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.

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