Tag Archives: Art

DISCO!

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Over the next few days this new mismatched family got to know one another, they laughed, for some this was the first time in ages, for others it was just nice to know they could be themselves in the company of like minded buffoons.

In this time they watched Sven and his team come and go, muttering about Narnia this, Narnia that and how people would go simply mad for what they had discovered. But whilst Sven and the gang thought the gigantosaurus’ where just chilling minding their own business, they were actually squirrelling away tools and scraps of card all in preparation for “pimping” out their new home.

It was late the night before the “grand unveiling” as Sven had called it and the gaggle set to work.

“NO, No, don’t cut it like that!” Snapped Crunch, “let me do it, look my teeth can cut that much better.”

“Fine, you do that then, I will help Charles with the electrics for retro box.” Agreed Fredrick.

“I’ve got the electrics sorted!” Exclaimed Charles.

“And I’ve finishes snapping the card.” Crunch said smugly.

” Now alls we need is Christine to pull it all together!” purred Colin.

Then before their eyes Christine had used her many legs to pull the contraption together. And it was ready! They had built an old school disco light, that used the retro record box to spin. The results where simply hypnotic.

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Whatever Happened to the Gigantosaurus’?

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If you are thinking you never got to see where Colin Cat, Christine Caterpillar and friends eventually ended up on their journeys some serious time ago then you would be right… I could bore you with the truth of how I lost faith in my talent and no longer wished to share it with the world.. but I would much rather feed you some elaborate story of how they all fell down some rabbit hole, lost in the abyss and one day reappeared in some twisted dream called Narnia.

So here we go…

Colin and co. all met as they tumbled down a network of rabbit holes and came to an all mighty thump at the bottom. Here they sat for some time wondering how they would get out? Where they would go next? and would they possibly all have to travel there together?!
So far no one had said boo to a flamingo, but of course that wasn’t going to last, as the new addition Charles the chameleon came clumsily amongst them.

“He..he…he..llooo”,  he stuttered, “I…i…i’m so tewwibly lost, do you know where we are?”

” We obviously do not belong here either you pomme de terre, and if you don’t mind you are standing on my tail!” muttered Colin arrogantly.

” well for one reason or another we are all here.. I was on a ship not too long ago, being very well cared for by Sven, when he let me free here in to my home, then you all came tumbling down to join me. I mean look at you all! What use is a saber tooth without giant teeth!” exclaimed Christine.

Before Colin even had a chance to consider a retaliation, Christine was off again.

“Now that you have all come and ruined my home I suggest we all look to get out of here, working as a team, as the sooner we get out, the sooner we can confront Sven about this terrible living situation!”

They all grumbled in agreement and started to formulate a plan of action, no one was going to argue with a 12ft caterpillar after all!!

Craft? Art? or Craftivism? A matter of Opinion

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It is hard to distinguish where the boundaries lie between craft and art practices as the determination of this depends on the perception of different constituencies within society and how they respond to cultural materiality and visual elements. The craft and art divide changes its boundaries based on its socio-political surroundings of that place/ time. Drawing back on the Industrial Revolution which saw this transfer of craft from private to public, is something which only occurred due to the development within a society of machinery and an increased need for produce which could be traded. Just because men where predominantly in charge within these factories does not mean however that they gained more respect for the chores faced day to day by women. There was a distinct difference in doing crafts because you had a love for them and because you had to in order to survive. However if in contrast we consider the AIDS quilt and its production it is riddled with key moments of socio- political happenings. The recession saw gay rights and the AIDS epidemic being pushed to one side as society was divided on how to approach these subjects. Yet through the effective use of activism in a street march the idea of the AIDS Memorial quilt was formed and it now stands as the biggest piece of craftivist work to date. This tactile piece of community work raised awareness of the AIDS crisis on a global level and appears to have effectively led to President Reagan stepping forward discussing the growing issue. However the formation of this piece from fabric, using a traditional method of quilting automatically defines it as a piece of craft, but we also have to consider the rich political, historical and social periods the piece continues to adapt in.

Craftivism is a term which only came around at the start of the 21st Century, which was after the beginning of the AIDS quilt. However just because the term was yet to be coined, does not mean the piece cannot be referred to retroactively as craftivism, the quilt has had a major role in allowing craft to be viewed as art in itself and thus bridging the gap between art and craft. With the piece steeped deep in politics and awareness within society the piece could be seen as being of historical context and belonging more so in a museum than a gallery or craft fair. The piece is formed wholly of the traditional American folk art of quilting which is a craft, however the piece draws so many morbid thoughts of how many dead people it represents it could draw similarity to the mass graves of the Holocaust, which is viewed as a horrific happening of historical context. The quilt could also be viewed as a political piece, encouraged by the death and words of a politician, the piece and its number of contributors to convey one message, draws similarities to a union. By all coming together as one voice, they were finally heard when it boiled down to getting noticed through this impressive action. To draw similarities between the quilt and the roles of a union and how this could relate to the politics of the world at its time of production, we must consider the work of Thatcher. Though her political changes occurred in the UK they still impacted on the US as the two countries worked closely together and carried out trade. In the UK Thatcher reduced the power of the unions so significantly that for the most part they simply ceased to exist. In doing this she left people trying to protect themselves and their families as one lone voice. The nature of the scale of how many activists took part in the quilt in order to lobby the government and enforce change quite clearly draws similarities to the models of a union, a group of like-minded people coming together to be one loud voice. So taking all of these aspects of the quilt into consideration, where exactly does the quilt lie in the intersection of art and craft?

The reality of the situation is that the distinction of where the boundaries between art and craft lie cannot be fixed as a predetermined definition. There are too many factors which can come into play. For example in its home town of San Francisco the quilt may be viewed as a piece of activist history as the area is and was so deeply rooted in its awareness of why the quilt was produced in the first place. Therefore if you were to ask a member of this city where they felt the quilt lay on this spectrum they might say nowhere at all, as it could just be viewed a symbolic representation of the deaths of thousands of people. Yet other people, part of the activist movement or not could argue either way for the piece to be classed as craft or art. Those more aware of American Folk art history and who enjoy the visual ad tactile nature of the quilt might be more inclined to refer to it as a piece of craft. As the craft and values of quilting served as a method of bringing people and communities together allowing them to discuss different issues, drawing them together over a calm craft which had pleasing results. Yet another member of the same community might be inclined to view the piece as art rather than craft. This could be because although the piece has a tactile nature, it is of such a vast scale it removes the audience from itself. It essentially forms a gallery of its own as each piece is unique and it can’t physically be viewed all at once. This essentially removes the tactile nature of the piece as the audience can’t interact with it on a personal level as its scale could become overwhelming. This would therefore enable them to view the quilt as a gallery of art.

These differences in judgment and preferences for materiality or visual qualities will vary from person to person based on their social upbringing and their awareness of political happenings as to where they view the piece would belong.

 The realism that that piece cannot be defined into one category actually draws on the triumph of The AIDS Memorial quilt. It was designed by Jones to raise awareness and get communities talking. The fact that it could easily find itself placed not only in both end of the spectrum of craft and art but also find itself considered a historical monument and a pivotal political representation emphasises the success of the quilt.

Defining the bridge between Art and Craft

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For pieces of contemporary art which are produced using techniques such as sewing face an on going battle as to which box they should be placed by society, should they be defined as craft or art? But how do we reach our conclusions on these definitions and how have they been reached?

‘Much has been made of the need to erase false distinctions between art and craft, “fine” art and the “minor” arts, “high” art and “low” art…’(Lippard, 1995).

Here Lucy Lippard raises the question of the boundary between both art and craft by defining them as “high” and “low” forms of production. To gain an understanding of why craft has often been distinguished as a “low” form of creativity we need to look at how craft has progressed from needlecraft and embroidery in the home and how socio-political changes have influenced its move into a popular form of expression. The first major turning point for craft in Britain was the production of textiles in the Industrial Revolution. Pawson, E. (1979) explains the increase in consumer demand for textiles as, ‘People were beginning to ask for- and were able to pay for- more than just the bare essentials, the necessities of life.’ This change in appeal and demand for textiles led to its industrialisation and took the art of weaving and sewing out of the home and into factories where fabrics could be produced on a larger loom and at a greater pace. Enabling this mass production meant there were more jobs readily available, and although women were wanted in the factories due to their higher knowledge of the production of textiles they were still expected to carry out their roles in the home. The workplace was not an even playing field for men and women and this was reflected in both job roles and pay.

‘Supervisory roles were almost exclusively taken by men, and men also came to operate the most expensive and sophisticated machinery and to monopolise the high status and higher paid jobs even in textiles.’(BBC, 2011).

It is this move of women’s labour out of the home and into the public sphere, which is a turning point to defining craft as a skill and craft which is viewed as an art form.

The development of an ideology of femininity coincided historically with the emergences of a clearly defined separation of art and craft…The art/ craft hierarchy suggests that art made with thread and art made with paint are intrinsically unequal: that the former is artistically less significant. But the real differences between the two are in terms of where they are made and who makes them. Embroidery, by the time of the art/ craft divide, was made in the domestic sphere, usually by women, for ‘love’. Painting was produced predominantly, though not only, by men, in the public sphere, for money. The professional branch of embroidery, unlike that of painting, was, from the end of the seventeenth century to the end of the nineteenth century, largely in the hands of working class women, or disadvantaged middle-class women (Parker, 1984).

In this extract by Rozsika Parker she raises the key issues of how art and craft have come to be seen as two separate entities. Right up until the late 20 Century crafts such as needle work were seen as something which should be kept private and in the shadows, it is the idea of class and money which caused this secrecy. Up until when needlework became fashionable it was seen as something done by the lower and middle classes, who simply couldn’t afford to buy new, ready-made items, so instead took on the philosophy of ‘Make do and mend’. It comes down to the availability of materials and the history behind society, women who, were from upper class families would never have learnt nor been expected to make do and mend, they were the ultimate consumer who would pay others to make new items to replace those damaged or out of season. However for the lower classes it was a necessity to repair and patch things up, lower and middle class women would have worked to make ends meet unlike those of the upper classes who would not dare be seen to be doing such things (Parker, 1984).

Both Lippard and Parker raise key issues and questions about domesticity and the movement of craft skills from private to public. Parker reflects more upon the history of craft pre Renaissance whilst Lippard takes more of an interest in the more recent industrial revolution and how this enabled women to begin to make their move into the public sphere from their private homes where, Parker points out they have been pushed from due to class. Pawson also allows us to understand that the industrial revolution was a turning point where by men started to interact with textiles. Lippard shows how the change in women’s roles has caused us to question if craft works can really be classed as “hobby art” (Lippard, 1995). However, it is important to define how I choose to differentiate between needlework, embroidery and hobby art. Hobby art is something which remains in the home, whilst needlework and embroidery could fall under the same title, but as Parker makes clear in the above quotation, embroidery also took place in the home, by women for love. So really it is the more general area of needlework I am considering, although the works of contemporary artists who use craft may be referred to as hobby art, it has clearly advanced to more than this.

The journal article, ‘ A stitch in Time: Third-Wave Feminist Reclamation of Needled Imagery.’ By Ricia Chansky (2010) raised many interesting and new avenues. Chansky questions why feminist artists choose to use needlecraft to carry their message, considering whether it is perhaps ironic, or just ingrained in the, or indeed to do with reclamation.

Chansky goes on to point out that their foremothers fought so hard for their rights to equality not only in the work place but the home and society. There was a time when their foremothers were expected to sew and be homemakers, in fighting for their rights many of the skills of the home were left behind; perhaps this is about reclaiming them once more, declaring victory in the on going battle for equality. Chansky also suggests it could be about having a sense of ownership over these skills. Chansky (2010) states in her article, ‘The needle is an appropriate material representation of women who are balancing both their anger over oppression and pride in their gender.’ Though Chansky’s article only considers feminist art works and possibilities for their choice to respond in this medium, her writing could still be applied compared to why male artists might wish to claim a stake on crafted works. With ongoing battles for equality in society it is possible to consider that through making a claim on craft men are breaking the age old stereotype of a woman’s role is to be the keeper of the house.