Social practice art is not entirely unchartered territory. I would say however that it is a term coined in recent years, finally being placed into categorization, and that in itself is theorized. It serves to have tangible outcomes for political/social shortcomings whilst maintaining its definition as art. This shifts away from simple critiquing of contemporary culture and transforms itself to then become more real-time, an art that is ever-evolving and is not bound to certain exhibitions, galleries or museums. In contrast, it isn’t to say that social practice art cannot be done in such places, but that its reality lies within the community and the social issues that they tackle.
The shift and burgeoning faction of social practice arts goes against the esoteric stereotype that art conformed to. In the past, art was commissioned by and for the wealthy. This practice was criticized by Banksy, who made an implicit statement by shredding ‘Girl with Balloon’ to become ‘Love is in the bin’. He did not resonate with the idea of placing monetary value on art and making art profitable, which motivated him to shred the work. The work ironically become more valuable after its attempted destruction. Social practice art is then the polar opposite, where its aim is to not only critique, but provide viable solutions to existing issues. How then is social practice art different from activism? Sometimes, “social practice” can seem like little more than aestheticized spin on typical non-profit work. In my opinion, the art form comes from the intent and the nature of the social practice, not just because it was done by an artist, but due to the fact that it serves a beautiful purpose that becomes the art. Having a twist on typical non-profit work and threading the fine line between overtly politicized work and charity.