Since we only had one reading this go-round, I wasn't sure how to approach this Connection, so I'll just share my thoughts and response to the reading.
To be honest, this kind of "art" doesn't seem like it is art to me. Something can still be cool and inspiring without being art, and I personally feel that slapping the label "art" onto these kinds of events is a stretch. "On an aesthetic level, they can also be befuddling, perceived as too much like community organizing to feel truly like art." Yeah, I'd agree. I don't feel too guilty for saying this, because everybody's definition of "art" is different. Mine just doesn't include social practice art.
The reading contained one definition for social practice: “art that’s socially engaged, where the social interaction is at some level the art." I understand the first part, but the second gets at what I said in the previous paragraph. Socially-engaged art can be cool, but I don't feel like social interaction is art except in a figurative sense. Another artist comments on "manufactured interactions" as being un-rare in the art world, He then goes on to provide an example of how Apple stores are intended to have a social interaction-fostering environment, saying that "there is a global interest in human interaction." Okay. But just because there is interest in it does not inherently make it art; are Apple employees now artists and the stores themselves art, simply because they operate on a more sympathetic system than typical stores?
That's not to say that these works of social practice art are bad or worthless - not at all! Bringing attention to environmental and social issues is important, as well as forging solutions for these issues, and it's great that people are putting together these projects to make a change or impact on the world or just a single community. I just don't think it fits the label "art." Additionally, I feel that bringing in the "art" component can actually decrease the social benefit of the work. If an artist is focused not only on helping a community, but also on giving it artistic aesthetic or ideation, then it distracts them from putting their all into their activism. Just advocate for the sake of advocating, not for the sake of making art. This is also indicative of a greater issue within just the art community, which is professional critique - of course it's helpful, but it also creates a pressure on the artist to aim for certain ideals that will be well-perceived, rather than simply creating art for themselves.
This phrase, though, said by Rick Lowe (the creator of Project Row Houses): “It’d be an arrogant disregard of a community to come in and think you can grasp all the complexities of a place in a short time.” I agree with this and I'm glad he said it. I don't have much elaboration for it, but I do interact with people who think that they immediately have the knowledge to participate in discussion of another community (i.e. a cisgender person telling transgender people what they should or should not consider oppression.) People have to learn about a community, learn about its people, learn about its unique issues and its unique strengths, and learn about its past and future. This is crucial to progress as humans - we have to first lose our pride and admit ignorance, but show willingness to learn in order to advocate and help.
Well, sorry that this maybe wasn't so connected to my art or art in general this time.
Kristin Hines - Student artist at Maggie L. Walker Governor's School