I feel a resonant sadness at the passing of this platform, one of the few dependable spaces for rigorous socially-engaged practice within a major art museum in this city. Perhaps the work was not always so rigorous, and the structure was problematic, the collectives were not always collectives, the "social practice" looked more like straight-up performance at times, and MOCA itself became increasingly unstable territory for experimental work to find purchase. But Engagement Party mirrored my own love affair with social practice, way back when I saw the backwards lettering of the Finishing School poster suddenly clarify in the mirror of the USC IFT building's women's bathroom.
To art or not to art, that is the morally-inflected question many of these young artists are trying to work through. Certainly, works that are inherently participatory and aim to be expansive or community-based or even (gasp) aim to affect real social and political change, will involve audience and participants that do not have an art historical background or language, or indeed any way of locating what they are encountering as "art."