Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Why do we make?

Why do we make? was one of the interesting questions explored at the ‘Craft(ing) the body’ conference held at UCA Farnham today. Although it wasn't the theme of the day it was a thread running through all the presentations. Professor Catherine Harper felt that there was a need to craft and that the interaction between the body and the thing being made was visceral. She commented that we don’t need craft but we desire it. Her keynote paper on ‘Chasing the impossible: crafting the intimate body’ compared the different approaches of female representation expressed in Judy Chicago’s Dinner party and Helen Chadwick’s Eat me, arguing that Chicago stylised and unified women as biologically feminine while Chadwick’s response was more personal and placed femininity between the biological and the social allowing multiple definitions. Interestingly the artists Gayle Matthias and Karina Thompson, who work in glass and textiles respectively, both said that it is only as mature artists that they have had the confidence to produce, exhibit and verbalise personal autobiographical work. The potter Gareth Mason noted that we make sense through craft, while artist Fiona Curran argued that craft is a form of discovery and curiosity. Daniel Fountain spoke of his practice, crafting a queer society in the form of nests from salvaged materials. The ceramicist David Jones speaking about his own practice noted that giving matter form is significant. He quoted Richard Sennett’s words that ‘making is thinking’ and Hannah Arendt’s idea that craft requires a narrative rather than mindless making. Jones argued that craft is not art or a subsidiary of art but lies parallel to it. During the question time many in the audience said they felt compelled to make, others said that they made because they had ideas to express and disseminate. Many agreed with Jones that what we can make goes beyond what we can see and thus produces nuanced layers of meaning.

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