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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.

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The Ladies’ Invitational Deadbeat Society (LIDS) was founded in 2006 as a closely-knit affiliation of then-unemployed cultural workers, not working, but still bustin’ ass within Alberta artist-run culture. Their activities made visible and politicized women’s roles in the arts economy through tactical laziness, crafty collaboration, over-performance, and wild hilarity. They announced their intentions to DO LESS in a series of works produced between 2012 and 2014, and to completely withdraw from art-making at the Calgary Biennial 2015. After a decade of non-activity, they officially called in quits in 2016. LIDS was Anthea BlackNicole Burisch, and Wednesday Lupypciw.

An archive of projects can be found on the LIDS site.

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 Ladies’ Invitational Deadbeat Society’s limited edition DO LESS WITH LESS / DO MORE WITH MORE cross stitch pattern poster was first printed at the Alberta Printmakers’ Society in June 2012. The slogan was inspired by a discussion held during Artivistic’s Promiscuous Infrastructures project at Centre des arts actuels Skol in Montréal, Québec about how artists and non-profit arts organizations negotiate the constant pressure to do more with less. Reissued for FUSE Magazine‘s last issue, LIDS proposes that we resist the capitalist logic of constant acceleration, productivity, and austerity budgets by reasserting a realistic level of production within our means. Use LIDS’ handy pull out pattern to stitch a banner for your own office and hang in the orientation of your choice!

A version of the poster was also printed in PHONEBOOK 4, directory of independent art spaces, programs, and projects in the United States, in 2015; and it has been included in exhibitions Beginning with the Seventies: Glut, at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC in 2018 and Creative Cloth: Aesthetics and Apparel at Museum London, London, ON  in 2019.

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Ladies Invitational Deadbeat Society, DO LESS WITH LESS / DO MORE WITH MORE, FUSE Magazine 31-1 WINTER 2013-14 PATTERN PULLOUT.

Photo credits: Olya Zarapina

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.

 

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The Subversive Stitch Revisited: The Politics of Cloth will explore the legacy of Rozsika Parker’s groundbreaking book, The Subversive Stitch: embroidery and the making of the feminine (1984) and two landmark exhibitions from 1988 that developed Parker’s ideas. It will consist of a two day event held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and an online resource that will include documentation of the event.

Anthea and I presented our paper “From Craftivism to Craftwashing: consuming and co-opting the politics of craft” on Saturday November 30th at 2pm as part of the session The Activists’ Stitch: from Craftivism to ‘Craftwashing’.

Full event info here, and on Twitter. Podcast version of our talk available here.

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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