Because I missed my chance to post last week’s “Week In Review,” this Sunday is going to be a double whammy. I’m post last week’s Week In Review first, here, and then, this weeks directly after…If you’re confused now, just hang on to your hat. It’ll all make sense in the end. First, I start with the week before last….
The week begins and ends with comics, actually â€” and in this instance we started with Faye Kahn who published a piece called “Comics and the Aesthetic Economy”:
While social evidence that the rich is dividing farther away from the poor becomes more & more unavoidable, it seems that at the same time the art world is inversely nudging the them closer together. Traditional distinctions between â€œhighâ€ & â€œlowâ€ art are fading. In his essay â€œComrades of Time,â€ discussing the definition of the term â€œcontemporary,â€ Boris Groys states that â€œâ€¦at the turn of the twenty-first century, art entered a new era-one of mass artistic production, & not only mass art consumption.â€ Art-making is no longer restricted to a higher, educated or professional class. With the encouragement of advancing technologies from the ball point pen to the smartphone & increased visibility of the individual creative practice via the internet has reified this notion of art as â€œmass-cultural practiceâ€ ad infinitum (probably to some ad nauseum). To track the currency of art between upper & lower economic & academic classes & attempt to elucidate the creation of connecting middle classes of art, for instance independent comics & publication as well as social media experiments, it may be helpful to recognize the presence of commercial aesthetics in all classes. By following this reciprocal currency of consumerist media to high art & back, there are many significant signs pointing to a possible future of a classless art world.Â
San Francisco-basedÂ Jeffrey Songco posted an interview with Glen Helfand, a man rumored to be “the only relevant art writer in the city.â€ Songco and Helfand sit down discuss, Proximities,Â an exhibit Helfand put together at the Asian Art Museum. When asked to describe what the show is about, Helfand replies:
I like to talk about the show from the standpoint of it being a challenge to solve. The Asian Art Museum has been interested in opening up its audience and to embrace more contemporary work. I had to start with the idea of why I didnâ€™t feel so connected to the institution. Iâ€™ve always felt a bit of intimidation, not knowing a whole lot about Asian art, not knowing how to pronounce the names of various contemporary Chinese artists. I figure that people probably feel the same about the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Kibbitz. My initial premise was to highlight how artists have some kind of connection to Asia even if it wasnâ€™t the expected connection.
Milwaukee resident, Shane McAdams, has begun a new series of posts, and in this particular case, writes about a low-to-the-ground project run by Ashley Janke, Lara Ohland, and Tim Stoelting,Â called The Imagination Giants:
After a year-and-a-half of writing about more basic cultural differences between New York and Milwaukee, the results of my cultural reconnaissance will now take the form of local art coverage. This being the first piece, Iâ€™d like to mention that, unlike NYC where almost everything including what passes for â€˜undergroundâ€™ are usually pre-dug, locating art culture in Milwaukee has proven to be a little, well, subterranean.Â So far the digging has been the most gratifying part of being here. Not having the luxury of a media guide dedicated to informing masses of art goers about what is yet undiscovered, is a pleasure. Searching for art in Milwaukee makes me feel feral â€“ itâ€™s the art equivalent to hunting and gathering.
Eric Asboe asks some important questions about building local art community in relation to a more global vision of contemporary art:
What role can local artists play in a global museum? MAEP [Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program] exhibitions are far more than an experiment in thinking locally. The exhibitions are dynamic; the artwork is excellent. More importantly, by supporting an artistic peer selection process, the MIA helps build a community of artists, specifically in and with the resources of a major art institution. Alan Brewerâ€™s exhibition pushes the question further. When I met with him in his MAEP exhibition, he stopped to talk to a visitor, an older man who had written a description. They discussed his description and possibilities for recreations. The transformative power of that individual conversation and the way Brewer has empowered all visitors to the MIA to engage in completely new ways with its collection demonstrates to me the MIA is not just asking how local artists can shape a global museum, but, more importantly, how we can all shape the museums of the future.
I posted two interviews this week. The first is a result of the Open Engagement Conference in Portland, where I met and interviewed artist, Dillon de Give about his project, 4-6 Dogs at the Museum. I fell in love with idea of an interspecies social practice, though with good reason, DeGive is more practical in his approach (and terminology):
I love that phrase â€œinter-species social practice.â€ But I guess I would be a bit more conservative in my response. Iâ€™ve observed that dogs in public are always serving as mediators betweenÂ humans. Thereâ€™s a dog park across the street from my apartment and everyone seems to know each other! I live right there and I donâ€™t know any of these people because I donâ€™t own a dog. I am interested in other species as a conceptual complement to existing human-based social practices. I think that when we are talking about a given social practice we are implicitly making assumptions of what human-ness is, so having some idea of a non-human present in the discourse is, in a way, almost necessary. Why are cat videos so immensely popular with human viewers on youtube? On the other hand, imagining something like sociality existingÂ betweenÂ humans and other species is difficult to do in the present, because of our seemingly absolute need to monopolize the environment. In most cases itâ€™s just not really a fair playing field where a balanced relationship that you might call â€œsocialâ€ could pan out. But maybe in the distant futureâ€¦
Then I had a great opportunity to interview former SAIC graduate, Jaye Rhee, about her work with theÂ The Merce Cunningham Dance Company,Â The Flesh and the Book.Â Among other things, we discussed Rhee’s interest in traditions of movement, and whether or not the body can become a unit:
I was more interested in the character and history of individual dancers under the umbrella of Merce Cunningham Company. CunninghamÂ dancerâ€™s movements are Mercified but individually they all have different characteristics.Â We all have different history as individuals, but there are also larger histories which a family shares as a smallest unit of the society, then there are larger groups and larger groupsâ€¦..and so on. Merce Cunningham dancers make up another kind of familial unit.Â Even though the dancersâ€™ movements were different, a fewÂ audiences actually recognized that the dancers somehow evoke Merce Cunninghamâ€™s style.
Sara Drake posted a shout out for “the second annualÂ Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, fondly known to comics creators and fans alike as CAKE.” (This, incidentally, is where I happened to be last weekend as well). It took place in a massive gymnasium at the Center on Halsted, featuring a huge throng of comic makers, buyers and additional public programming.
Bailey Romain rounded out the week by interviewing Luke Daly about local (and ever magnanimous coop print shop) Spudnik Press’ latest programming addition, The Annex:
As more of a â€œcleanâ€ space than the printshop next door, the Annex also provides an expanded exhibition space for Spudnik. Curatorial duties rotate between Spudnik coordinators. The most recent show, Charlie Megnaâ€™s Lost Tribes of Renni, which opened last night, was organized by Luke Daly â€“ a Spudnik member who has been a driving force in developing the Annex. Luke co-edits and runs the small pressÂ arrow as aarow. I also co-teach a class with him at the Annex, which will be running for the third time in the fall.Â Charlie MegnaÂ is the director of the Peanut Gallery and a founding member of the Peanut Collective. His show will be up through early August.
I am accustomed to diminishing the importance of an individual dancer’s history in the course of a staged performance. Unconsciously, it’s as if I imagine performers congealing for a moment on a stage in order to manifest the agenda of an invisible author. For dancers, especially, it is always about the body â€” the body as a structure capable of grace and choreographed strength. Over the last month, artist Jaye Rhee debuted a 4-channel video piece that engages the body as a minimalist structure, while emphasizing the dancers’ previous life in The Merce Cunningham Dance Company. The Flesh and the BookÂ places these figures in a musical score of five rubber bands, flattening a three-dimensional space into an illusion of two.Â The bodies enact a series of choreographed gestures, who’s style and form evoke a Cunningham past â€” like moving archives of embodied knowledge.Â The Flesh and the Book, closes tomorrow atÂ Doosan Gallery, 533 West 25th St. in New York.
Caroline Picard:Â How did you first conceive ofÂ The Flesh and The Book?Â
Jaye Rhee:Â In 2007, I made the work called “Notes.”Â At that time, I was interested in re-producing two things: a popular children’s play called “Rubber Band Play,” and re-stagingÂ visually resemblingÂ it as musical notes. It is also known as “Chinese Jump Rope” in America.
The rubber band play requires memorizing all the steps and jumps from the beginning till the end as rules with repeated practice. That, I think, is methodologically similar to learning playing music instrument in a way because learning a musical instrument also requires both brain and body memory. So the Chinese Jump Rope Play and leaning a musical instrument become parallel. I wanted to re-produce both events at the same time.
Rules and regulations often governed my childhood and I couldn’t help but think of that when I worked on theÂ Notes.
When I worked onÂ Notes, I knew that it would become the mother piece of another work. Â One art work often yields another work. Even though I am the one who creates the work, it is as if the work has a life of its own, one more quick-witted than me. In other words, many times, art works are a lot smarter than I am.
I was sure of two things when I worked onÂ The Flesh and the Book: 1) I am going to play with space more, for example, three-dimensional space transformed into two-dimensional space. Only the size of the figures and trace of the movements will allow viewers to feel the space. 2) I want to work with mature dancers.
I did not have title for the new work. While pondering that, I happened to think of the poemÂ Brise MarineÂ byÂ Stephane MallarmÃ©, and the first line reads,Â “The flesh is sad, Alas! and I have read all the books.”
I wrote the sentence down on my sketchbook. Â And after some time, especially when I started to meet dancers for the project, I realized thatÂ my knowledge ofÂ dance and dancers did not come from direct bodily experience, but had been learned through books. It is completely out of context of the poem, but the words flesh and book Â stayed in the title. Also, it is hard not to think of book as music sheets, flesh as body, and dance.
CP:Â What is like working with the dancers that used to work for Merce Cunningham? Did you spend a long time developing the piece with them?Â
JR:Â It took a long time to find dancers. When I started to search for dancers, I looked for dancers who had gone through the transitional stage in their career as dancers. Â Many dancers face career changes early in their lives compared to other profession. And being a dancer is not just a profession but is also an identity. Thus I didn’t want to work with dancers who were physically young. I searched Â for dancers who already experienced the high peak of their physical youth, in other words, someone who has already been there.
While I was still searching for dancers in 2011, Merce Cunningham company disbanded; that event made me wanted to work with them even more. I always liked the geometric quality that Merce Cunningham company had and was excited to work with them. They seem to embody a reminder â€” something that was once there. We know what they were, we will remember it. It’s like a once-young body, or the idea youth.
It took a while to meet Cunningham’sÂ dancers. Â In the beginning, I attended Merce Cunningham dance workshops and met many great modern dancers who were not necessarily Cunningham’s.Â Then again at the Cunningham’sÂ technique classes inÂ Fall ofÂ 2012, I met original dancers of Merce CunninghamÂ with a help from Robert Swinston.
The dancers I worked with are great. Â Once I met them, I knew that it was going to be great. Everything went very rapidly.
CP:Â You also had another collaborator with this work, Elliott Sharp. How did you all work together? What were the dynamics like?
JR:Â I askedÂ ElliottÂ to come up with specific soundÂ that I can use for the project, and he gave me 67 sound files. I selected ones that are appropriate for the dancer’s movements. Â Communicating with other artists is not always easy. Art is abstract, concept is abstract, and language itself is abstract. But then there is a moment that everything intersects. That’s when the magic happens.
CP:Â I feel like you’re interested in the body as a unit, of some kind. Everyone wears black, standing in relation to the same 5-line structure in an otherwise white space. In your case, however, you platform the dancers’ history. Do you feel like something of that history with Cunningham is ghosted into the viewers’ experience? What happens to the dancers’ history with Merce Cunningham inÂ The Flesh and The Book?
JR:Â I was more interested in the character and history of individual dancers under the umbrella of Merce Cunningham Company. CunninghamÂ dancer’s movements are Mercified but individually they all have different characteristics.Â We all have different history as individuals, but there are also larger histories which a family shares as a smallest unit of the society, then there are larger groups and larger groups…..and so on. Merce Cunningham dancers make up another kind of familial unit.Â Even though the dancers’ movements were different, a fewÂ audiences actually recognized that the dancers somehow evoke Merce Cunningham’s style.
CP:Â Thinking about the work asa 4-channel piece, and then seeing framed stills from the video, I wanted to ask you about movement and how that ties in. In other words, does the piece change for you if the “movement” (which refers I think to music and dance) is extracted? How do you think of your photographs as compared to your video?
JR:Â I consider these mediums separate, with different approaches for both. It’s like siblings with same parents. Each medium has its own life. Different mediums show different aspect of one thing.Â I use the photographs because they capture the 2- dimensional representational quality.
CP: How does this piece ties into some of your other work? I noticed that you have done a number of works that play with the idea and structure of environment. I was thinking aboutÂ Bambi,Â for instance, or Polar Bear,Â Swan, Cherry Blossoms, Niagra; really so many of your works seem to juxtapose a still tableau with a playful in-time interaction. IsÂ The Flesh and The Book on a similar tip?
JR: ForÂ The Flesh and the Book,Â theÂ performers held a string (thick black rubber band) between them.Â The strings were at least 3 meters awayÂ fromÂ each other. I really wanted to expandÂ theÂ ideaÂ ofÂ transforming 3-dimensional space intoÂ aÂ 2-dimensional tableau look. So that a viewer can only feel the space by followingÂ theÂ dancersâ€™Â movementsÂ very carefully and watching the body scale change.Â The Flesh and the BookÂ isÂ aÂ special work whichÂ isÂ leadingÂ my interest intoÂ working inÂ 3-dimensional space.Â I think I can say,Â theÂ linesÂ between performers sort ofÂ played theÂ role of a tableauÂ â€“ an invisibleÂ and flexible tableau.
Of the many adventures that I had at Open Engagement, I enjoyed an evening at the Portland Art Museum. Their annual program, “Shine A Light,” came together in conjunction with PSU’s Social Practice MFA, in an effort to “ask visitors to reconsider what is possible in a museum.” It featured a number of MFA artist’s works including a reenactment of a lost Grateful Dead concert (“Turn on Your Lovelight” by Travis Neel), a dental trailer offering free dental work to visitors (“Dentistry at the Museum” by Zachary Gough), a booth in the basement where viewers were encouraged to record stories of objectified objects and being objectified (“ObjectificationÂ Stories” by EricaÂ ThomasÂ and Heather Donahue), an invitation to commune with dead artists via mediums from Portland’s own Psychic Siamese Terror through select works of art (“The Dead Artists Salon” by Alysha Shaw) and much much more. (full program here) At every turn through the museum that night, you could feel the institutional context in a concentrated experiment in flexibility. It felt like a kind of earnest game, one in which visitors were simultaneously challenged to revise and open up their own expectations. It was a glorious mayhem. Outside, between the museum’s two buildings, people of all ages danced expressively. A beer truck stood across from an artisanal pizza tent, as the torches to PAM’s second entrance (what was a Masonic temple in a former life) bloomed brightly in the coming dusk.Â Artisanal popcorn was also for sale.Â In the midst of this, I ran intoÂ Dillon de Give, another Social Practice MFA presenting work. His project,Â 4-6 Dogs in the MuseumÂ furthers the desire to flex the museum structure, except in de Give’s case, he tried to apply that flexibility to non-humans.
Caroline Picard: Can you talk about where 4-6 Dogs Allowed in the Museum originated as an idea for you?
Dillon de Give:Â The project originated as an off-handed comment I made in a brainstorming session. I wrote down something like, â€œallow dogs into the museum, have some sort of plan for when they poopâ€. I didnâ€™t think about it very much at the time, but then for some reason it kept coming back into my head.
Iâ€™ve been interested in the power relations present in our dealings with animals for a while. Dogs are the most common â€œother halfâ€œ of a public human-animal relationship â€” especially in the city. They are the animals that people walk side-by-side with, and many see dogs as family members. At the same time they are a point of mystery, like art.
That relationship was the subject of the work, but the process of examining the subject by partnering with an art institution was also important to developing the idea. I entered into these dealings being identified as a student, as much as an artist. And as such, the strength of my position as a negotiator was recognized, but somewhat limited.
The initial proposal was to open the doors of the museum carte blanche to dogs during Shine A Light, the one night event that â€œasks visitors to reconsider what is possible in a museum.â€ An official mechanism by which to allow dogs into the museum was attractive to me, because it involved a conversation around breaking a taboo. Admitting a new kind of life into the institution, proved to be fairly complicated. Have you ever tried to bring an apple into another country? It can get you into a lot of trouble. Yet I knew it was not out of the realm of possibility, because the museum was legally bound to admit service dogs.
The initial proposal also stated that any difficulties, negotiations, and ad hoc measures of control necessary to execute the idea (which at that time called Dogs Allowed in the Museum) would be considered part of the work. I didnâ€™t know how much resistance the idea would actually meet with (a lot) but including this provision allowed it to move forward. The project changed many times, and almost died. At one point we were discussing a version called A Dog Allowed in the Museum. I had to let go of the initial proposal for universal dog entry. But it was important to me that the dogs that participated be â€œnon-workingâ€ dogs, and we held onto that.
CP: I feel like this piece attempts to open up the field of social practice outside the human sphere of experience. That effort could have interesting ramifications, for instance, what does inter-species social practice look like? Are you interested in that question? Do you have ideas about what it could lead to?
DDG:Â I love that phrase â€œinter-species social practice.â€ But I guess I would be a bit more conservative in my response. Iâ€™ve observed that dogs in public are always serving as mediators between humans. Thereâ€™s a dog park across the street from my apartment and everyone seems to know each other! I live right there and I donâ€™t know any of these people because I donâ€™t own a dog. I am interested in other species as a conceptual complement to existing human-based social practices. I think that when we are talking about a given social practice we are implicitly making assumptions of what human-ness is, so having some idea of a non-human present in the discourse is, in a way, almost necessary. Why are cat videos so immensely popular with human viewers on youtube? On the other hand, imagining something like sociality existing between humans and other species is difficult to do in the present, because of our seemingly absolute need to monopolize the environment. In most cases itâ€™s just not really a fair playing field where a balanced relationship that you might call â€œsocialâ€ could pan out. But maybe in the distant futureâ€¦
CP: What was it like talking to dog owners in the dog park about this project?Â
DDG:Â Interestingly, during the initial stages of the project it was as hard to convince dog owners on the merit of allowing dogs into the museum, as it was to convince the museum itself. Most dogs are really not interested in spending time in a foreign indoor environment. When I determined that the goal would be to have the owner choose a particular artwork as a hypothesis about what the dog would appreciate, then the conversation became easier. I had a simple, but precise interaction that I would use to engage people. The actual dog park was not the most productive place to approach owners. Sometimes people would be weirded out and walk away, but the people who decided to participate saw value in the idea of having their animal enter into a context of art-meaning.
CP: What do you think the dogs saw when engaging select works of art? Do you think their owners chose works of art that their dogs would like? Did the owners’ selection have more to do with their dog’s disposition, or with their sense of ‘dogness’?Â
DDG:Â Each dog was given a â€œpersonalâ€ moment with the work, and we would all watch the dog to see what they would do. I donâ€™t think they saw anything special. Maybe they did, but we have no way of knowing. They acknowledged the art objects spatially. They looked at them. They sniffed them. I think the owners that participated knew their dogs well, and in most cases took into consideration their particular dogâ€™s point-of-view in the choice of artwork. Most objects were near the ground, often three dimensional, and often made of natural materials. One was a sculptural representation of another animal. There was one low-hanging painting that was chosen because it depicted a beach that the owners and dog visited on vacation. One of the owners, Lis, chose Useful Art #5: The Western Motel by Nancy and Edward Kienholz, which basically recreates a kind of domestic environment. I do think that the dogs had a sense of accomplishment in navigating a new environment without too many incidents.
CP: How did the museum context, as a human institution, respond to a living, non-human presence?Â
DDG:Â It was a very controlled experience. Members of security, collections, and education needed to be present. It was stipulated that the visits happen after museum hours, in brief 20-minute segments, one dog at a time. A dog trainer also accompanied the group to provide a level of assurance. The first visit was quite tense, by the final visit, it was more relaxed because we knew what all of our roles were and had a better sense of the choreography involved.
Some big things worth mentioning â€” maybe…
1. RAPID PULSE, an international performance festival, is taking place this weekend and next week. The Chicago Reader just wrote a great something something, with the evocative sub-header “Wafaa Bilal wants Twitter’s help to inflate a giant head, and other oddities, at Defibrillator Gallery’s second annual Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival.” Find out more info about that here, or if you want, download the schedule of events via this link: RP13_poster-brochure.
According to The Reader:
Pure voodoo at its best, performance art traffics in psychic violence, provoking questions that viewers, by virtue of their emotional disturbance, feel compelled to answer. Defibrillator Gallery’s Rapid Pulse, now in its second year, is designed to make the genre more talkative: the festival, which includes window shows, public spectacle, and video screenings, coordinates performances with discussions, spread over ten days and four venues (Defibrillator, 1136 N. Milwaukee; Electrodes, the gallery’s front windows; Hub, 1535 N. Milwaukee; Nightingale, 1084 N. Milwaukee). Come for the bad vibes, stay for the nauseating hypersonic jolt. (Jena Cutie)
2. EAT WHAT ARTISTS EAT:
Our friends at ACRE launched a Kickstarter Campaign for their unique Residency Kitchen Program. There (among other things) you can get a copy of the ACRE cookbook, and support a good program that feeds creative acts/minds all summer long. In their words:
We believe meals equal community and the ACRE kitchen strives to foster a place where residents, visiting artists and local farmers can cross-pollinate.
Funds raised through kickstarter will go towards supporting locally grown and produced agriculture and conscientious businesses, purchasing equipment that will make the kitchen more efficient and sustainable, our yearly cookbook KADABRA, a collection of recipes from each year’s residency, and will give us the support we need to keep creating a diverse selection of considered, artistic, and nutritious menus for our residents.
KADABRA VOL 3, Annual Cook Book
cover designed by Edie Fake & Daniel Luedtke
artwork and recipe contributions by the ACRE Kitchen Staff & Resident Alumni
It was the summer of 2008. It was hot. And humid. Everything was green and/or sweating. People who didnâ€™t sweat stood out. Their reserve both enviable and mysteriousâ€”a contrast from everything else. Refuge from the heat was similarly impressive and constantly sought. Most apartment galleries were barely tolerable for their heat. At cooler exhibition sites, visitors inevitably took considerable time examining the works of art on display. That August, Heather Mekkelson had a solo show at an apartment galleryâ€”or what maybe we should call a basement galleryâ€”half a flight downstairs in Logan Square called Old Gold. With its dark 1970s style wood paneling, built-in bar and enough floor space for a pool table, Old Gold looked like an old rumpus room. It was anything but neutral and its unapologetic, undeniable character forced artists to continually incorporate the space into their exhibitions. Mekkelsonâ€™s project was no different. Limited Entry was based entirely on the unique environment. And at that particular time, it was significantly cooler than anything outdoors.
In order to access the stairs down to the gallery, one walked through a front gate and around the side of an apartment building. According to rumor, the landlord and upstairs resident did not know Old Gold existed. Being an unpredictable fellow, gallery directors Kathryn Scanlan and Caleb Lyons preferred to keep the professional aspect of their curatorial project discreet. They didnâ€™t advertise much and the only label on the door was composed from Home Depot stickers, appearing more like the absent-minded work of a teenager than anything formally significant. This place was easy to miss. (read more)
4. Longtime Chicago champions Elijah Burger and Deb Sokolow are featured in VITAMIN D2 (video courtesy of Western Exhibitions):
Thus far at Open Engagement, I’ve heard no discussion around the terminology of social practice, or specifically what to call “social practice.” The conference at large seems Â presently unbothered by the nomenclature of its Â discipline. It’s quite refreshing, actually. Perhaps it means the terminology is settled, or perhaps because the conference is organized by PSU’s Social Practice MFA Department, the department inadvertently sets a precedent for how artists define their methodology in this particular context. Earlier this week Mary Jane Jacob’s made a similar observationÂ on Bad at Sports, outlining a good list of terminology options, along with their point of origin, and thereafter drawing the conclusion that, “Maybe it has taken us 20-some years to arrive at a name [“Social Practice”], not because we didnâ€™t try, but because the practice itself has been evolving and this name works.”
While suggested terms continue to crop up, (relationship aesthetics, new genre public art, dialogic art, participatory art practices, participatory art, art of social cooperation, live art, service media etc.) the discipline itself Â continues to evolve as well. It seems possible that the artist practitioners might be less invested in the politics of terminology and more interested in what is at hand, what is commonly understood as the best term which will supply a shorthand meaning to a given listener: practically speaking, what term to use when applying for a grant?
I realize, very few people want to sit in a room listening to others pontificate on the benefits of one name over another â€” nevertheless, I find it interesting because Social Practice (as a discipline) is straightening out, in a way, becoming more and more compatible with the canon of art. As such, the terminology around it seems to be settling down as well. What was once a renegade discipline has reached a kind of young adulthood. The field is still wide open for experimentation and development, but some of its edges have been defined through consensus. The various MFA programs dedicated to Social Practice further reinforce that transition, as they are forced to codify-in-order-to-teach. Those programs are similarly invested in propagating their own terminology, to validate the significance of their program. And this too is what I find so interesting aboutÂ names:Â while the artists themselves might be more interested in the activity of making, the administrators, curators and theorists flanking the discipline have a lot at stake in the theoretical baggage/leverage different names bear. I’ll admit that for a while it seemed a little like the Wild West to me, where every year another artistic thinker would propose a new name for the discipline, like a cowboy opening a new shop in a small, as yet brand new town. Each new phrase brought with it a host of promises to be tested.
Regardless owhole settled things might seem now, I like to think there is something about Social Practice that resists a stable affinity with language. While it might adopt an umbrella term for practical ends, the artists working within this discipline continue complicate the labeling of their work with other qualifying terms. In one statement I read this week, for instance the artist said she “worked in social practice and participatory art,” implying some difference between these two often synonymous terms; when presented side by side like that, the words feel somehow self-conscious and slightly uneasy as a reader has to trouble over their distinction. In other words, while I may be preoccupied with these terms, it would seem a number of participants here in Portland enjoy mucking up their terminology, culling from various lexicons and thereby creating Â a unique assemblage of terms for themselves.