Social Practice and Art as Activism: Ways Artists Bring About Change

 Semester “One” #StudioMFA. 

Collection of quotes/excerpts from things I’ve read for researching “Social Practice and Art as Activism: Ways Artists Bring About Change”. Updating with more quotes/selections as I go.


(See my blog post notes: Where We Belong)

Of the more than twenty artists’ works considered here, all scrutinize unconventional platforms for expression, new models for public dialog, and wildly differing notions of public space. Several historical works provide astonishingly prescient context for considering present day issues, while each of the contemporary works echoes the politics of earlier works. Together, the collection offers a compelling long view of tactical interventions associated with spatial justice and identity politics. –Christian L. Frock, Public Works: Artists’ Interventions 1970s–Now, catalogue for the current show. (Mills College Art Museum through Dec. 13th.)

Disentangling what is aesthetically affecting from what is politically effective is one of the vital tasks of criticism. Muddling the two can only do a disservice to both. –Ben Davis, 9.5 Thesis on Art and Class, (How Political are Aesthetic Politics?)

This issue gets at how social-practice works are critiqued. Should they be evaluated for the social changes they produce, for the elements of performance they incorporate, or for the esthetic qualities of the environments in which they take place? “It’s not easy to talk about this work,” says Creative Time’s [Nato] Thompson. “You have to synthesize so many different things—the social aspects, what it does politically, as well as the cultural elements.” He continues, “It’s really about thinking about process: Who does it connect? And how does it connect them? And what makes this a unique experience for those involved?” –Carolina Miranda, How the Art of Social Practice is Changing the World, One Row House at a Time (ArtNews, April 2014)

Defining the actual parameters of “social practice art” seems to be a red herring. Sometimes a dinner party should just be a dinner party, sometimes calling a dinner party an art project makes it a richer experience for the individuals participating… . Often times it creates hierarchical distinctions between artists in art school and ordinary people with creative hobbies and interests that don’t have anything to do with an art career. But while it continues to be problematic territory, the larger anxiety it brings up is pretty interesting. How are artists defining the communities their work operates in, especially when traditional contexts such as commercial galleries, museums, and non-profits aren’t the intended landing pad?… . If social practice offers us anything, it openly asks not what kind of artist one wants to be but what kind of person one wants to be and how one wants their work to operate in the world.–from “Social Practice Art’s Identity Crisis” (Bad at Sports, 2011)