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Monday 12.24.07

« Gordon Barnes & Shelby Davis at Jace Gace | Main | 2 New condos for the Pearl District: it's design review time »

Holiday reading

Most of PORT's staff have the week off so posts will be somewhat sporadic, so here are some things to yule-tide you over (I know, I know, both the pagans and the baby Jesus would disapprove of that pun):

Yesterday Roberta Smith took a shot at the word "Practice" as over-used by contemporary artists in 2007. I'm with her on this one, one has to have a receptionist and a lobby to have a practice... maybe it's all the college loans that drive artists to consider it a practice? It's probably just a nonsensical shortening of the term studio practice that gets all frothy with other pretensions (most artists are not particularly good wordsmiths so it is Roberta's job to point this sort of silliness out). It all reminds me of the original ending of Robert Hughes The Shock Of The New where he complained that art had become a vocation not an avocation... later Hughes wussed out and changed that ending. Still, he had it right the first time, even if he was wrong as could be about Basquiat (right about Schnabel though). My greatest annoyance is with the art world's meaningless use of the word "Authentic." To me its like the yuppie approved packaging on overpriced ethnic dishes one can find at high end grocery stores. It almost guarantees it isn't the real thing but it's overpriced status intends to mitigate guilt while giving it a patina of legitimacy. To use Greenberg's term it's very middlebrow.

Portland Public art has a hilarious post on what won't save hipsters(?) in Portland... great stuff.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on December 24, 2007 at 17:00 | Comments (2)


I’ll have to call you (and Roberta) out on that one, and for a couple of reasons.

First, I don’t think that most artists use the word practice in its professional or quasi-professional connotation. In my interpretation, “practice” occupies that important space outside of (but not between) the domains of the amateur or the hobbyist and the entrepreneur or the careerist. In the context of art, to engage in a practice connotes activity that is neither trivial nor motivated by the surplus capital that it might produce, even in those cases that it might produce surplus capital.

Second, “practice” maintains an appealing resonance with Pierre Bourdieu’s theorization of the term. Bourdieu used “practice” to describe the everyday activities of life, which he said were significantly shaped (but not determined) by a set of social structures, which he called “habitus.” Bourdieu dealt in particular with the way that practice and habitus found shared expression in embodiment. Perhaps few artists who claim a practice are strong enough to go there, but I say good art deals with that stuff, and good artists should pursue their practices vigorously.

Posted by: getfogged [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 26, 2007 09:19 PM

Fair enough, but practice seems like a strained word for what you describe, a regimen perhaps. Somehow "a practice" doesnt seem less careerist to me (all this is subjective of course). Ive always seen art making as a proclivity or position one takes and neither one of those terms seems to indicate amatuerism (glad that's falling out of vogue) or the implied outcome or payback of outright careerism.

I thing one can use the term practice (especially in relation to the studio) but it has been over used to the point of absurdity which is why Roberta spotlighted it. It happens to the best of terms.

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 27, 2007 09:43 AM

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