The audacity of craft



It was a relief to see with the second day of the workshop another good crowd. There does seem to be an interest here in doing something more with craft. I wonder sometimes whether coming from a foreign culture like Australia I am in danger of contaminating a more traditional craft scene such as in Chile. I come with a more academic approach to the idea of craft which can potentially alienate the artisans themselves.

But sometimes it’s good to stir things up. Paula Magazine recently rang a short piece about Justo Pastor Mellado, an important Chilean curator – gatekeeper – of visual arts. He makes all the right noises – against consumerism, fashion, conservatism, etc.  But there’s a sense of righteousness behind this as well. As though, ‘What can you expect from the world?’ Maybe this sentiment comes more from the journalist that the curator. But it leads to a kind of defeatism, as though the forces of evil will always find their way, no matter how straight the path. It’s a hard, critical, view of life, but it also justifies a kind of disengagement too. Why bother?

Perhaps that is a bigger challenge than getting craft into art galleries. The task is to find an door that is open, not just for the language of materials spoken by lowly artisans, for anything. From this distance, Barack Obama’s ‘audacity of hope’ seems a slick marketing phrase, following the yellow brick road of the American dream that has lead the world to the present abyss. But, on the other hand, maybe a little bit of hope isn’t such a bad thing. Like salt, in small proportions it enhances the flavour of things. But too much of it becomes poisonous.

Working with organisations like Raiz Diseño and ONA, I can see that there’s salt on the table. Today I also learned about the marvelous Mapuche craft promoted by the Chilean version of World Vision (funded by Australia). Chile is certainly a country filled with possibility.

Anyhow, tomorrow is the workshop when we get so see how craft as a ‘yoga for the mind’ is translated into authentic Chileno. Perhaps we can pick the lock.

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