Visual Art A Word About A Word
posted by December 26 at 11:17 AMon
Roberta Smith has called for the banishment from art writing of the word “practice,” as in, “it’s a part of the artist’s practice.” Jeff Jahn of PORT has piled on: “one has to have a receptionist and a lobby to have a practice.”
Smith writes: “The impetus behind practice may be to demystify the stereotype of the visionary or emotion-driven artist, and indeed it does. It turns the artist into an utterly conventional authority figure. First off, there’s the implication that artists, like lawyers, doctors and dentists, need a license to practice.”
OK, OK, fair enough. “Practice” is, undeniably, used in excess in the art world, and we should decree that it be doled out only to those who can use it without being haughty. (A search of our archives shows I’ve used it 3.5 times per year; I vow to be more sparing.)
Except I’d like to put in a little plug for the word before it is totally discredited.
The noun “practice” refers not only to the proprietary concern of a businessperson, but also to rehearsal, to a field of open play, to an event during which self-betterment is more important than who wins or loses. There is no reason to think that, when applied to art, the labor-oriented definition trumps the rehearsal definition. In fact, they overlap nicely.
Furthermore, what’s a better noun to describe the play/labor that artists do over time?