Presentation on Social Practice Art


Footnotes for the presentation:

From wk3’s reading social practice art (I’ll call it SPA) is contemporary art that says, aesthetics and capitalism are not everything. Therefore, SPA is not what the market wants to see, but what the artist wants to do for the world.


Defined by the reading is “Neoliberal artists are consciously engaging with issues around the world.” So it got me thinking, what differentiates artists from just anyone that reads the newspaper? 


Artists can actually do something about it. SPA gives voice to the issues and creates 2 types of impacts. The outcome can be TANGIBLE and QUANTIFIABLE. An IMMEDIATE SOLUTION to the problem, like the row houses, should be ACCESSIBLE or USABLE. 

The outcome can also be hypothetic. Like the Third Paradise Manifesto. It is INTANGIBLE, producing UNCERTAIN results that are difficult to quantify. For example, emotions and a change in behavior. Which takes TIME. The medium used is usually more abstract and personal because it projects the artist’s take on the matter, as compared to materialistic outcomes that focus more on the subject.

This is a meme that mocks at the ineffectiveness of SPA which triggers me.

So, how do we measure the effectiveness of SPA?

I think that for materialistic solutions, we can look at the end products. While for hypothetic solutions, the process of creating art is often more valuable.

As a product design student, I want to bring light to a category of art that people often overlook. Humanitarian Art. I believe it has the power to converge the best of both worlds.

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum held an exhibition called DESIGN WITH THE 90%. It was one of the U.S. first museums to showcase humanitarian art to promote socially responsible designs. 90% refers to the 90% of the population and third world cities that do not have access to professional design services. By saying Design WITH instead of DESIGN FOR, it shows the artist’s active involvement with the community in need.


Tracy Ellyn is the founder and director of the Project: For Healing Through The Arts. The Project uses the creative process “to heal, transform, and enhance lives.” One of its many arts-related initiatives has been to present art classes and therapeutic arts consultation for special needs like troubled youths. Her art is also exhibited in hospitals and doctor’s offices to soothe the heart.


Reading Response

REVIEWcritique of social practice art


To succinctly sketch out the central discussion of this article, I would cite Ben Davis’s idea that Social Practice stems from a dispirited reaction to the commercial art industry’s obsession with profit. This topic is worth engaging in the contemporary scene because we as designers, should pursue art that makes a difference, beyond aesthetic qualities. Henceforth, I have hatched a brief idea on how art itself, can be the answer.

Take a glimpse of history, art was never assumed to be pragmatic, or collaborative. In other words, artists, writers, performers alike, tend to practice in solemn to stereotypically produce a pleasing work so that the patron will pay the one with his/her name signed.

Modern artists begun to paint their philosophy of the world on unexplored mediums, we call them contemporary arts. Traditional canvas can be substituted by the intangibles (digital platforms, interactivity-based works, etc), the tangibles (freedom in material choice), and everything that lies in-between (mix-medium). However, a shift in the medium does not automatically equate itself to a change in behavior. ‘The fixation on escaping commercialized art itself shows a narrow understanding of art’s role in a capitalist society.’ Undeniably, to disincentivize just any industry would sound unrealistic. Then, should we put ourselves on a superior moral ground to criticize artists whose works are primarily profit-driven? Or blame their passive engagement in cross-industry synergy? 

Art was never expected to walk alongside subjects that ‘saves the world’, but, to provide a discernible remedy to communities with specific needs, an assembly of professionalism across fields of mathematics, engineering, and the sciences is presumably vital. 

Coming from a product designer’s perspective, the majority of us still design for extrinsic rewards nowadays but improvements are notable. We cannot forfeit the contribution of lauded individuals who stepped up to ‘go after the disease itself’ by producing radical designs that have changed lives. GravityLight, Hippo Roller, Life Straw, are all products of cross-industry collaboration.

Every great design begins with an even better idea. Perhaps, if every designer is willing to brace up and seek opportunities for technical execution, the world can be a better place with fewer problems. All in all, cease letting the creative ideas in your mind slip just because it all seems impossible before it’s done.



REVIEW | designing for the digital age


While this reading is mostly instructional, the introduction written by Goodwin at the start gave an interesting perspective on the definition of design and ultimately how it straddles the line between science and art. Being neither science nor art means that design as a craft brings about its own set of challenges unique to it.

As mentioned by Goodwin, the term “design” is an arbitrary one, and there is never a correct definition for it. However, Goodwin puts forward some intriguing ideas in his own definition, particularly about how design is the “craft of visualizing concrete solutions”. I believe that design, in its naked form, is simply the process of trying to get from point A to point B, with A being the initial state and B being the desired state. Of course, littered along the process is multiple obstacles as highlighted in the rest of the article.

One of these obstacles that stood out to me is how the different stakeholders and other non-design related factors can actually affect the design process itself. When designing a product, it goes beyond just creating a solution, but creating a specific solution that caters not just to the user, it must also satisfy the criteria of the many financial investors and marketing executives. This shifts the entire framework of design beyond itself, and into the wider world of economics, business, and even politics.

It is not surprising, therefore, that a successful designer is one that works well within this framework, and has a process that is transparent to all the shareholders in order to maximise and achieve a solution. Proven once again, cross-industry collaboration is the key to push art to a new height.