Reading response: A critique of social practice art

1. What is the role of art in social practice? And what kind of role or function could it play? Does art has this responsibility to participate in social practice?

An artist basically uses art to communicate his idea to a group or community of people. Once an artist’s idea is communicated, then it can be built upon by other social practitioners. As far as social practice is concerned, art can be used as a way to promote the practice. Like the example given in the article, the occupy movement used art in order to promote the movement. Similarly, there are various communities in Asia, where administrators destroyed and rebuilt entire villages for capitalistic motives, but they said it is for aesthetic concern. Those residents in the villages used to have strong social connection or belongingness toward their community, in order to not hurt those residents’ feelings (or, to create a nicer saying to the public), the administrators used the saying that the purpose is for pursuing higher common profit of citizens. The re-building is termed as social practice because it is being done for the people who live there by building architectural structures or art galleries. A lot of times, designers come up with possible solutions for social change and give it a form of art in order for their solutions to reach out and speak to the community they have been targeting. We have seen architects doing that while re-building different communities. For example, companies, architects and NGOs want to re-build the slums in Mumbai, all for different reasons but leading up to the same goal, some of the reasons are capitalistic yet some are not, but still stick on to the idea that it is to bring about a change in the lives of people who reside there.

2. Is art a tool, form, container, or an approach in social practice? What is the idea behind an artistic action?

Art is also totally dependent on how people use it. Rirkit Tirivanija’s 1992 artwork example, mentioned in the article; was about serving curry and rice to people visiting the exhibition; but why is it art? or even social practice? Serving curry is building an aesthetic relation to the art piece by involving people in the art itself. But what led to this artistic action? Was it just a way to have people participate in something the artist made and eventually only a means for the artist to promote themselves? Art becomes social practice when it is not only addressed to the community but also does something for the community.

3. If art has the function of carrying out social practice / idea, since usually the society / community has longer existence and history, how fundamental could this idea be? Would it be just a temporary thing?

How does an artist know if what they are building is going to live for a long time or just temporarily be a piece of art that is spoken or debated about by other people. As mentioned above, art is an idea communicated through the art piece to a community, but a community stays together for a long time, in that case how is it that art can continue to influence the community without being exhaustive? How do we know that an idea put across by an artist is something that is going to be relevant for generations in the community?

4. Is collaboration inherently anti-capitalist? If so, how so and why? If not, why not?

Collaboration is not entirely anti-capitalist, but at some point the monetary desires need to be set aside in order for the collaboration to work out. At some point however, it is going to be driven by capitalist motives. Put together a group of artists and social practitioners to come up with an idea for a space in the city; both would be working on the same goal, but in order to make the most of the space it is important for them to collaborate. A balance between monetary and social aspects should be maintained in order for the collaboration to work out well.

– Ritika & Mennie

Reading Response – “Tyranny of Structurelessness”

From my understanding, this reading is more than merely a description of how structurelessness took place from the past to modern times.The idea of “structurelessness” was created because of the women’s liberation movement. It is an extremely critical commentary that gives us a completely different insight of collaboration. It might be really normal for people to participate in a group and then spontaneously have a center of authority. As we always think of the typical type of leadership, the informal structure is continuously set. However, the fact that this “usual” matter which happens all the time in our daily lives can have an enormous impact to the group improvement and achievement. The lost of structure in fact gives several people in the group much more power but without a formal standard, which means they are not responsible for their actions nor can be taken over since there is no legitimate way.

Structurelessness was originated from the movement of feminism. It is easy to see the benefits of forming groups without formal regulations. Women at that period were more conservative in a way that most of the participants were given the power to talk but unable to. And even at the times that people were not being so sensitive about what might happen running a group without a structural organization in the future, there were still lots of boundaries for women to be part of the movement. There were also lots of different standards for women to get into the elite group of feminist organizations such as being not single or lesbian. It is obvious that even from the old time we can tell the only way being part of the elite group is to make yourself like them and pledge a sorority.

I really like how Jo Freeman describes this matter. She wants to clarify that informal structures and structureless groups are different. A structure group can have both formal structures and informal ones, but not for sturctureless groups. As a matter of fact, mentioned in the paper, informal structure is inevitable. It’s not bad but inevitable. But only unstructure groups are totally governed by it. I am really impressed by this description of how real it is that explains the problems we encounter while collaborating and how we should cope with them. There are also several useful guides stated on last pages of how we can form formal structures and engage more group members in a democratic fashion.

From my own experience, I like small groups more than large ones. After reading this paper, I started to understand why. Not only because I feel more comfortable being with friends, which is also not a good sign for task accomplishing, but also having the power of controlling things the way I want them to be. I have to admit that being as authority in a group but also irresponsible (no rules that make me an leader) like the author implied, is actually a very good feeling. It is a very great examination after reading this and looking back to my own communities and thinking whether there should be structure principles that make the group goal more achievable.

Therefore, here are my questions:

  1. Have you ever been in a less structure group? What were the factors that took place beside professional ones (such as friendships with other members) in the decision making process?
  2. If you have been in a less structure group, do you view yourself as an “STAR” or the ones who try to get into the elite group?
  3. What kind of situation do you think is better to form a less structure group?
  4. Which one do you prefer, structure or structureless group?


It was popular and successful in the 1970s, because the original purpose is to encourage participation and elicit personal insights. While the author pointed out two main reasons that structurelessness can’t be extended. The first one is that the “structureless” group was built to only prevent the formal structures, not the informal ones. The second reason is that any group of people will inevitable structure itself. For example, people can participate in its activities only when they know the rules.

Also the author talked about the nature of elitism. Elitism is one of the informal structures. The author clearly described the formal and informal structures. I think the interesting thing about elitism is how new people join the group and how they participate in it. Most of the groups are created according to people’s levels of skills. However the way to value people’s skills is complicated.