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Anthropological perspective

In article by Peter Stallybrass, ‘The Value of Culture and the Disavowal of Things‘, he looks at the role of Christianity in providing an aesthetic appreciation of the ordinary.

The metaphorics of Christianity concern the value of the valueless (unnourishing quantities of bread and wine). And Christianity immediately materialized this valuelessness through its scriptures, written down in codices to distinguish them from the more prestigious Jewish and pagan forms of scrolls.
…around a priceless/valueless fingernail a reliquary of gold and precious stones would be made; around the reliquary, a cathedral would be built; around the cathedral, an urban economy would develop; around that economy, new road systems would emerge that would pull large numbers of people and large amounts of money and goods along the pilgrimage routes of Europe.

Interesting point, but makes you wonder if this kind of approach was vulnerable to a Nietzchean critique, that it was just appealing to the weakest position in order to avoid the responsibility of uniqueness.

Art Monthly review

In his glowing review for Art Monthly (‘Craft undone’, March 2006, p9-11) John McPhee describes Craft Unbound as ‘a welcome addition to the small number of publications about contemporary Australian artists/craftspeople.’ Curious that the book continues to feature as a contrast with the Transformations exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. Two ends of the spectrum perhaps, common and precious.

No direction home

D. A. Pennebaker was a pioneer of the direct cinema documentary movement in the early 1960s, which sought to use the new technology of handheld, mobile cameras and synchronous sound to film in a strictly observational, spontaneous style. The movement first came to prominence in 1960 with Primary (Robert Drew, 1960), an account of the Democratic Party’s Presidential Primary contest between Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy.
The movement’s ontology of realism reflected André Bazin’s case for a cinema of realism, deriving from the camera’s mechanical, truth-capturing qualities, resulting in “an image of the world [being] created automatically without the creative intervention of man” (10)
Tim O’Farrell ‘No Direction Home:’ (18/02/2006)

Notalgia for Mud

Wired News: Nostalgia for Mud
“This is the circle of bourgeois nostalgia for naivety,” warned Theodor Adorno in Minima Moralia. “The soullessness of those in the margins of civilization, forbidden self-determination by daily need, at once appealing and tormenting, becomes a phantasm of soul to the well-provided-for, whom civilization has taught to be ashamed of the soul.”
It always seems healthy to take on these kinds of cruel observations, like a cold shower… bracing. But cynicism shouldn’t be the only response.
When you have everything you want, you can’t have need. Necessity is necessary.

Welcome to Craft Unbound

The discovery of rare value in the most common of materials seems a particularly Australian quest. Eighteen newly emerged craft practitioners from across Australia demonstrate in their work how a source as humble as the supermarket can provide materials for even the most precious work of art. Materials include quartz, grass, ice cream sticks, indigenous timbers, plastic bags, cardboard packaging, styrofoam, books, blankets, skin and shampoo. In each case, a work of elegance and expressive power has been produced from extremely humble materials. The exhibition ‘Make the Common Precious’ demonstrates the creative potential of craft to transform materials through skill and imagination. This exhibition coincides with the publication of ‘Make the Common Precious’ (Thames & Hudson). Artists profiled in the publication are Ari Athans (QLD), Roseanne Bartley (VIC), Kantjupayi Benson (WA), Kate Campbell-Pope (WA), Lorraine Connelly-Northey (VIC), Honor Freeman (SA), Stephen Gallagher (VIC), Caz Guiney (VIC), David Herbert (VIC), Nicholas Jones (VIC), Nicole Lister (NSW), Sally Marsland (VIC), Paull McKee (ACT), Tiffany Parbs (SA), Anna Phillips (TAS), Fleur Schell (WA), Mark Vaarwerk (QLD), Damien Wright (VIC) and Louiseann Zahra (VIC).
This is a place for occasional news about the publication Craft Unbound: Make the Common Precious, the artists who are featured there and the exhibition touring to Santiago, Chile in October 2006. For more information about the exhibition, go here.

Margot Osborne review

In her review for the Adelaide Advertiser, Margot Osborne critiques Craft Unbound alongside the National Gallery of Australia exhibition, Transformations. She rightly praises the high quality of work in the Canberra show curated by Robert Bell. While she commends the artists in Craft Unbound, she is critical of the way they are presented. She identifies ‘sternly leftist leanings’ and attacks the author for having a Ph.D. and belonging to ‘the most elite realms of the art world’. It’s a shame that Osborne has to resort to personal attack, rather than address the substance of the argument. Osborne, previously at the JamFactory and curator of shows such as The Return of Beauty, is a firm believer in craft for its own sake. And why not? The kinds of objects being made by contemporary craftspersons today are quite stunning and wonderful to behold. However, to deny the possibility that craft might also speak to other issues is to reduce its potency beyond the gallery. Craft Unbound is not an attack on the world of elitist craft. It is a group of makers who seek to renew their crafts by setting themselves the challenge of making beauty out of the world at hand. Their work is not only an aesthetic transformation of humble materials, it is also a welcome respite from a world that seeks to set our desires on consumer brands. Being beautiful objects does not detract from their power to inspire something different in our world.