Dec 30, 2007
posted at 16:23 GMT by T.Whid in /news/twhid
I’m not really sure what Roberta Smith is going on about with this column:
Another lamentable creeping usage is not only pretentious, but it distorts and narrows what artists do. I refer to — rather than reference — the word practice, as in “Duchamp’s practice,” “Picasso’s studio practice” and worst of all, especially from the mouths of graduate students, “my practice.” Things were bad enough in the 1980s, when artists sometimes referred to their work as “production,” but at least that had a kind of grease-monkey grit to it.
I’m here to defend artists’ use of the word practice. If you’re reading this on our web site (as opposed a feed reader or aggregator) you’ll see to the left that we use the term:
The MTAA Reference Resource (MTAA-RR) attempts to archive most information regarding the art duo MTAA’s creative PRACTICE.
Smith attaches all sorts of subjective associations to the word:
It turns the artist into an utterly conventional authority figure. (emphasis mine)
[…] there’s the implication that artists, like lawyers, doctors and dentists, need a license to practice. (emphasis mine)
[…] the implication that an artist, like a doctor, lawyer or dentist, is trained to fix some external problem. It depersonalizes the urgency of art making and gives it an aura of control, as if it is all planned out ahead of time.
It suggests that art making is a kind of white-collar activity whose practitioners don’t get their hands dirty, either physically or emotionally.
I don’t know where she gets all these implications and suggestions. Because she has all these stuffy associations with the term doesn’t mean everyone does. I would argue that few do. To me, ‘practice’ means, simply, the continual conduct of one’s profession.
The dictionary agrees with me:
13. to exercise or pursue as a profession, art, or occupation: to practice law.
I’m a professional artist. It’s not my hobby. Artists who cannot earn their living solely at their profession need ways of enforcing the fact that they are professionals (both to themselves and others). Language and conduct help underline the fact that we are professionals even though sometimes we can’t support ourselves entirely from our art careers.
Additionally, MTAA came to the term because we do all sorts of activities (we make web sites, installations, photos, sculptures; we perform; we blog; we curate; we write; we do public appearances and etc) and ‘practice’ seemed to neatly encompass all of them. permanent link to this post