Social Practice Art – Hmmmmm

This was an eye-opening read. Throughout my art-making years, I have more or less come across the concept of this “social practice art”, but I have never really thought about it deeply.

In my previous post on Michelangelo Pistoletto’s works, I talked a little bit about how in our current age, there are no more boundaries to art. You have many different types of art forms, many different interpretations, many different messages, artists, values, etc. There is no one way to describe art. But that’s the tricky part – what can or cannot be considered art, when there is no clear restrictions, no clear requirements?

A moment could be art – but why? Take Banksy’s “Girl with Balloon”.

The shredding was a deliberate act by Banksy. Even though it was supposed to be shredded all the way through, it still delivers a message – one that I interpreted as the value of his works drops as soon as it is sold. Banksy’s works are on the streets. Graffiti works that are smartly placed, sometimes delivering political or social messages. In essence, street art is a freedom of expression, sometimes of a rebellious nature. It is put out there for everyone to see. For passersby, for the people. Putting a price tag on it, selling it to a “collector” takes it away from its audience, strips it of its value as an art work for the streets.

However, that act in itself is considered performance – a statement. It is then deemed even more valuable than before it was shredded.

I can’t help but think that a big factor as to why this happened is that it was by Banksy. The reputation of the artist itself already affects the way an art work would be perceived. There is a power to Banksy’s name.

If it were to be made by an unknown, would it be as valuable?

If more others talked about it, if it gained more traction, ignited more discussion, outraged more people, would it make an art work more valuable?

Okay, going back to social practice art. Why is it considered art? What differentiates it from philanthropic activities, from environmental, social, political movements? The line is blurred here, just as it is with everything else.

“… raised an obvious question: What does it mean to celebrate art-as-activism in the presence of real live social movements?”

I’m not sure where I stand on this, but I do feel that it’s pretty neat to live in an age where we have freedom to discuss and debate on just about any topic and that there is an openness in society to dwell on important social issues.

Michelangelo Pistoletto

I remember coming back to ADM after the break and noticing that they did some re-decoration, which shocked me. They seem to have spiced up the classic ADM rooftop with some gardening…

I didn’t think much of it until I found out that we were going to attend a dialogue session with the artist behind the “re-decoration”. I thought, whoa, so that’s an installation? I wondered if it was going to be permanent; I couldn’t decide whether or not I liked it.

After watching the documentary showcased at the Dome, I had a better understanding of Pistoletto as an artist. I could relate to his relationship with his father, and how he discovered his personal way of art-making. There were two works that stood out to me from the film: his mirror paintings and the “Walking Sphere”.

M I R R O R   P A I N T I N G S

‘Self-portraits (The Present)’ mirror paintings, (1961-2916) by Michelangelo Pistoletto. Photography: Tom Lindboe. Courtesy of the Blenheim Art Foundation

I love how its simplicity can bring about such profound meaning. I myself have painted on mirrors before, but I never thought about it in a way that Pistoletto did. How a simple change of medium could change the meaning of the work, the way the audience would view it, the entire concept I think is just mind blowing.

The mirror itself has a great deal of symbolism. Of self-reflection, truth, and parallel worlds to name a few. By painting common people on the mirrors, Pistoletto manages to capture a moment in time, sometimes of the people off-guard, hence showing their true selves. In a sense, it feels like two separate moments, two separate individuals were brought together in this work.

Imagine if the mirror was displayed in different settings. It would be as if transporting the subject of the painting to different places! Another interesting concept that I interpreted is voyeurism. How the paintings capture these people in moments, and us as an external audience, are brought into the same plane of existence in that same moment.

W A L K I N G   S P H E R E

The Walking Sphere is a performance that Pistoletto had started in 1967. Since then, numerous reenactments have been performed in many different places.

“We want to bring art out of the museums into the streets, to people. And to act. The sphere is a point of attraction. It’s a way to bring people together, and to act together”

– Pistoletto during one of the reenactments, in Cold Spring, November 2017

The world of art can sometimes be depicted as or seen as inaccessible, out-there or exclusive. This is enhanced by the reputations of museums. On one hand, I feel that it is important to value art and artists, but on another hand I also feel that art should also be accessible to everyone.

This is what Arte Povera, or art of the poor, is about. It is not poor art, but it is art for everyone. With very simple, cheap, available materials, the Walking Sphere is able to bring people together, creating a moment, an experience. It literally brings the art to the people, anyone and anywhere.

Ultimately, I feel that in this day and age, there is no longer clear boundaries in the art world. You can make art in any way, and value it in any way. Everything depends on the context, the artist, the audience, the message, etc. I think that it’s really cool how as artists we have the freedom to define that for ourselves.


Research Critique: The Collective Narrative (Cut Piece by Yoko Ono)

The collective narrative.

As we belong to a generation that grew together with technology, we might have not noticed how the virtual space plays a huge part in our daily lives and how it has become a significant feature of our identity. I think that as social beings, openness and collaboration are natural to us, to a certain extent at least. We grow up with social media, where we are allowed to interact with friends and family even when we are not physically together. We even get to interact with people we have never met before, across cultures and lifestyles, eliminating distance and heightening global understanding. Conversation is open to everyone, anywhere, anytime.

So, this virtual space allows for narratives to transform into something increasingly collaborative, involving more than one person in its making. Not saying that collaboration is not possible without the net, but it’s just that physical boundaries are eradicated, making collaboration more convenient and making content more… wholesome? I’m not sure how to describe it, but I’m sure that you would agree with me that the net has allowed for better understanding and acceptance across communities.

Here is what I have to say on Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece”.

In a collective narrative, different points of views come into play, creating a story with multiple authors. In Randall Packer’s essay on Open Source Studio, when talking about the collective narrative, he mentioned exquisite corpse, a game in which a composited work is born through the contributions of multiple people/artists. I think that this is a great example of how people’s choices play a part in creating and defining the art work, like in Yoko Ono’sCut Piece. Whatever the final result is, is determined by how the audience chooses to interact with the performer, and the work is constantly changing throughout the performance. Even when Ono performs it again at different locations, the work will never be the same as different people would interact with her or respond to the performance in different ways.

Ono’s “Cut Piece” has opened up dialogues and discussions about social issues of the time, of femininity, of how women were perceived, which was a very bold move, especially at the time then. Both men and women came to cut pieces of her clothes, and you can clearly see that people had different approaches to doing this. Some cut more, some cut less. And through this interaction, you can see a glimpse of these people’s characters and how they regard Ono as a subject, as a woman. Their different reactions combined, create an overall story about how women were treated as sexual objects, they sit there submissively with no say to whatever is done to them, which extends to just how they are treated and how they are expected to respond in general. This mirrors real life, and the real interaction with real life people, I feel, just gives it that much more credibility and authenticity to her message, rather than if she just created a piece that states her opinions on the matter.

Overall, I think that we could be more aware of our actions in the net, acknowledge and consider the possibilities that the internet can open for humans. The world is already at our fingertips, let’s not take it for granted.