Social practice — art actions within the community — can be seen as a kind of performance art. But the way independent curator Juliana Driever frames it in “About, With & For” at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Mills Gallery, the form’s DNA reaches further back than the early performance art of the 1950s and ’60s. She roots social practice in any community-minded creative undertaking: a quilting bee, for instance. In press materials, she calls it a “folk ethos.”
It’s an exciting and at times perplexing show, with a buzzy, daring energy. Whether it’s the enormous, goofy goose puppets made by “HONK! The Festival of Activist Street Bands,” or Mare Liberum, described in the exhibition brochure as “a free-form boatbuilding and publishing waterfront art collective,” which has canoes built from laminated paper on view, you get the sense that these are passion projects. Commercial interests, if any, are secondary.