Archive

Writing

Invited contribution for Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture (Taylor and Francis) special issue on “Crafting Community” edited by Kirsty Robertson and Lisa Vinebaum.

Abstract
Traditional craft practice has long emphasized features of function and materiality, with the useful and skillfully produced object at the center of the way craft is read and understood. However, a number of recent exhibitions and artworks have included not just objects, but also craft set in motion through participatory projects or performances. Correspondingly, the crafted object has undergone a shift in its once-central role, serving instead as a record of an event or process, a prop or tool, and in some cases disappearing altogether. Through a consideration of select projects and curatorial strategies from Common Threads at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery in Calgary, AB (2008), and Gestures of Resistance at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, OR (2010), this article argues that it is necessary to consider how the histories and theories of performance art are intersecting with contemporary craft practices, with a particular focus on the role of documentation and ephemeral traces.

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Instant Coffee, Bass Benches. Common Threads, curated by Lee Plested at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Calgary, AB. November 22, 2007 to January 5, 2008. Photo courtesy of Illingworth Kerr Gallery.

Never Enough / Jamais Assez: on documentation, proximity, and Nadège Grebmeier Forget’s SUITE  from the series One on one’s for so-called fans
A text responding to a performance by Nadège Grebmeier Forget, published in the 2015 Core Program catalog

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“In describing the challenges of writing about performances “in absentia,” Amelia Jones has argued that, “the problems raised by my absence… are largely logistical rather than ethical or hermeneutic. That is, while the experience of viewing a photograph and reading a text is clearly different from that of sitting in a small room watching an artist perform, neither has a privileged relationship to the historical ‘truth’ of the performance.”[1] Building upon this claim, I am interested in thinking through what it means to work with/within the logistical problems of absence. This text uses multiple and multiplying forms of documentation to negotiate my distance from the performance, less with the goal of providing a conclusive account of the event, but in a way that might hold a space for all the conflicting, affective, awkward, messy, unofficial, intimate, embodied, compromised, personal, and subjective versions of the performance.”

Download the full PDF here.

[1] Amelia Jones, “‘Presence’ in absentia: Experiencing Performance as Documentation,” Art Journal 56, no. 4, (Winter, 1997): 1

Craft on Demand: The New Politics of the Handmade is a forthcoming publication on contemporary craft politics edited by Anthea Black and Nicole Burisch. The book features new texts and artist projects by international scholars and practitioners who activate craft as a critical field for understanding and thinking through the most immediate political, economic, and aesthetic issues of our time.

For more than a century, craft has been positioned as both a fix and foil for capitalism and the alienating conditions of industrialization. Today the increased connections between craft, art, design, and manufacturing have paralleled dramatic shifts in the global economy, becoming virtually inseparable from capitalist modes of production and consumption. Contemporary interest in virtually every aspect of the handmade has found varied expressions through Do-It-Yourself, Craftivism, sustainable living, medical and military applications, and a new focus on labour and materiality in visual art and museum cultures. Practitioners have further hybridized craft media and processes through cross-disciplinary collaboration and digital culture, leading to new senses of craft’s relevance as a public discourse. Just as being ‘on demand’ signals a new relationship to production and consumption, Craft on Demand aims to rethink the role of the handmade in contemporary culture across a variety of sites.

Acknowledgements:
Black and Burisch wish to acknowledge the support of Canada Council for the Arts, Grants to Independent Critics and Curators, Ontario Arts Council Craft Projects – Connections, and The Center for Craft Creativity and Design.

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The relationship between arts economies and austerity is a tumultuous one. We need only recall Stephen Harper’s sneering 2008 categorization of artists as rich complainers as evidence of the persistent myths that are used to devalue artistic work as “non-essential” during times of economic crisis. And yet, while the global commercial art market continues to experience steady growth and record-breaking auction sales, this profit-oriented circuit is neither possible nor desirable for many artists. Given the rich history of art works that engage with economic exchange–from artists’ storefronts and corporations to drop-out culture and performative actions of refusal–we are interested in considering the ways in which artists negotiate and respond to the simultaneous devaluation of artistic work, and increasing pressures on artists, cultural workers, and funding agencies to behave as financial speculators. In a climate of austerity budgets and precarious labour, we ask: how do artists, cultural workers, and institutions adapt and situate themselves? What kinds of identities–within cultural work and more broadly–are produced by capitalist accelerationism? On October 24 2014, as part of the UAAC conference held at OCADU in Toronto, I co-chaired a panel with Anthea Black on Performing Austerity: Artists, Work, and Economic Speculation. The panel included papers by Shannon Stratton, Michael Maranda, and Kirsty Robertson. To introduce the panel and frame some of the issues presented in the papers, we also drafted a letter to the UAAC community. What follows is a working draft of that letter that we are inviting our colleagues to read, sign, and comment on.

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From May 5th to June 6th I will be doing a research/curatorial residency at Residency Unlimited in Brooklyn. While there, I will be starting work on a new research project entitled How To Shut Down An Artist-run Centre // Comment fermer un centre d’artiste autogéré. Merci beaucoup à Clark et au Conseil des arts de Montréal pour leur soutien de cette résidence.

Project Description
(le français suit)

I have been involved in Canadian artist-run culture for almost ten years now – as an employee, board member, and artist. The spaces and working methods of these centres have provided innumerable forms of community support and inspiration. But they are also operating in an increasingly precarious position – one that often echos and even reproduces precarious conditions for artists and cultural workers.

Recently, I have been thinking about ways that an artist-run centre might not only react to this position, but how it might prepare for the worst. Given the current political climate and the increasing pressure to generate their own revenues, it seems inevitable that centres will either need to radically rethink how they operate…or risk shutting down altogether. There are a few centres that have moved away from the traditional “white cube” models or that have started to shift their operations or revenue streams, but many continue to rely on and reproduce a model that is at best redundant, and at worst, unsustainable. For those working in the milieu it seems unspeakable, but what would it mean to close an artist-run centre on purpose? What if we gave ourselves 5 more years, knowing that at the end we would close? What kinds of things would we do differently, what kind of risks would we take? How would we change to best serve our memberships? What new models might emerge? What patterns might disappear? What if we responded to funding cuts not by doing yet another fundraiser, but by using up the last of our dwindling supply of public funding to “go out with a bang?”

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All images courtesy of the artists.I am part of a group exhibition of Alberta College of Art + Design alumni along with Ward Bastian, Jolie Bird, Hyang Cho, Dean Drever, MacKenzie Kelly-Frère, Stephen Holman, Robin Lambert, Wednesday Lupypciw, Brendan McGillicuddy, Tyler Rock, Jenna Stanton, and Pavitra Wickramasinghe. The exhibition is called In the Making and it is up from January 16 to February 22, 2014 at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery in Calgary.

Curated by Diana Sherlock, the exhibition investigates conceptual intersections between contemporary craft and emerging digital media. The works span a diverse range of disciplines—photography, performance, video and sound installation, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry and glass—and reflect the ongoing influence of technology on ways of making and ways of thinking about the contemporary context.

My role in the exhibition is as that of animator or researcher: rather than reviewing it from a distance or writing an essay without seeing the work, I’m doing on-site research and get to be implicated in a more direct way with the exhibition, artists, curator, and community. I was in Calgary from January 18-25 to meet with the other exhibiting artists, conduct interviews, do visits, and present some of my recent research. I will share more information here as the project develops.

Image credits: L to R, T to B: Pavitra Wickramasinghe, Jenna Stanton, Hyang Cho, Wednesday Lupypciw, Jolie Bird, Brendan McGillicuddy, Ward Bastian, Dean Drever, MacKenzie Kelly-Frère, Stephen Holman, Robin Lambert, Tyler Rock.

 

Hay in a Haystack :: Du foin dans une meule de foin
crafty excerpts from Artexte’s collection :: extraits artisanaux de la collection d’Artexte
A limited-edition bookwork based on my 2012-2013 research residency at Artexte, available for consultation on-site at Artexte.
A small print-on-demand publication that includes a sampling of the excerpts in the bookwork is also available for purchase.

(La version française suit)

strata; transparencies; bonding; bound and buried cores; nervous energy, work energy, calm; body containing, body projecting; logical secrets; fragments meeting on a grid; progressive processes; repetition of gesture, of form, of line, of activity, of action; repetition in time and as time; serial rhythms flexed and measured; motion, muscle, touch; fetishes dissected and respected; abstract ritual; taut/loose, tension/freedom, part/whole, microcosm, macrocosm, distance/intimacy, interior/exterior; structure stretched, geometry thwarted into growth, memory compacted into layers, indoors outdoors, outdoors indoors; empty centers, open spaces; animal, vegetable, mineral, flesh.

Lucy Lippard, catalogue for Strata, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1977

Central to my research over the past few years has been the issue of how craft is perceived or represented. Rather than being a question of definition (what is craft?), this is a question about how craft or a crafted aesthetic is used to represent certain values or affiliations (more like why craft?). In particular, this line of inquiry has focused on the ways that craft, from its position on the margins of traditional art historical discourse, has often been used as a means to signal an affiliation with alternative lifestyles or politicized art practices.

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