Saturday, October 20, 2007

Does Practice Really Make Perfect?

In today’s art writing, we read about an artist’s practice. Doesn’t “practice” imply attempts to reach perfection, and therefore seems an ill-fitting noun? Or is “practice” used in the sense of a doctor’s practice?

Of course, practice means the habitual and repeated action of carrying out something such as practicing the violin daily to improve one’s skills. So how does this relate to what an artist does, as an artist is not actually repeating an action?

We may have to look at early philosophy and at Plato who talked about how practice is the step leading from objects to ideas, that we go from the material world to the world of abstraction.

But practice is doing rather than a theory, isn’t it?

Raymond Williams’ writings on cultural materialism influence many of today’s art writers. He discussed how art making is a part of capitalist production, and that art making becomes a part of social practice. It is here that art as practice, not only deals with the medium of the art materials such as viscous paint, but includes the whole world: culture, society, politics, the economy, etc. So when artists make art as practice, then they need to develop strategies that deal with theory and big ideas such as science, psychology, linguistics to name a few.

Paradoxically, it sounds that art as practice would then make art accessible to the average person, but does it?

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