CRAFTS: Documentation

Thank you to Sindy Butz, Ivy Castellanos, Amber Lee, and Hilary Sand for four remarkable durational performances yesterday, Saturday February 16.

Here is some photo documentation:

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Craft is a process-object, a powerful alternative trajectory of being in time, it is act and image, its own index and its own result. Inside craft, time stops and function splits conceptually into multiple potentials: material use, catalysis of transcendental states, nonlinear cause and effect relationships with ephemeral existence, literal and metaphorical creation of new forms. These four artists use crafts, the craft, craftiness, and crafting to deal with history, technology/technique, forms of knowledge, the body and womanhood, human agency, and power:

Sindy Butz and Ivy Castellanos have know-how. Their practices include wearable sculptures made with porcelain, molded Styrofoam, and layers of paint (respectively) and more. They apply techniques they’ve tested and developed over time, skilled use of materials, teachable, repeatable techniques and new techniques they’ve invented. As their know-how, the technical, blends with performative task, their bodies become both consciously crafting agents and remain objects themselves. As predominantly constructive sets of skills, “crafts” used in performance emphasizes the problematics of human agency in its most literal forms by demonstrating the complexities of cause and effect relationships between an individual and the material world as well as grey areas between animacy and. inanimacy. The craft, or witchcraft, takes agency a step further into the immaterial, into projection of energies and molding of time and space. Amber Lee frames spellcasting as performance, practicing re-designed forms of rituals meant to operate effectively beyond the immediate situation. She harnesses the repetition of certain performances throughout time, drawing from traditions and beliefs that have been practiced for centuries. In this case, spells themselves are crafts, patterns of symbols, instructions for the body, words imbued with meaning and power. The power of know-how, craftiness, is a form of social and spiritual intelligence. For Hilary Sand (see her text on the next page), craftiness is a practically political situation, a state of self-recognition and confidence that deals with dominant power paradigms and negotiates social evolution. Hilary’s ongoing use of textiles allows her to allude to crafts that have been gradually excised from daily life, crafts that once clothed the body, crafts that once defined womanhood. In that her wrapping, tangling, and weaving is “nonfunctional” it asks us to evaluate which know-hows (aesthetic? critical?) we choose to practice and how.

-curator

Value of Variety

Hilary Sand

How did my grandmother know that salt immediately applied can lift red wine stains? Or that vinegar is a perfectly efficient cleaning material: safe to eat, safe to breathe, safe to touch, and chemical-free? How did my grandfather know to make a fishing pole out of reeds and not branches, so it would be bendy enough to give when the fish pulls? Or that perch especially love corn? Why didn’t my grandparents need self-help books to stay slender, or understand their children, or figure out their interpersonal relationships? What did they know about the world, their minds, their bodies, which I do not?

We have become so specialized that we do not trust ourselves to fix a hole in the wall without calling a professional. Many times, we are not wrong. But someone will always be able to do something better than you when you do not even once make the attempt. We often do not feel compelled even to attempt things any more. In “Art and Work,” an essay published in 1965, Harold Rosenberg said “The ideal vista for the future is clear: it is that self-development shall be the motive of all work. If that ideal prevails, the distinction between the arts and other human enterprises will become meaningless.”[1] Forty-eight years later, while the rest of the populace never seems to have gotten Rosenberg’s memo, I think this is becoming more than an ideal for artists, it is a goal. Interdisciplinarity and community-based art practice are its heralds: we are beginning to not only share what we know, and to expand the fields of our knowledge, but to strive for cohesion and synthesis among these spaces.

Today, we can look things up, to verify with the voices of millions online that my grandparents’ tricks will work, that they do work. But I don’t like corn, I buy my fish in pieces from the grocery store where it does not look back at me with a forlorn expression, and I most definitely trust Windex over vinegar to keep my windows shiny and Shout over salt to keep my fabrics pristine. I buy bags of cookies and boxes of crunchy cheese crackers and make myself sick with snacks (mostly metaphorically). I have read many words about how to live in today’s world. I do not think that I am happier than my grandparents were. But, I do have a bonus: I have them.

I am carrying around a host of historical knowledge, though it is small knowledge by many standards. It is unused knowledge; it is even perhaps redundant knowledge—in light of the unlikelihood of a sudden change in our socio-economic cultural structures or of the absolute death of my ambitions. But, like non-coding genes in our DNA and vestigial structures that are no longer actualized in the systems of the body,  this knowledge will sit in my bones and live in my mind until it becomes evolutionarily beneficial once again.

I recently spilled red wine on a white dress at an art opening, and the gallery didn’t have any stain-removers, but they did have salt. It works just fine.


[1] Harold Rosenberg, “Art and Work” in Discovering the Present, (Chicago and London:The University of Chicago Press, 1973), 68.

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