Social Practice Art

A critique of social practice art

This article was my introduction to Social Practice art and I confess, the notion of activism as an art form is rather difficult to grasp. It is like the article describes “indistinguishable from simple museum outreach, or any other vaguely progressive type of work with some creative connection”; the definition of Social Practice art was never clearly specified and is unlike any other.  Originally, I thought it might be something similar to Art Therapy, maybe using art as a catalyst to drive a “social practice”, whichever it may be. However, further research proves that may not the case.

The way I see it, Social Practice art is simply social work with an addition of art used to promote their cause –

There is little to no integration between the two. Nevertheless, that may be what sets them aside from regular social campaigns, these “Social Practices” led by reputable artists whom bring along their existing supporters and publicity to the problem at hand.

In contrast, Project Row Houses (PRH) have done a better job at welding the two together. Seeing their documentation of TrePhonos was closer to my expectations to Social Practice art.

Though at one point, the article argues that Project Row Houses did nothing to improve the situation that they were building towards, despite building several affordable housing, the statistics of those living in “extremely poor neighborhoods” still doubled over the past decade. Despite this failure, the PRH is still applauded as a success and I think it is because the core of Social Practice art is naturally the social aspect; the social sculpture as Joseph Beuys says. I can see why it works well with activism since their purpose is to rally supporters. Rirkrit Tiravanija’s 1992 artwork helped me that understand it best.

Author: Ying Hui

Hello :)

Leave a Reply