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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.

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The New Politics of the Handmade: Craft, Art and Design
is a forthcoming publication on contemporary craft politics edited by Anthea Black and Nicole Burisch.

The New Politics of the Handmade examines the role of contemporary art, craft and design as part of a dramatically shifting global economy. Current interest in virtually every aspect of the handmade appears in Do-It-Yourself, Craftivism, sustainable living, decolonial practices and aesthetics, and a new focus on labour and materiality in visual art and museums. The handmade has become inseparable from capitalist modes of production and consumption, and this change demands new understandings of objects, aesthetics and labour. New writing and artists projects by international scholars and practitioners look at the politics of scarcity, hoarding and sustainability, craftivism and ‘ethical’ consumption, urban space and new technologies, race, cultural heritage and sovereignty. The authors offer a radical rethink of the politics and economics of the handmade, and claim craft as a dynamic critical field for thinking through the most immediate issues of our time.

About the editors:

Anthea Black is an artist and cultural worker based in San Francisco and Toronto, Canada. Her writing has been published by Bordercrossings, No More Potlucks, Carleton University Art Gallery, and FUSE magazine where she was a contributing editor from 2008-2014. She has exhibited in Canada, the US, Norway and The Netherlands, and curated No Place: Queer Geographies on Screen and PLEASURE CRAFT. In 2012, she was the Viola Frey visiting scholar at California College of the Arts, where she is now an Assistant Professor in Printmedia and Graduate Fine Arts.

Nicole Burisch is a critic and curator based in Ottawa, Canada. Her writing has been published in Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Cahiers métiers d’art-Craft Journal, No More Potlucks, and dpi: Feminist Journal of Art and Digital Culture. She has worked with organizations such as Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art, Artexte, and Centre des arts actuels Skol and was a 2014-2016 Core Fellow Critic-in-Residence with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Writings by Black and Burisch are included in The Craft Reader (BERG) and Extra/ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art (Duke University Press), Making Otherwise (Carleton University Art Gallery) and together they have lectured on craft, curating, and politics in Canada, the USA, and the UK.

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.

 

subversive-stitch

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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