Social-specificity in practice

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
93 + 14
This thesis examines the connection between developments in Western philosophy concerning the definitions and understanding of society, social and community, in relation to nonhuman elements within our environments, and an increasingly distanced relationship to the production and consumption of food. Through identifying a sub-category of critical arts practice, social-specific art, this thesis explores these ideas and the potential they have for altering perceptions of the human position on Earth. Three projects that engage different communities or collectives with different consumables, are presented here as examples of work I have developed within the context of a social-specific practice. The artworks involve collaborations and exchanges of skills and knowledge about the contents of different food and drink or the environment needed to create them. The work has been produced alongside discussions and research into the philosophical ideas of Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory; the notion of social as associations and the abandoning of society altogether, and Jane Bennett’s vibrant materiality; an attempt to increase awareness of the vibrancy of other actors on Earth, with the view that it could reduce environmentally destructive human behaviour. The terms society and social have been examined in relation to the human understanding of their entanglement with their environment and thus the term social-specific has been coined. My projects have been placed in the context of previous artists practicing critical art, including Helen and Newton Harrison, Joseph Beuys and the Critical Art Ensemble, as key influences in the movement towards and development of a social-specific practice that aims to connect humans with the hidden actors that, in this case, create the food and drink they consume.
Lindman, Pia
Thesis advisor
Mäki, Teemu
Elliot, Scott
environment art, societal change, food politics, collective, social, critical art
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