which greatly profit from the holding and public showing of this art. This kind of art is impossible to fit into that capitalist art market mold. Thus, it is taking the impact and appreciation of art to a great level.

...we wanted to start envisioning art more broadly, as a place where ideas can happen and action might be able to take place
— Kristina Van Dyke, as quoted in "Outside the Citadel, Social Practice Art Is Intended to Nurture" by Randy Kennedy

The one thing which I am wary of in regards to social practice art, is the manner in which it is carried out. I can see ways in which this type of art could be quickly made into a way for white people, people with money, and other privileged individuals sweep into less privileged communities and attempt to “save them” or the like. Artists who work in this field of art must be vigilant and constantly make sure that they are not speaking down to those who may benefit from an art project. In my opinion, for social practice art to work, it must be striving for some kind of state of equality or lifting up. This cannot be done when the artist or group putting on the project is patronizing and hinges on someone being a savior. This somewhat gets at the idea discussed in the article by Carolina Miranda of how social practice art should be critiqued. It is definitely not easy to discuss and critique, but this does not mean that it should not be approached with the same level of analysis as a painting. Especially since human lives are involved.

As agents of change, social-practice projects can seem wanting: the scale is often small, the works are temporary, and success may depend on the charisma of a single artist. On an esthetic level, they can also be befuddling, perceived as too much like community organizing to feel truly like art.
— Carolina Miranda, "How the Art of Social Practice Is Changing the World, One Row House at a Time"

However, when carried out carefully and thoughtfully, social practice art is art at its best. Many people put there definition of art somewhere along the lines of something to make the world more beautiful or a better place. Social practice art is a form that can easily do both of those things. It can connect people, form communities, improve lives, and share a message of hope. This is incredibly important. While all art should does not need to be social practice art, social practice art deserves a respected place in the canon of art forms and art making practices.