The ‘Democracy at the Bench’ workshop last Saturday brought together an amazing group of people, each working in interesting ways across the global divide.
Each brought to the table a particular calling to work with those whose cultures are borne from adversity, ranging from Bolivian weavers to bark artists from the PNG highlands.
That calling seemed both a blessing and a curse. It offered great potential as both a way of supporting a fragile craft and a means of enlivening a commodified Western culture. But it also was based on an asymmetry between the agency of the outsider and the vulnerability of the group. How to change this missionary relationship to one that is more collaborative?
Much of the discussion ranged over the conflict between tradition versus aspiration. How do you balance the need to preserve culture with the desire to be part of the modern world? There well may be no answer to this, but rather a matter of negotiation specific to each case. In which case, we have much to learn from each other’s experience.
In response to this need to share experience in working with other cultures, an online group has been established titled Craft Without Borders. This title reflects other networks involving professions such as medicine and architecture, which support work in the wider world. But this group in particular has the potential to be quite reflective in understanding the power relations at work.
This group has been established as part of a broader Craft Talk network. This is a medium for sharing information particularly suited to those working in craft across the South. It offers a unique opportunity for developing a lateral craft dialogue between those in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. You can see already that there has begun a fascinating dialogue that compares the meaning of ‘craft’ in Anglophone countries with ‘artesanias’ in Latin America.
To be part of this, you need to create a profile for yourself, which ideally includes an image and information about what you do. Then you can engage in discussions and post images. It’s a little like Facebook, but it is quarantined from the advertising and distractions you find in other social networks.
What emerges from this Craft Talk network will largely depend on what we put into it. It’s a good place for notices of conferences, calls for expressions of interest, curatorial inquiries or rallying calls for action in the craft scene.If you’re a reader of Craft Unbound, then might enjoy waking up together with others like you at Craft Talk – www.crafttalk.ning.com