Archive: Issue No. 107, July 2006

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by Carine Zaayman

Michael MacGarry describes his website All Theory. No Practice as a 'publishing mechanism'. Indeed, MacGarry's website contains all manner of interesting bits and pieces that exceed many of the usual 'artist's home page' fodder that one commonly finds online. Instead, what is presented here is an intriguing mix of writing, theory, image and downloadable content. Moreover, the way in which MacGarry has approached the web as platform for creative work reveals a solid understanding of this medium.

I was initially unsure why someone would elect to give his web presentation the unflattering title of 'All Theory. No Practice', and I have not been able to find a direct statement from the artist on the site regarding this choice. Clearly, there is practice here - the website contains documentation of videos and exhibitions. It might just be my specific context, but the 'all theory' description is something often used to describe the work of artists who are scholarly minded, have a keen interest in theory, and produce work heavily influenced by these things. Often derided for making work that cannot stand 'without' theory, such artists find themselves in a no-man's-land somewhere between art and theory.

Admittedly, this title captured my imagination, being a writer and artist myself, but MacGarry may well see things altogether differently. However, after perusing the texts and images on the site I recognise at least some of this interplay between theory and practice at work on a rather complicated level. For instance, a browse through the 'work' section reveals many references to Modernist architecture (Le Corbusier) and sculpture (Brancusi), Postcolonial theory (White Skin, Black Masks) and popular culture (Spiderman), amongst many others. These references are cogently set out in the accompanying text, while the visual references to the works are also provided. In this way, MacGarry makes his intellectual process clear, and in opposition to much theoretically inspired work, accessible.

Moreover, many of MacGarry's works are parodies and commentaries on these texts, theories or artistic predecessors. They are fundamentally informed by the theoretical context on which he draws, and thus the theory is inextricably part of his practice. What I find most interesting, is that the self-effacing title of the website is perhaps a self-referential frame for the entire project, a gesture that cleverly makes space for his particular (and in some sense perhaps even anachronistic) approach.