WTF is Praxis?

You might notice the tagline to my little blog is “Creative Praxis.” But WTF does “praxis” mean? I am not referring to the test one might take to get into grad school to potentially become a teacher, or the rehab facility, but the word rooted in Greek that was first used in 1518.

Merriam-Webster defines praxis as “an exercise or practice of an art, science, or skill” and “a practical application of a theory”. Wikipedia states praxis is “the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted or practiced, embodied and/or realized. ‘Praxis’ may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas.” Somewhere, in between the pretentious and convoluted words, I found the word I had tried to find to describe the process of making art. It’s my favorite word, one that I have used for the last 8 years, and one I will continue to use until this body can no longer sustain me.

To me, praxis means not only the process of researching and formulating ideas, shooting film (or painting, or writing, or whatever craft you choose), collecting histories, collecting theories, and eventually piecing everything together. Praxis is the culmination of all these steps, as well as the final piece. I find the word cyclical in nature, ideas and objects and theories all moving in a whirlpool of a project. On the other hand, the word “process” has always seemed so linear: step A to step B to step C until we arrive at our destination. But i have never been a linear person, nor thought in a linear manner, and that is why I will always choose the word “praxis” over “process.”

I started this blog to discuss a few major photographic projects I am currently working on, and potentially as a space to discuss future projects as well. One project (Hereditics) is in its beginning stages and I have no idea where it will go, though I do expect it to take me at least a few years to discover its path. Another one of the projects, which I will start writing about in the upcoming months, is a project that was put away for a few years and has resurfaced. The basic skeletal structure of the project currently exists, but theories and research and writings need to be fleshed out. This is my space to discuss my praxis and growing relationships with these projects.

“For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.”
Paulo Freire

But I promise it won’t all be theorizing and deep internalization and discovering what and how I want to communicate with my craft. Sometimes even I need to let loose and have some fun, experiment a little, see what happens when I throw caution to the wind and frankly, my dear, not give a damn. That’s what I did today, when I picked up a roll of film that I had run through boiling water and baking soda before shooting, and the results were quite fun, and slightly reminiscent of some of the damaged film of my grandmothers I have been going through as of late. Who knows, maybe someday this little experiment will become a part of my serious praxis.

Jonathan and his typewriter


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