Monday, April 20, 2009

Everyday Trash

I have been quiet with my blog contribution since April not least due to family moves in London. The last lecture of the series is 22nd so hope there will be lots more posts after the talk.

In the last discussion on April 7th there were lots of observations about the value of skill and crafting which may seem to be in opposition to the idea of trash and spectacle. We talked about Mathew Barney and his spectacular, interdisciplinary work. I would be interested to know what other bloggers thought about Sarah Sze and Cathy Wilkes. Sze appear to make something marvellous out of everyday trash. Precariously towering and sculptural structures are constructed from the stuff some of us might chuck in the trash can: lengths of old rope, paper scraps and all manner of plastic containers. There is a childish sense of fun in her work; as her forms appear just about to topple, they also start to levitate with all kinds of mischief. Perhaps the uncertainty of what she makes is as thrilling as it can be dreadful. It is something we haven't touched on in the blog before, the ideas of fun and mischief? On the other hand last year's Turner Prize nominee, Cathy Wilkes picks up detritus and carefully arranges it to form sculptural assemblages. Could look like a monumental disaster has occurred but we don't know why or where from.

So, are we talking about skill as a set of conceptual moves through the selection of the right kind of trash to be made into assemblage form? How far does fun and mischief enter the work? For a very different set of ideas about skill see: Fort example see Peter Dormer, ‘Thoroughly Modern Making’ in Arts & Crafts to Avant Garde: essays on the Crafts from 1880 to the Present, published in 1992 by the South Bank Centre, London, to accompany the exhibition, Arts & Crafts to Avant Garde, held at the Royal Festival Hall, London, UK, 1-31 May 1992 and David Pye, designer and woodcarver, analysed the confusion between moral and craftsmanly principles in The Nature and Art of Workmanship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968).

David Pye’s 1968 text, which struggles with the meaning of “handmade” and “machine made” and opts instead for the “workmanship of risk” as opposed to the “workmanship of certainty.” Williams argued that Pye sets out , unconsciously, to propose many possibilities and starting points for critical making practices. This is embodied in the application of process and material revealing core territory of debate. Pye’s ideas led him to consider that extreme cases of the “workmanship of risk” are those in which a tool is held in the hand and no jig or any other determining system is there to guide it”. What is being drawn on here? Perhaps it is Pye’s notion that work depends on judgement, dexterity and care as opposed to predetermining results in advance of something being made.

Another set of ideas about skill and the arguments that it causes can be found in Christopher Frayling and Helen Snowdon in the UK magazine called "Crafts" No. 56 in. 1982. All the essays are republished and can be found in Harrod, ed; Christopher Frayling and Helen Snowdon , 'Perspectives on Craft," ... Craft Classics, UK Crafts Council, 1997.

What do people think?

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