PRACTICE / PRATIQUE
Date of conference: February 8, 2020.
The 14th Annual Concordia University Art History Graduate Student's Association (AHGSA) Graduate Symposium, Montreal.
The definition of “practice” according to its Greek etymological root praxis is “to do,” but the quotidian meanings of this term are much richer. According to Marcus Boon and Gabriel Levine, while the term practice describes actions and disciplines involved in art-making, there has been a “practical turn” in the arts centered on concepts rather than skills. This post-medium condition is characterized by a focus on actions, processes, ephemerality and dematerialization. However, the verb “to practice” also connotes the repetition and perfection of a given action or skill. The potentials of repetition and failure are revealed when examining practice from this perspective. How practices are constituted, and how praxis consequently shapes matter, are important research questions for scholars in the art historical field.
Eurocentric conceptions of art history have suppressed many forms of practice. Critical approaches today (including Indigenous, feminist, postcolonial, and queer scholarship) continue to shift our understanding of practice, away from a conceptual process of production and towards an embodied process, in which theory and praxis are not separated entities. Increasingly, practices are inextricably linked to our identities. Thinking about how those practices can be embodied, enacted, produced, and performed implies a profound transformation of scholarship.