Michael Nannery's art may not obviously be "art". This is what makes his work such compelling art.
Nannery presents life as art.
We've been painting for 40,000 years. We've been writing novels for 2,000 years. Are Nannery's Aquariums or Dirt Making New Media? What of Brian Davis' Juicing? Are the media of Social Practice new? Or is it considering this culture in an art context what is new?
A long time ago there was a party in my parents' back yard. My father, a non-practicing Jew who loved bible movies, raised some question of faith. Some query of doubt. His great, charismatic, long-time friend Ray Ceniceroz responded instantly and forcefully with his deep and powerful voice,
If you believe, no explanation is necessary. If you do not believe, no explanation is possible.
This slogan may be as brilliant as it is bankrupt. And yet when I consider the work of artists engaged in social practice, I find myself unexpectedly remembering it. Why are Nannery's Aquariums or Davis' Juicing art? Is it because they present it in an art gallery? What if Davis juiced at Robeks? What if Nannery worked at a tropical fish store? Is thinking that there is a line between art and life an idea that can only be thought in the global north? Are Social Practice, Public Art, and Social Production more democratic and inclusive? Less elitist? Do we actually want the banality of the great masses of popular culture to taint the purity of our art visions? Can you be elitist without thinking that you're better than everyone?
I know it when I see it
Perhaps the "art" in Social Practice is like the "pornography" in US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous opinion in the 1964 Jacobellis v. Ohio pornography case:
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.
Rather than dig this hole any deeper, I'll turn to the greatest thinker I know in this space: Henessy Youngman:
Michael Nannery Online
Michael Nannery speaking with visitors to Dirt Making, the exhibition he recently curated at an art space on 6th Street in Downtown Los Angeles.