The sound switches. Loud intensity and vibration. My body is permeated by the sound and radio waves. While watching the dancer move, I realize that all the cells of my own body are moving, oscillating, with the sound waves.
The dancer runs across the stage, throws herself towards the floor, glides. My body feels the impact of the floor on skin, skidding, sliding, perhaps squeaking.
Darkness and light, spotlights on my sight horizon. The moving horizon line, the white board, shifts my bodily perspective and orientation.
Jennifer Monson premiered her latest evening-length performance Live Dancing Archive at The Kitchen in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood for a two-week run February 14th – 23rd, 2013. The project Live Dancing Archive comprises three components, which consist of three different archival practices: dance, video, and digital archive. The “Program Notes” for the performance states that “Each of these captures how bodies hold, transmit, and convey experiences and understandings of ecological systems as they relate to human movement through the specificities of their medium.”  Monson’s work explores the ability of movement itself as an archival practice; she is interested in the particular capability movement has to archive, record, and store the ecological systems that we experience.
For the two-week run, the video component of the archive was a a video installation which was on view during the day before the evening performances in The Kitchen’s Theater. This part of the work, made by Robin Vachal, a videographer, video installation producer, editor, and teacher, consisted of editing approximately 50 hours of footage Vachal captured during the BIRD BRAIN Osprey Migration from 2002, an “8-week research project in which dancers followed the migration of ospreys along the Atlantic Flyway from Maine to Venezuela.”  Watching the video, the audience experiences the dancers’ improvisation solos, conversations with park rangers at nature centers and preserves, public performances, and public workshops Monson and iLAND held with park patrons.
Another component of Live Dancing Archive is the digital archive which was designed and implemented by Youngjae Josephine Bae, who completed her MA in Library and Information Science, in collaboration with Monson and Vachal. The digital archive consists of video footage, photographs, dancers’ journals, project notes, plans and schedules for performances and workshops, and other ephemera generated from the BIRD BRIAN Osprey Migration. The aim of the digital archive is to “make available to the public as much of this material as possible.”  The program notes encourage the audience to “peruse the archive in your own time as a supplemental experience to your participation in the audience tonight.”  The performance need not “end” once the audience member leaves the theater; she can continue to experience the work through the material which was archived in the movement of the performance.
Live Dancing Archive’s live performance aspect involves the audience as well. The audience’s participation in the live performance is that of the ocean. Monson describes her process of choreographing the movement in the program notes as:
“A significant amount of the dance material was learned from video documentation of four improvised solos on the beach at Ocracoke Island, NC. The dancers were Javier Cardona, Morgan Thorson, Alejandra Martorell, and myself. The camera angle was always moving so deciding how to orient myself in the dancing was a challenge. Eventually I arrived at orienting myself always towards the ocean. The audience is the ocean.” 
The audience gets to experience a journey of the spaces and ecologies that Monson and the other dancers migrated in Monson’s choreography, and it also gets to become part of that environment itself. Monson’s choice to make the ocean the point of orientation and her further choice to allow the audience to occupy that position, creates a complex dynamic of waves and force that oscillate between the performer and the audience. It is also in Monson’s processes of research and choreography that point to the ecological systems along the migratory path. Monson describes her work as dance research; the movement generated during the migration is knowledge-making. I would further argue that the audience’s experience of viewing the video, the digital archive, and the live performance, while also becoming a participatory element of the system created in the theater are all knowledge-making practices which coalesce in a system of bodies and the environments in which they inhabit. Describing this process of knowledge-making, Monson states that
“the knowledge has to do with understanding the relationships between events and systems. When I’m dancing, I’m bringing multiple ways of perceiving information of movement, sensory, imaginative, and analytical registers. I’m processing information of the world and using it to make choices about movement in the world. The multiple systems I am moving and that are moving me help me to understand the complex systems I am perceiving. There is also the phenomenological approach – as I am moving, the world is showing up for me, it’s changed by my moving, and as I move I also show up for the world. The knowledge is about ways of putting things together in multiple modes, holding unstable relationships of meaning and conditions of existence.” 
Phenomenologist Maxine Sheets-Johnstone writes about the primacy of movement in our consciousness of the world. In her book The Primacy of Movement, she states that “We make sense of ourselves in the course of moving.”  However, movement is not only sense-making, but constitutive and generative of the self that is moving. Further, Sheets-Johnstone claims that “In effect, movement forms the I that moves before the I that moves forms movement.”  These two phenomenological statements seem to permeate Monson’s process of research and performance. Her work explores the ways in which ecological systems function and the dancing body’s relationship with and in these systems.
The live performance of Live Dancing Archive was itself a system. This component of the archive also consisted of multiple parts including the movement, live sound, and live stage and lighting design changes and manipulations. The sound, composed and performed by Jeff Kolar, an audio artist based in Chicago, is “generated live through field experiments in the AM/FM, Shortwave, Citizens, and Unlicensed radio spectrums. The instrument arrangement of handmade radio transmitters and receivers respond directly to external weather phenomena, wireless technology systems, and human activity.”  After the performance I attended, Kolar explained that there were more “ghosts” being picked up by the receivers that night than had usually been happening for the other performances. The fluctuations occurring in the systems of the electromagnetic spectrum and the Hertzian space surrounding and emanating from the instruments, the electronic objects of the audience members, and the other technologies that exist in and around the space of The Kitchen directly impacted the sound performance and thus the entire ecology of the live performance.
The live manipulation of the lighting and stage, performed and designed by Joe Levasseur, who has received two Bessie awards for his design work, was a continual shifting of the ecology of the theater space. The minimal stage props and lighting, reminiscent of Isamu Noguchi’s stage designs for Martha Graham, seemed to create the boundaries of space and time. The stage prop, a long wooden board on wheels, serves as the “horizon line” that can move and shift. At times, Monson herself moved the horizon line, thus changing the orientation of the horizon and its relationship to the audience, the ocean. The lighting was able to move around the stage as well and was manipulable by Monson and Levasseur. The turning on and off of the light, sometimes a single light that was moved around the stage, seemed to control the limits of the perceptual experience of the work. Our perception is always bounded; we cannot see the backs of our heads, our eyes even work through an amalgamation of small focal points, congealed in our brains – we don’t see the world as a clear image; our perception of the world is a complex system composed of interweaving aspects that need to work together to form a coherent experience of the world.
Phenomenology, the philosophical study of our experiencing of the world’s phenomena, understands our bodies as the entities that world the world. The world is mediating through our perceptual experience of it and the world appears for us through our engagement with it. Monson’s work takes this phenomenological understanding of the world seriously in her research processes and the performances that result from them. Much of the research process involves improvisational movement in the places along the migratory route Monson was following. In Ann Cooper Albright’s article “Situated Dancing: Notes from Three Decades in Contact with Phenomenology,” she describes the transition from considering the aesthetics of dance to the phenomenology “because phenomenology focuses attention on the circumstances of this active “becoming.”  Though Albright is discussing more specifically Contact Improvisation, she incorporates the notion of embodied research, an important aspect of Monson’s work. Albright describes embodied research as a process that “requires that one engages seriously with the ambiguity that results from trying to conceptualize bodily experience that can be quite elusive. It requires patience with the partiality of physical knowing as well as a curiosity about how theoretical paradigms will shift in the midst of that bodily experience.”  This situated-ness of research also can be placed in a feminist tradition stemming from feminist epistemology and the notion of situated knowledge explored by Donna Haraway in her essay “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Monson’s method of phenomenological epistemology of ecology speaks well to feminist conversations about science and the generation of scientific knowledge.
In thinking about what this means for an archive and the processes of archival practices, Live Dancing Archive speaks to the ways in which archives have to be generated; they do not simply exist in the world. They are always subject to the particular bodies controlling their collection, documentation, storage, and availability. The interesting aspect of Monson’s work for conversations about the archive is the tension of the usual goal of the archive — infinite storage for an infinite amount of time — and the ephemerality of movement. Can we ever say that an archive is a permanent collection of materials that simply narrate history? Archives are subject to the circumstances of the world — floods, unemployment, politics, fires — and any notion that we can make a truly permanent archive is contingent on the resources available and ideologies of the day. Monson’s Live Dancing Archive made me think critically about these aspects of making and transmitting history. Her movement, some of which I was able to glean from the video installation, is able to capture the singularity of the movement in its original form, though changed, made into something different in its repetition. Her attention to the specificities of place and the ecological systems constituting it along with bodily and movement singularities, creates a complex of environmental knowledge and history within the performance and the dancing body.
Live Dancing Archive is featured in the upcoming 2013 Dance Improvisation Festival organized by Columbia College Chicago’s Dance Center and curated by Lisa Gonzales with support from Links Hall, taking place June 3-8, 2013. Monson’s Live Dancing Archive will be performed Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 8PM. Be sure to visit the Dance Improvisation Festival’s website for tickets, information, and schedule of other workshops. http://www.colum.edu/Dance_Center/performances/2013improvfest/
Live Dancing Archive Collaborators:
Jennifer Monson: Choreography
Robin Vachal: Video Installation
Jeff Kolar: Composer
Joe Levasseur: Lighting
Susan Becker: Costumes
Betsy Brandt: Dramaturge
Davison Scandrett: Production Manager
Youngjae Josephine Bae: Digital Archive
Tatyana Tenenbaum: Dresser
 Jennifer Monson, “Program Notes,” in Jennifer Monson/iLAND Live Dancing Archive (New York: The Kitchen, 2013), 4.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ibid., 4-5.
 Ibid., 4.
 Personal Interview with Monson, 4.16.2013.
 Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, The Primacy of Movement, expanded second edition (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Johns Benjamins Publishing Company, 2011), 117.
 Ibid., 119.
 Monson, “Program Notes,” 4.
 Ann Cooper Albright, “Situated Dancing: Notes from Three Decades in Contact with Phenomenology,” Dance Research Journal, vol. 43, no. 2 (Winter 2011), 9.
 Ibid., 14.
Are immigrants better at putting deconstruction to work?
As an immigrant myself, I think I understand Jacques Derrida because he was also an immigrant. The immigrant experience—mine, to be sure—is one of becoming decentered and of finding one self in a foreign place where one has to introduce one self (and to be introduced) as a representative abstraction of another culture and as a brief (and textual) identity. If deconstruction acts as the de facto method put to work by many postmodern (or hipster) writers, then dislocation acts as a biographical trope for the radical multiplication of readings.
To strategically essentialize based on my experience, I would agree that ESL poets see and hear English from the outside as a strange and awkward medium because learning to communicate with a new language demands more sensitive attention to its materiality than it does for native speakers. The shock of the idiomatic phrase delights the foreign tongue because the foreigner hears (as does John Ashbery) in the wisdom of slang and clichés the horded culture of a people, a zeitgeist or an essence of a place in time, a myth of origin. The foreign poet takes delight in these loaded everyday dictums and listens with his tongue. (Tanta 29)
Poetry is dead. Rumors of poetry’s still being alive have been greatly exaggerated and greatly promulgated in the service of war profiteering. The future of poetry is Creative Nonfiction. Verse or the breaking of lines into discrete acoustic, visual, semantic, breath, or idiomatic units is as over—and as quaint—as the villanelle was to Walt Whitman. Having said the above, the quicksand of narrative with its immersive pleasures—readily commodifiable by glocal capital—stands bloated and waiting to be exploded by the raw teeth of form. Content comes and content goes, but only form will break the bones of our assumptions.
Musing on our mania for the new, Andrei Codrescu writes: “The most valuable commodity, right after human energy, is style. If styles don’t change to arouse us to trade in yesterday’s model for today’s, the world collapses. Style feeds capital, and so it can never be allowed to devolve into the familiar, it must aspire to multidimensionality, to complexity … to poetry.” (94-5) Codrescu’s critical observation points to the troublesome wedding between kinds of aesthetic progress (that feeling of forward motion in cultural time) and profit-making schemes.
Deconstructing the host language and host culture and host food ways, the newcomer waffles between acculturation and assimilation. In banal and extravagant ways the immigrant has to choose between remaining a kind of billboard for national excess and blending in. The immigrant poet has to choose between representing and ignoring her or his location-trouble. Somehow, the immigrant is forced to be hip in that she or he has to create a network in order to survive, to thrive, and eventually to erect a white picket fence around a set of habits commonly known as an identity.
Performing the categorical violence in deciding what’s hip and not hip remains today—as it ever was—relative to the degree of innocence afforded by various conceptual and material comforts. In the end, the choice of contemporary American hipster poets to be aware or innocent of the difficulties of mindfulness has got to be left with the individual.
Codrescu, Andrei. “The Poetry Lesson.” Princeton UP, 2010.
Tanta, Gene. Unusual Woods. Buffalo: BlazeVOX Books, 2010.
This week, independent of one another, Chicago-based writers Caroline Picard and Jason Foumberg both raised questions related to sustainability in the art world. Within the context of Bad at Sports, Picard wondered about communal failure, ethics, and Utopia, particularly as those political concepts concerned the field of social practice. And at the alternative weekly publication Newcity, Foumberg offered a comparative overview of local, economic models in gallery practice.
Six months earlier, the proprietors of Chicago’s New Capital Projects, Ben Foch and Chelsea Culp, began a twenty-five day round-the-clock closing event for their gallery. Foch and Culp had, from the outset, planned a limited, two-year run of public exhibitions at their venue. And having reached the end of their finite schedule they threw open the doors to everyone interested in one last collaborative endeavor entitled “24HRS/25DAYS.” Whither came the funding for such a spectacle? In 2011, the Propeller Fund announced that Foch and Culp were recipients of a 6000 USD award.
Rather than being a survey of contemporary programming, this installment of Chicago Art in Pictures is a historical offering. If New Capital Projects’ success (and it was a success) seemed contingent upon its engagement with artists, its monetary subsidization, and its relatively brief public existence, then maybe too it was the case that only an informal, ethical consensus allowed for a momentary sort of Utopia within the city’s crumbling West Side.
While planning what might be possible for the future, it’s helpful to remember what has worked in the past. And so, some of the activity surrounding New Capital Projects in the year 2012 is suggested by the imagery below. A full schedule for “24HRS/25DAYS” is still available at New Capital Projects’ website. All artwork copyright original artists; photography copyright Paul Germanos.
Above: Ben Foch, left, and Chelsea Culp, center, with ACRE‘s (Moustache Phil) Philip Kaufmann, right, at New Capital Projects on a hot summer night, June 30, 2012.
Above: Estonian performance collective NON GRATA‘s “Force Majeure” in Chicago, at New Capital Projects, March 4, 2012.
Above: Meg Noe in “I, Who Have Known the Horror of Mirrors” on December 6, 2012, in “24HRS/25DAYS.”
Above: Elena Katsulis and Erin Peisert in “The Longer I had to Stand There” on December 6, 2012, in “24HRS/25DAYS.”
Above: A four second exposure of Jeff Harms‘ laminated wood sculpture on December 2, 2012, in “24HRS/25DAYS.”
Above: Estonian performance collective NON GRATA’s “Force Majeure” in Chicago, at New Capital Projects, March 4, 2012.
Above: KLOSS/STOLTMANN at New Capital Projects, June 30 – August 5, 2012.
Above: Nandini Khaund, foreground, and Melina Ausikaitis, background, on November 16, 2012, performing in “24HRS/25DAYS.”
Above: Matthew Lane in “Lane/Sirianni” at New Capital Projects, March 16 – April 7, 2012.
Above: Michael Sirianni in “Lane/Sirianni” at New Capital Projects, March 16 – April 7, 2012.
Above: Matthew Lane, left, speaking to Stephanie Burke, center, at New Capital Projects, March 16, 2012.
Above: New Capital Projects’ courtyard on a summer night, June 30, 2012.
Above: Joseph Rynkiewicz‘ installation “Bonfire,” on November 24, 2012, in “24HRS/25DAYS.”
Above: Kavi Gupta’s Joseph Rynkiewicz (at far right) with bonfire in progress on November 24, 2012, in “24HRS/25DAYS.”
Above: The Hills Esthetic Center‘s Leo Kaplan on December 2, 2012, presenting “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday,” in “24HRS/25DAYS.”
Above: Northwestern’s Sofia Leiby lectures Seth Sher at New Capital Projects, June 30, 2012.
Above: “A bowl of soup, a coffin, a door” installation by MCA’s Karsten Lund, SAIC’s Dana DeGiulio, Corbett vs. Dempsey’s Julia V. Hendrickson, and Sofia Leiby, on November 25, 2012, in “24HRS/25DAYS.”
Above: The Hills Esthetic Center’s Michael Kloss, left, and ACRE’s Emily Green, right, in AUSIKAITIS/KLOSS at New Capital Projects, September 1, 2012.
Above: Seth Sher, a/k/a Psychic Steel, left, and Meg Noe, right, at New Capital Projects, September 1, 2012.
Above: Conor Creagan in “Wonderful Tonight” on December 2, 2012, in “24HRS/25DAYS.”
Above: Roxaboxen’s (formerly) Liz McCarthy with Moustache Phil at New Capital Projects, June 30, 2012.
New Capital Projects
3114 W. Carroll St.
Chicago, IL 60612
It has been a big week for sure! I’ve spent the last few days in Portland, at the Open Engagement Conference and many of my posts have covered that. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.
The week began with some real T courtesy of Bad at Sports’ official Gossip Columnist, Dana Bassett, including E-Dogz upcoming, ”Twends” spotted at the SAIC Fashion Show this year, an architectural study of the Bachman House, a WHO WORE IT BETTER and some sketch gifs by Elisa Hawkins. Once again, another Episode not to be missed.
Reporting on all things Social Practice, Mary Jane Jacob writes about terminology and the settling thereof:
“Social Practice” has caught on as a name, as well as a practice. I’m relieved to see relationship aesthetics (Nicholas Bourriard) dropped from the vocabulary list along with the litany of terms: new genre public art (Suzanne Lacy), dialogic art (Grant Kester), participatory art practices (Claire Bishop), more recently art of social cooperation (Tom Finkelpearl), and others of a collaborative, community, or group persuasion. Maybe it has taken us 20-some years to arrive at a name, not because we didn’t try, but because the practice itself has been evolving and this name works.
Social Practice evokes Beuys’ Social Sculpture, while practice is more open and active; it’s also less cumbersome than socially engaged art practice. It can hold a variety of ways of working and making, thus avoiding the critic’s urge to nit-pick definitions and lock in characteristics which inevitably shortchange the art and pigeonhole the artist into what amounts to a style. [Look for our exhibition in September 2014 at SAIC’s Sullivan Galleries that will bring the social practice artistinto the gallery, not to document what happened out in the world but to engage the gallery as a still-critical space of, yes, “engagement.”]
Thomas Friel writes about the unveiling of Mike Kelly’s Mobile Homestead — and maybe it’s the jazz station plays in the background on a friend’s radio, but Friel’s intro gives me the chills almost; it’s so good it feels like it could be the start of a detective novel:
Walking up to the clapboard rancher surrounded by a sod lawn in front of a brick building whose facing side was painted a sky blue, an uneasy feeling of displacement crept up my spine. On one side was downtown Detroit, the other was suburbia. Except it was some sort of self conscious version of suburbia, reminiscent of the prosaic childhood setting so many of us are familiar with, but with an almost mythic nature as a newly fetishized art object. Originally “launched” in 2010 as an intricately choreographed performative sculpture, Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead finally opened to the public on May 11, 2013 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit as a permanent fixture on the adjacent lot. As a recreation of the late artist’s childhood home in suburban Westland, MI, the resulting structure is fairly straightforward. As an art work, it is extremely complex, a nearly uncatagorizable masterpiece, wholly embracing major themes of his life’s work while barreling into new territory altogether in the most ambitious project of his far too short career. Mobile Homestead asserts itself as both public and private sculpture, focusing on community involvement and outreach, yet retaining a strong sense of privacy and secrecy inherent in homes by the elaborate basement labyrinth which will be kept off limits to the general public.
On Thursday, Thea Liberty Nichols interviewed the “indefatigable” Jodie Mack, whose “films traffic in the tropes and technical achievements of the history of moving image work while simultaneously canabalizing themselves in the process of their creation.” In Mack’s words:
On a fundamental level, I’m interested in the tension between form and meaning. Each one of my films studies some sort of tangible object or set of objects: colored plastic (A Joy), photo-negatives (Lilly), magazines (Yard Work is hard Work) junk mail (Unsubscribe 1-4), fabric (Harlequin, Rad Plaid, Posthaste Perennial Pattern, Point de Gaze, Persian Pickles, Blanket Statement), posters (Dusty Stacks of Mom), etc. The materials guide the messages; the results take on different forms, some looking more like pre-established genres than others. The role of abstract animation in cinema – its sensational and narrative possibilities – surfaces often in my films no matter the material I’m exploring. DSoM chews through the posters and digests them through a number of animation techniques; certain scenes emphasize representational aspects of the posters while others abstract the material. So, I’d say the depiction of representational imagery vs. abstraction in this film is both a focus of the piece and a by-product of the material at hand in this case.
Robert Burnier brings it all home again with this post about painting and craft —
I once had a penchant for the obsessive, compulsive traditions of certain Dutch painters like Paulus Potter, Adriaen van der Spelt and Jan van Cappelle, so whenever I was in an encyclopedic museum, I would always make my way toward those galleries. Afterward, however, I would go straight to where the modern art was and stand in front of a Cy Twombly or some other such work. In 2002 the Gerhard Richter retrospective, 40 Years of Painting, came to the Art Institute of Chicago. One salient aspect of this was to witness a similar kind of range more or less present in one artist; one who held up Reading, Grey Mirror, and 256 Colors as artistic statements of the same order. I see these memories as analogies for the way I continue to approach works of art, especially – though in a limited sense – when it comes to issues of craft.
“What is Open Engagement?” you might ask. Open Engagement (OE) is the socially engaged art conference I am at presently. In Portland, Oregan. AKA Paradise. I’m still here and it’s still awesome. I have been interviewing a couple of artist and writing some blog posts about events that have taken place. I expect to be writing a little more about things, and posting some blog-format interviews down the line. But for the moment, you can read my first introductory post:
The first Open Engagement conference was the result of Jen Delos Reyes’ thesis project at the University of Regina; Reyes wanted to create a “different kind of conference,” one platforming emerging and established artists while providing a site for both “production and reflection.” This is Open Engagement. Delos Reyes came to Portland State to co-direct the MFA in Art and Social Practice once she had finished her MFA, and in 2010 Open Engagement came to Portland State. To this day, the conference is the result of collaboration between MFA students, Delos Reyes and OE Co-director, Crystal Baxley. In her opening remarks, Delos Reyes remarked on the sometimes “unkempt” nature of the conference, highlighting that it was focused on an artistic discipline that by its very nature is influx, and sometimes messy. That directive affords a kind of experimental quality which is perhaps missing from what she refered to as a more “rigid professionalism.”
Wonder what’s t(w)ending at OE this year? Ethics, Failure and Utopia, or so I suggest.
Do you have questions about terminology in social engaged art practice? Well OE did not and here are some remarks about that.
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 presently unbothered by the nomenclature of its 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 observation 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 didn’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 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 — 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 about names: 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 a unique assemblage of terms for themselves.