From trash to spectacle



Shinique Smith, Arcadian Cluster, 2006.  Installation view from P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center.  Clothing, fabric, found objects, acrylic, collage & binding. Approx 8′ h x 11′ w x 8′ d, (500-600 lbs)

Here’s an interesting discussion about new craft that eschews skill in favour of collaboration and randomness. It raises an important question about the place of craftsmanship in an un-monumental age.

Public Lecture Series, Spring 2009
Department of Fiber and Material Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Fiber and Material Studies Department Faculty (2008 – 2009): Anne Wilson, Chair, Mike Andrews, Jeremy Biles, Marianne Faribanks, Surabhi Ghosh, Karolina Gnatowski, Diana Guerrero-Macia, Kathryn Hixson, Amy Honchell, Joan Livingstone, Christy Matson, Darrel Morris, Karen Reimer, Rebecca Ringquist, Ellen Rothenberg, Shannon Stratton, Fraser Taylor, Christine Tarkowski, Sarah Wagner.

Recently, artistic strategies for production have been shifting.
Materiality and crafting are back with a vengeance. The handmade and sensuous are gaining increased favor even though, or perhaps because of, the ubiquity of current computer-screen culture and the ever-widening practice of digital processing. The New Museum’s inaugural show in New York “UN-monumental” was filled with work made of cast-off materials from the street, hobbled together; while the MCA Chicago’s recent retrospective of Jeff Koons featured his shiny stainless-steel baubles, the result of years of technological experimentation at a great cost. The 2008 Whitney Biennial presented sculptures of bird dropping patterns, along with work of sloppy craft and studio trash. Across town at Pace Wildenstein, Zuang Huan’s show presented a spectacle of art produced by teams of skilled wood carver artisans in Shanghai, and a giant gallery-filling mother and baby pair made of scores of pieced together cowhides. Artists across the world are collaborating in spontaneous or programmed DIY projects on the internet and in the street; while Takashi Murakami’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton was served by a boutique selling the artist-designed purses smack in middle of the staid Brooklyn Museum.

Trash and spectacle, collaboration and stardom, the haves and the have-nots. How and why do artists choose how to make art, and with what materials? What does the renewed interest in craft — from the sloppy to the chic — signify? Is the overall global economy impacting our artistic economy? How do the exigencies of labor and production in the global economy effect artistic choices for production, collaboration, and outsourcing as strategies? What has happened to the challenges of identity construction within recent changes? And specifically, how are artists who employ cloth and fiber as materials and strategies responding to aesthetic and economic forces?

This Fiber/Material lecture series presents views on Trash to Spectacle from the perspectives of art practice, art history, and art criticism. Two recent books offer platforms for some of the questions and debates posed in this lecture series: The Object of Labor: Art, Cloth, and Cultural Production by Joan Livingstone and John Ploof (Chicago and Cambridge, MA: SAIC Press and MIT Press, 2007) and Thinking Through Craft by Glenn Adamson (London, UK: Berg Publishers and the Victoria & Albert Museum, 2007).

This lecture series is made possible by the William Bronson and Grayce Slovet Mitchell Lectureship in Fiber and Material Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  All lectures are free and open to the public.


Thursday March 5th, 6pm, SAIC Columbus Drive Auditorium, Columbus Drive and Jackson Boulevard

Dr. Glenn Adamson is Head of Graduate Studies and Deputy Head of Research at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. In that capacity, he teaches on the History of Design graduate course run collaboratively with the Royal College of Art. His research ranges from modern craft and industrial design to English and American decorative arts during the 17th and 18th centuries. He is the author of Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World (Milwaukee Art Museum/MIT Press). Dr. Adamson’s monograph Thinking Through Craft (V&A Publications/Berg Publishers) was published in October 2007. He also co-edits the new Journal of Modern Craft (Berg Publishers), with Tanya Harrod and Edward S. Cooke, Jr. Currently Dr. Adamson is at work on a project about Postmodernism for the V&A, to be on view in 2011.

Wednesday April 1, 6pm, SAIC Columbus Drive Auditorium, Columbus Drive and Jackson Boulevard
Kathryn Hixson is an art critic, art historian, and full Adjunct Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a PhD candidate in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin, currently working on her dissertation “Body/Image: Presentation and Representation of the Body in the 1970s.” She writes for Art US, Art on Paper, among other art journals and is the former editor of the Chicago-based New Art Examiner.

Shannon Stratton is an artist, curator and writer. Her current creative focus is ThreeWalls, an artist residency and visual arts program that she co-founded in 2003 where she acts as Director and Chief Curator. Her writing focuses on contemporary fiber and craft, and with artist Judith Leemann is producing “Gestures of Resistance: The Slow Assertions of a Craft,” an exhibition and book project slated for public release in 2009/2010. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Wednesday April 22, 6pm, SAIC Columbus Drive Auditorium, Columbus Drive and Jackson Boulevard

Shinique Smith is a painter/sculptor who combines elements of graffiti, Japanese calligraphy, abstract expressionism and popular culture. Working with a variety of materials, Smith creates mixed media works inspired by fashion, urban detritus and the objects that we cherish and discard, which come to shape our personal mythologies. She received her BFA (1992) and MFA (2003) from The Maryland Institute College of Art and has held residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and The Headlands Center for the Arts. She has exhibited at The Deutsche Guggenheim, The New Museum, The National Portrait Gallery/ Smithsonian, PS 1 Contemporary Arts Center, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. Smith is represented by Yvon Lambert Gallery, Paris/New York/London.

Janis Jefferies is an artist, writer, curator, and Professor of Visual Arts in
the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She is Artistic Director of Goldsmiths Digital Studios and Director of the Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles. Jefferies was trained as a painter and later pioneered the field of contemporary textiles within visual and material culture, internationally through exhibitions and texts. In the last five years she has been working on technological based arts, including Woven Sound (with Dr. Tim Blackwell). She has been a principal investigator on projects involving new haptic technologies by bringing the sense of touch to the interface between people and machines and generative software systems for creating and interpreting cultural artifacts, museums and the external environment. In the spring 2009 semester, Jefferies will be a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies.

Jefferies will participate in the construction of a SAIC bog-website that invites public interaction on the topics presented in this lecture series.


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