Saturday, May 7, 2011

Useful quote from The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

I was listening to The Botany of Desire today when I ran across this quote:

For what is a sense of the banality of something if not the defense against the overwhelming (or at least, whelming) power of that thing experienced freshly? Banality depends on memory: as do irony, abstraction and boredom, three other defenses the educated mind deploys against experience so that it can get through the day without being continually, exhaustingly, astonished. It is by temporarily much of what we already know, or think we know, that cannabis restores a kind of innocence to our perceptions of the world, and innocence in adults will always flirt with embarassment...By disabling our moment by moment memory, which is ever pulling us off the astounding frontier of the present and throwing us back onto the mapped byways of the past, the cannabinoids open a space for something nearer to direct experience. By the grace of this forgetting, we temporarily shelve our inhereted ways of looking and wee things as if for the first time, so that even something as ordinary as ice cream becomes Ice Cream. There is another word for this extremeist noticing; this sense of first sight unencombered by knowingness, by the already been-theres and seen-thats of the adult mind, and that word, of course, is wonder. Memory is the enemy of wonder, which abides nowhere else but in the present. This is why, unless you are a child, wonder depends on forgetting; on a process, that is, of subtraction.

06:12:00'- 06:14:00'

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Helpful Quotes from Hand + Made

Adamson,Glenn, Valerie Cassel Oliver and Namita Wiggers.Hand + Made: The Performative Impulse in Art and Craft. Contemporary Art Museam Houston, 2010.

"One of the key objectives of the Bauhaus was to unify art, craft, and technology, and its teachers rejected the notion of a hierarchy among media or materials," (Oliver, 11).

"Untethered from its traditional boundaries, postwar American craft began to engage with the avant-garde practices of the day. From within this context arose a generation of artists whose work deemphasized the utilitarian nature of the object, instead exploring the conceptual and contextual issues surrounding object making as well as the philosophical and social concerns that occupied their contemporaries in the art world, such as existentialism, aesthetic hierarchies, and the commercialization of art, identity and culture." (Oliver, 12).

"Wilson has skillfully integrated conventional fine art materials with craft techniques to deconstruct disciplines and focus attention on the politics of gender, race, and culture" (Oliver, 16-17).

"Simply put, is no longer relegated to the binary of functionality and autonomy or, more archaically, to high or low art. And in the context of contemporary art, such delineations have ceased to be relevant as contemporary artists today fluidly move between disciplines and genres to create new traditions." (Oliver, 18).

"As hand skills become less and less common, they are ever more often set out for appreciation in their own right, like endangered species in a zoo." (Adamson, 21).

"Craft in performance reassures us, then. It seems certain, rich, deep-- historically embedded and intrinsically valuable. There's a problem with the picture though: what about the objects that result? In this respect, craft is very different from other types of skillful performance. As the handmade object enters into circuits of reception, exchange, and critical judgment, it becomes an unmanageable thing. Its status (as artwork, design, luxury good, souvenir, folk item, magical talisman, prototype, readymade, or replica) becomes a subjective matter. Its value is no longer self-evident but is determined by the corrupting, or at least confusing, forces of the marketplace. This difficulty has been with us since the time of William Morris, and it shows no sign of going away anytime soon. The characteristic twentieth-century solution was to position the craft object as an artwork, in which case it could be claimed to have critical potential in an age of mass production. But this is much easier said than done; many (perhaps most) modern craft objects do not transcend the skill that went into their making in this way. If anything, they play a game of catch-up with their facture, so that we are left with the feeling that the object is only the retrospective excuse for its own making. Craft remains chained to the production of commodities, like Prometheus to his rock." (Adamson, 22-23).

"When one does encounter craft in this digital age, it is usually the process and not the product that counts. This is, indeed, the constant refrain from the do-it-yourself (DIY) movement, which has become such a conspicuous feature of the American craft landscape in recent years". (Adamson, 24).

"We should remember that the real, lasting value of a performance is what it inspires besides awe". (Adamson, 25).

Page 25, Picture of the KnittaPlease Mexico City Bus, tag reads: Mexico City Bus, 2008, knitted and crocheted yarn, glue, city bus, Courtesy of the artists and Absolut Vodka
-good tie in to corporate sponsorship: Unilever soap sponsors the Turbine Hall exhibits and PBR is the official sponsor of the Renegade Craft Fair.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Outline for M. Friday Class Presentation

Topic: Contemporary Craft and Craftivism

Questions to ask students to consider during the presentation: How does craft affect my studio practice? How do my ideas regarding craft alter my perception of artwork? What makes a successful work of art? When is craftsmanship an issue? When is it not an issue?

-Going to be talking about Craft and its relationship to Art
-Define Craft as a noun
-Define craft as a verb
-Define Craft as a field of study
*academic craft vs traditional craft vs DIY

-Talk about the history of Craft
*guilds of the Middle Ages (Bayeaux Tapestry)
*William Morris, the Arts and Crafts Movement
*Bauhaus, Black Mountain College
*WWII and the GI Bill
*Current trends in the Crafts field: Museum of Art and Design

-Craft exists in a precarious place; talk about Craft's relationship with Design and with Art, quote from Garth Clark's "The Death of Craft"

-Talk about the future of Craft
*the use of craft in art (work after Unmonumental)
*'Craft is Mexico' quote
*the performance impulse in Craft (Gabriel Craig)
*liminal work; artists working in the margins of Craft
*what is the difference between a successful Craft object and a successful Art object?
*talk about venues for Craft and Craft's confusing and occasionally problematic relationship with its perceived audience

*provide definition to this relatively new trend
*talk a bit about the history of fiber arts
*talk about the importance of community building in Craftivism
*provide examples of recent Craftivist projects

-Leave at least 20 mins for discussion; answer any questions and ask them to talk about the questions posed at the beginning of the presentation

Monday, April 4, 2011


Ideas for titles:

23' Extension
Short (closed circuit)

Run to Ground

Dead Outlet

Live Wire

Ideas for Show Title:

Dropped Potential
Potential Difference

Thursday, March 31, 2011


The current state of Craftivism, as in the larger art world, is hyper sensitive to the time taken to complete a project of make an object.

Craft + Activism = Craftivism

What is craft? What is Activism? Craft is tied to process, while activism is tied to outcome. Activism is born out of a sense of urgency; it is a reaction to an injustice, as well as projection towards a tangible goal.

Craftivism lacks the sense of sacrifice that comes with activist practice; there is no threat of arrest, no disruption to everyday life, no call for immediate change.

Community building through the disappearing act of making . Is making important? Yes. But is it inherently political? I would say that it is not. It is an important start, but we lie in danger of saying that it is an end in itself-- this is too easy.

Craftivism is not a replacement for activism.

Labor vs. Craft

What is the difference between labor and craft? Craft is a tricky word, as it is both a verb (a well crafted vessel) and a noun (the Crafts program at the University of Illinois) generally, however, the word craft implies skill; technical mastery of a process or a material. Labor, on the other hand, is concerned not with skill, but with time and effort. A person can put hours into the creation of a poorly made object, in other words, an object that posses little craft, but their commitment to its creation results in an object that has been labored over. While this may seem an unimportant distinction, it is vital in a closer look at the craftivist movement.

Making is Political / The Personal is Political
To say the making is inherently political seems an extension of Carol Hanisch’s seminal article The Personal is Political, published in 1969.

Talk about Woman House

People used to make things out of necessity, now many people do not have the leisure time to make things rather than buy them.

It is those with the money to buy materials and the leisure time to learn the skill that are able to call their work ‘craftivist’

Craftivists must be more honest about what they are actually accomplishing in their work, as well as the larger politics behind its production. Craftivists must also decide how important effecting change is to their practice.

Talk about the personal is political by carol hanisch, relate that to relational aesthetics

Talk about the importance of cultural specificity, of site and of interactivity

Talk about the politics of making and what that means

Craftivism claims to address overseas labor conditions and western alienation from our labor. But the means most often used to achieve these goals displaces question of labor rather than addressing the causes of the complaint.
Knitting a scarf rather than buying it does not lower the price of a scarf at walmart, nor does it increase wages of the person operating the machines over seas that made the scarf.

One of craftivism’s strengths is that it purports to consider closely the means of artistic production, to invest in process as implicitly tied to content.

How do we keep from becoming cynical when what was once radical has been thoroughly integrated into consumer culture?
Talk about PBR being the official sponsor of the renegade craft fair
Talk about the importance of not becoming complacent and self congratulatory, of being well informed, of defining our artistic and activist goals

Expanding Craftivism Beyond the Cozy
Craftivism relies on a very narrow view of craft and the potential for social change through acts of making
Knitting is no longer subversive-- that boat sailed forty years ago. Craftivists should be more avant-garde, not allowing themselves to become complacent

Ai Weiwei
Sunflower Seeds is craftivist
Reasons why it could--
-considers the politics of production and actively engages in them
-relies on the craft of a community that has been engaged in porcelain works for generations
-revitalizes a community by paying them for their labor



Ai WeiWei's Sunflower Seeds

The Tate Modern stands out starkly against London's gray skies, its solemn red brick tower looming over the banks of the Thames. The former factory is as formidable on the inside as it is when viewed externally. Harsh horizontals and verticals dominate the space, and the ceiling soars ominously far above the heads of visitors. Spread out over the cold, concrete floor, in a large, tightly manicured rectangle, are one hundred million gray and black hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds. The sheer volume of this work is an arresting sight. The Turbine Hall is transformed into a stark rock garden, or alternately, a tomb. Are the seeds germinating?

10760 square feet.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Poetics of Space

I've been reading more of Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space recently, and I was struck by the following passages:

" the imagination, to go in and come out are never symmetrical images. Beauty and magnitude cause spores to swell. As I shall show later, one of the powers of attraction of smallness lies in the fact that large things can issue from small ones." (108).

-in an outlet, large things ARE issuing from small ones; perhaps not in the obvious way that an elephant is larger than a conch shell, but the 2 inch outlets we commonly see in domestic spaces are designed to blend into the wall-- if, however, you probe a metal fork into its depths, the resulting spark and electric shock creates noise and light, as well as dangerous electrical discharge that commands our attention.

The shell is a site of potential.
"...every hospitable hollow is a quiet shell." (124).

"Reversals of this kind may seem to have only slight documentary interest for the all-of-a-piece school of phenomenologists who take the World as their next-door neighbor. They are immediately conscious of being of and in the world. But the problem becomes more complicated for a phenomenologist of the imagination constantly confronted with the strangeness of the world. And what is more, the imagination, by virtue of its freshness and its own peculiar activity, can make what is familiar into what is strange. With a single poetic detail, the imagination9107). confronts us with a new world. From then on, the detail takes precedence over the panorama, and a simple image, if it is new, will open up an entire world. If looked at through the thousand windows of fancy, the world is in a state of constant change. By solving small problems, we teach ourselves to solve large ones." (135).

"For here too, as with nests, enduring interest should begin with the original amazement of a naive observer. Is it possible for a creature to remain alive inside stone, inside this piece of stone? Amazement of this kind is rarely felt twice. Life quickly wears it down. And besides, for one 'living' shell, how many dead ones there are! For one inhabited shell, how many are empty! But an empty shell, like an empty nest, invites day-dreams of refuge. No doubt we over-refine our daydreams when we follow such simple images as these. But it is my belief that a phenomenologist should go in the direction of maximum simplicity. And therefor I believe that it is worthwhile proposing a phenomenology of the inhabited shell. The surest sign of wonder is exaggeration. And since the inhabitant of a shell can amaze us, the imagination will soon make amazing creatures, more amazing than reality, issue from the shell." (107).

"...we have the impression that, by staying motionless of its shell, the creature is preparing temporal explosions, not to say whilwinds, of being. The most dynamic escapes take place in cases of repressed being...If we experience the imaginary paradox of a vigorous mollusk...we attain to the most decisive type of aggessiveness, which is postponed aggressiveness, aggressiveness that bides its time. Wolves in shells are crueler than stray ones." (112).

I think these passages appeal to me because, in some ways, the poetics of the shell are similar to the poetics of the electrical outlet. Both have a hidden, untapped potential contained within a small, unassuming covering. True, in the case of the outlet, electricity is not contained at the outlet, but the outlet represents the electrical power of a space due to its visibility. Like the pearly, fluted lip of a spiralling conch shell, an outlet is the gateway to paths which wind away to depths unseen, whether they be hidden behind plaster and paint or the creamy calcium aggregations of sea creatures. Where there is deadly mythical potential contained within the shell, there is physical danger present in the outlet. When Bachelard warns that "wolves in shells are crueler than stray ones," I can't help but think of the number of deaths caused each year by lightning strikes, versus the number of people who die from home electrocution.

Knowledge and recognition of this potential can go some length in altering the perceived neutrality of the gallery.

The outlet, like a shell, a wound, or a orifice, is an indication of an interior world to which we are denied access. This is nit ti say that an outlet is mysterious; do it yourself books and certified electricians, as well as many knowledgeable laymans can tell us without difficulty where these openings lead. But there is, nonetheless, great imaginative potential in the benign plastic covers that pepper our lived spaces.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Studio visit

Rena visited my studio today and we had a talk about the direction of my thesis. She really liked Drawn, and seemed to be interested in the potential of Winding (both working titles). She wasn't into the plaster outlets with fragments of real outlets embedded-- while I'm relieved that I'm getting consistently positive feedback about Drawn, I'm running into a very serious problem with my thesis-- everything I'm making is with outlets and plugs, and suggests breathing. I've been planning pieces that use other parts of the space, but Rena made the prudent observation that I'm on a very tight deadline, working against the clock, and that maybe I should narrow my research and focus on what my most successful piece is doing well. But what is my work doing? I'll try to unpack my work in the following paragraphs.


Drawn is characterized by a a single length of black electric cord bounded on either side by banal black plugs attached to opposite walls. The cord slopes towards the ground in a gentle, sensually sagging curve that gradually tapers to a precariously thin gage, then down to a single strand of human hair. While the object itself is quiet and unassuming, its bizarre configuration (a two ended plug) implies a short circuit; a potentially hazardous mistake in electrical wiring that could result in the release of lethal amounts of electricity. There is a beautiful danger

in the simplicity of this piece, yet its strange
unpredictability leaves the audience wondering why such a deadly object exists.

There is a bodily response to the contemplation of this piece that is not present in any of my other work-- this is in part because of the threat of physical danger, but also because Drawn seems to trick the eye-- the cord tapers gradually to a line width that cannot be seen by the human eye from more than a foot away. The viewer is forced to approach the piece in order to satisfy their curiosity.

Drawn integrates into its host environment almost seamlessly; the outlets could easily be part of the gallery walls, and at first glance, it looks almost like an extension cord you could purchase at your local hardware store... almost. Its delicacy draws it back from the industrial, towards the ethereal. Its line quality seductive; the center of the piece wafts gently with the air currents in the room, and despite the implied danger, there is a desire to get close to the piece, to touch it, to understand it through one's senses.

Outlet Repetition

On one wall of the Chandler gallery, there is a patched hole that used to house an outlet. The spackle is rough and rises away from the wall in a slightly swollen mound, recalling a fresh scar or a patch of earth piled on a new grave. The height and shape speak to what formerly occupied the space. Using untreated wall plaster, I have recreated the missing outlet and covered the entire wall in a grid of copies. The 1600 multiples are echoes of a missing piece, part of the space that has been removed and covered. Within the plaster, some copies contain fragments of broken outlet covers, bringing to mind archaeological fragments.

The copies mimic the form of the missing outlet, but their function is stunted; their connection points are cut off, filled in by the same material that is used to make the walls to which they are attached.

Some ideas for thesis show title:

Impeded progress (a definition of short circuit)