Roberta Smith had a linguistic bone to pick with some of the language that gets attached to art making (in particular, the term 'practice'), and her article seems to have gotten Andrew Bernardini's and Tom Moody's panties in a wad. Andrew responds:
The word held a special appeal for me. Rather than just a person who made things, luxury items for a a well-heeled clientèle, a practice didn't have to make any thing. It could, but it didn't have to. A practice was about doing, a focus on process. The work of an artists was not necessarily to make things, but to do things. When I started hearing artists (not critics, professors, or philosophers, but artists) say practice, the word was electrifying.So in the process of making stuff came up in my conversation with Nicholas Grider. I may have said 'inside joke' but I also remember saying 'hermetic.' Having a large gap between my undergrad and graduate years, I know what it's like to make something and have it hang on a wall for a quarter of a century. As Julian Schnabel said on the radio today (comparing art to movie making) art is static. It is the world around it and the people that revisit the art that changes. I think about how works age, comparing Dan Flavin's tribute to a failed presidential candidate and a Russian painter-architect. I wonder how many kids today even know who George McGovern is, and how that knowledge changes the valence of the work.
Which is partly why I questioned making art about current art market high jinks and how that effects the current crop of graduate students. I'm trying to think of artwork that addressed the declining market of 1987, or which graduates were showing work, but if any was being made, I don't remember it. Which brings me to Mr. Moody's comment:
A historian might use "Duchamp's practice" to distinguish something the artist did from something he thought or wrote, e.g.: "It is a matter of scholarly debate whether chess merely informed Duchamp's theory or could be considered part of his practice."
As for a grad student saying "My practice"--yes, it sounds pretentious as a description of two years' worth of work and is probably the phrase that set Smith off. But one wonders why a Times critic is hearing that. (my emphasis) Could it be because hot grad students are considered the only viable players in the current art market? Maybe that's what she's really mad about.
Which is sort of creepy, in a 'guy in a trench coat on the playground' sort of way. Why is a critic from the Times hearing that--L.A., New York, or otherwise? Aren't there artists outside of grad school making interesting art that they can type about? Personally I'm here to talk to faculty and my peers and have the luxury to experiment in ways that I may not if I'm making objects to sell to pay my student loans. Grad school is a great opportunity. If I wanted to play to the market, I could have easily skipped this step.