Black Dog Publishing writes: In the Loop shows the different aspects of contemporary knitting practice and transforms our understanding of knitting away from retro hobby to mainstream craft and artform.
In the Loop features essays and images that show the progression of knitting and discusses the topics of knitting in art, international knitting traditions, knitting as social activism, the oral history of knitting, and knitting technology. The book include case studies on knitting clubs, artists using knitting in their work and provides an attractive and informative review of the subject. The illustrations provide a fresh look at this subject and ensure this is an essential book for anyone with an interest in contemporary crafts.
Just when you thought you had read them all, here comes another book on knitting. This one however has a unique approach. Instead of listing quirky artists and modish projects, In the Loop unravels knitting through disciplines as different from each other as taxonomy, psychoanalysis, history and literature (more precisely 'knit lit'). Each of the contributors of the book, whether they are artists, tapestry maker, scholars, costume designer or fashion designers, is challenging any expectation and perspectives we might have on knitting.
The book is divided into four main sections: Rethinking Knitting, Narrative Knits, Site and Sight: Activist Knitting and Progress: Looking Back.
I was particularly interested in the essay written by Freddie Robins. I've followed her work for a few years and the book gave me for the first time the opportunity to read her own account of her practice. She explains how she uses technology to give a seamless perfection to the life-size 3D human bodies she knits. Sabrina Gschwandtner (author of the brilliant KnitKnit: Profiles + Projects from Knitting's New Wave) takes an unexpected path by dedicating her contribution to Kite Aerial Photography and drawing parallels between this hobby and her own.
There's more familiar names in the book. In the section about narrative knits, needle king Mark Newport exposes his fascination for superheroes in heavy woolly overalls
The section about activism demonstrates how knitting is used to bring a political discourse in the classroom, in landscape, local communities, collaborative practices and even sexuality.
Progress: Looking Back goes from craft, hand-made and traditional to modern technology. And back. In her essay for the book and artistic practice, Rachel Beth Egenhoefer links knitting patterns to computer code, turns ethernet cables into cloth, animates stitches with a zoetrope and even brings the venerable craft to the Nintendo Wii.
Photo gallery at The Guardian.
See also: Book Review: KnitKnit: Profiles + Projects from Knitting's New Wave.
Previously: Craftwerk 2.0: New Household Tactics for the Popular Crafts, 24c3: The history of guerilla knitting, Interview with Cat Mazza (microRevolt), Knitted Shields, Pricked: Extreme Embroidery, Diritto Rovescio, Threads that weave art, design and mass creativity and Delirious knitting show at Craft Council.
My most sincere apologies for being so silent this week. I'm currently in Stockholm where the lovely Sara and Magnus of IASPIS, an artist-in-residence program and institution that facilitate creative dialogues between artists from Sweden and from other countries, have scheduled 3 full days of seminars, meetings with graphic designers and visits to artists studios. So far it's been incredibly interesting and i'm looking forward to spending more time on the blog and sharing my discoveries with you. In the meantime, some very light blogging will have to suffice since all my free time is spent hunting for that perfect second pair of Swedish Hasbeens. Clicking on the websites of people i'm meeting tomorrow i've discovered the work of Estelle Hanania.
Her freakish and irresistible photo series Parking Lot Hydra documents a traditional winter masquerade in Bulgaria that was originally aimed at frightening the evil spirits away but has now become way to welcome the new year. She observed the scene from a nearby parking lot where participants changed into their costumes and masks.
As she explained in an interview with Decathlon Books: The place is full of masked people, the masks go from cheap to very sophisticated. The music is loud, there's lots of marching bands. Huge dusty trucks arrive in town where hundreds of crazy figures pour out of them. The rhythm of the procession is quite intense. Once it starts, it doesn't stop, not until very late at night. My favorite moment is on the second day: very early in the morning. Streets are still trashed and messy from the day before, people are hungover but they keep dancing and singing, going deeper into the performance. They become wilder and even more dedicated to their costume and to the character they play. Incessant music comes from small bands performing everywhere in town. Most of the masked men seem to be in trance.
Regular service will resume on Sunday, thank you for your patience.
Craftwerk 2.0: New Household Tactics for the Popular Crafts, an exhibition curated by Clara Åhlvik and Otto von Busch for the Jönköping county museum in Sweden, has been prolonged to March 21, 2010.
I'm going to get out of my comfort zone and write about an exhibition which, alas!, i haven't visited. Still i felt the post was due because 1. god knows if i'll ever set foot in Jönköping to report about this show or any other one for that matter, 2. Craftwerk presents the work of talented Swedish (and non-Swedish) artists/crafters i might otherwise never have got to know.
The pieces on display -whether they stem from activism, relate to techno-enhanced textiles, or are objects anyone can buy on Etsy- challenge today's conceptions of economy, durability, sustainability as well as the public's expectation of what art and design can be. Interestingly, the title of the exhibition plays on the idea that Alexander Dorner, director of the Hannover Museum during the 1920's, had of a modern museum. He defined it as a Kraftwerk, a dynamic and flexible powerhouse that would embrace other fields and disciplines and consequently function as a bridge between the art and society as a whole while. That's exactly what the workshops, lectures and the Craftwerk exhibition at the Jönköping County Museum are trying to achieve.
Over the last decade there has been a surge in crafts among young practitioners, often combined with political aspirations and networked efforts over the internet. From being a personal hobby the textile crafts have gone public and methods, techniques and tools are shared among users in ways similar to what we have seen in internet phenomena like Facebook and Wikipedia.
Craftwerk 2.0 explores the new "updated" textile crafts that are developed by a new generation of serious amateurs, innovative craftsmen, engaged entrepreneurs and political practitioners. Once again the home is the workshop where economic and ecologic innovation happens - not only in the labs of the industrial expertise. After decades of outsourcing, the new modes of production are in the hands of the layperson.
Now how about a few works and artists i've discovered while reading about the exhibition?
Ulrika Erdes has been embroidering on bus seats as a means to reclaim public space with textile crafts and to bring more feminine expressions into a cold functionalist and masculine world. You're invited to be take her cross-stitch patterns on the bus with you today!
Rüdiger Schlömer's Schalalala is a a fan scarf remix project. Using the Remix-Interface software, football team fans can mix and match elements of existing scarves to create individualized knitted fanscarvess. Et voilà! The humble fan scarf becomes a social media in itself. Schlömer created a special edition of fan scarf letter archive especially for the workshops at the exhibition, using the typographies of popular local teams.
The number you can read on the first hand of the Body Count Mittens is 1524, it's the number of American casualties in Iraq on March 23, 2005, the day Lisa Anne Auerbach started knitting the mittens. 8 days later she began the second mitten. The number had jumped to 1533. The amount is much higher now.
Zoe Sheehan bought for a few dollars a series of garments at Wal-Mart, copied them by hand, using matching pattern, fabric, and embellishments. She then sew the tags from the original item into the duplicate and 'shopdropped' it on the Wal-Mart rack for potential sale at the original price.
In 2008, there were a number of squats all over Sweden as a protest to the housing shortage, in particular in biggest cities. "Cross Stitch Ninja" a.k.a. Maria Halvarson (part of the famed online collective Radical Cross Stitch) decided to make a cross stitch based on a photo from an article about one of these squatting actions. The text on the banner says "Homes For All".
Views of the exhibition space:
Craftwerk 2.0: New Household Tactics for the Popular Crafts exhibition will continue until March 21st at the Jönköping county museum (Sweden.)
Related exhibitions: Diritto Rovescio, Threads that weave art, design and mass creativity, Pricked: Extreme Embroidery and Delirious knitting show at Craft Council.
And now for something completely different...
The Medium is the Message and 50 other Ridiculous Advertising Rules (Amazon USA and UK) and from the same series, Never Leave the House Naked and 50 other Ridiculous Fashion Rules (Amazon UK and USA).
The first book in this series, published by BIS Publishers and authored by Anneloes van Gaalen, was dedicated to design, another one is about advertising rules and finally there's the one that got most of my attention, Never Leave the House Naked and 50 other Ridiculous Fashion Rules.
The series tackles the list of precepts that have conditioned the worlds of fashion, advertising and design for decades. Are these rules precious guidelines, sources of inspiration or are they instead tyrannic dogmas that need to be bended or broken altogether?
Rules tend to have a life of their own: over time their meaning changes or the rule is adopted by a whole new group of followers. Take, for instance, the classic "Form Follows Function." It started out life as an architecture guideline but has crept its way into other creative fields. This evolution is reflected in this book by the chronologically placed quotes that accompany each rule and that are courtesy of designers, architects, fashion designers, typographers and other creatives. All rules are also accompanied by an image that either negates or supports the rule. Our aim is not to list all the rules that you need to adhere to. Nor do we take sides in the whole rules debate.
The book about fashion was the one i was most eager to read. It's hard to ignore fashion. The discipline has after all permeated many aspects of contemporary culture. Last year only, Valentino: The Last Emperor made the shortlist for Hollywood's Academy Award's best documentary category. Another documentary released in 2009, The September Issue, follows Anna Wintour as she and her team were piecing together the 2007 September issue of Vogue Magazine. Plus, there's that movie Coco before Chanel. Museums and galleries now routinely open shows dedicated to fashion designers or to the much-debated relationship between art and fashion. The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam will be closing in the next few days The Art of Fashion (see report part 1 and part 2) which investigates the borders between fashion and art. I've now stopped counting the number of books or exhibition catalogs written about the parallels that exist between fashion and architecture. I won't even get you on fashion and technology or fashion and hacking or activism.
Talking from a more personal perspective, i'd add that the fashion world seems to have more sympathy and respect for bloggers than contemporary art. But that's another story. The truth is I love fashion because i'm vain. At least in Winter time. Summer never fails to anger and deride me with its stupid shapes and pastel shades. Rumour has it that the ghastly '90s are back this summer with bum bags, neon colours, kitten heels and cycling shorts.
But what about Never Leave the House Naked? Well, given its subject i'll start with its appearance. The book is neatly designed. Small format, great graphics and plenty of illustrations commissioned to talented young graphic designers. There are 51 rules, each of them exemplified by quotes from famous fashion designers or writers with a marked interest in fashion. The quotes either sharply confirm the rule or contradict them with wit and conviction leading you to believe that there is no rule. What remains, however, is the pleasure to discuss, question or embrace these rules. Nothing should ever be taken for granted in the world of fashion (or design, art and advertising.)
Here are some of my favourite quotes:
"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society." Mark Twain.
"Art produces ugly things, which frequently become more beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things, which always become ugly with time." Jean Cocteau.
"Women dress alike all over the world: they dress to be annoying to other women." Elsa Schiaparelli.
I also read The Medium is the Message and 50 other Ridiculous Advertising Rules which was obviously great fun and thought-provoking but because the ad world has never quite managed to get my pulse racing as fast as a pair of electric blue low boots does, i'll leave you with a couple of illustrations:
and a view inside this facetious little book:
The exhibition The Art of Fashion: Installing Allusions explores the intersection between fashion designers' boldest experiments and the world of contemporary art. 25 international artists and fashion designers participate to this exhibition. 5 of them were commissioned new pieces that investigate the convergence of art and fashion.
I'll start with my favourite fashion designer, Walter van Beirendonck. He's from Antwerp, he dresses men in insects or clowns or afro super stars. He doesn't usually design for women alas! Except last year when he made a paper dress covered with little dicks, stars, colours and a portrait of himself naked riding a bear. I bought one immediately. Meanwhile, Robin Williams was getting his hands on a burka from van Beirendonck. I'm sure the world would be a merrier place if more men would wear his designs. Look at this fabulous "Finally Chesthair" shirt. How can you resist?
Sometimes the designer has men as big and as bearded as himself walk his collection on the catwalk.
Notwithstanding my admiration for his work, i was underwhelmed by the sarcophagus he created for the exhibition.
Van Beirendonck made an über pop temple where his sarcophage will be hosted in the year 2357. It's adorned with cheerful stars, an ecstatic sun, a statue of the designer riding a bear and little penises erected all over the place. There's only the façade of the temple, alluding to the idea that what matters in fashion is the outer shell.
Jewellery designer Naomi Filmer is interested in ennobling body's least celebrated places. The sculptures of her Breathing Volumes project focus on the space formed by the mouth, the chin and the neck. She made an imprint of her own contours, capturing the facial expressions that appear as she inhaled and exhaled. The result is not exactly jewellery but a sculpture that enters into a direct relationship with the observer.
(see her video interview)
Christophe Coppens had a somewhat similar approach. The Belgian designer usually creates lovely hats and delicate gloves. His No References project however puts the spotlight on 33 parts of the body that receive very little attention in fashion. This accessory collection has no reference, nothing to look back at. The design of each accessory starts with the shape of the body part, there's no reference to art, history, design, fashion.
Most of the pieces are strapped to the body, some of them seem to be a bit wacky and maybe unpractical but they are always poetical and elegant.
For his project "Micro Geography: a Cross Section", he placed a spinning mannequin in an aquarium surrounded by the elements of water, earth and air. Cameras film the mannequin's every movement and these images can be viewed on the screens nearby. The installation is meant to suggest a gelatin-like space that eradicates any sense of distance and remote experience.
Anna-Nicole Ziesche doesn't produce any marketable clothes. She used to define herself as a fashion designer who make films. Now she prefers the term 'artist.' Her films transform fashion designs into visual objects.
In the film that the Boijman commissioned, she uses fashion as a pathway to memories and the way they can shape us. She made an exact replica of her childhood bedroom and wears a kind of knitted jumpsuit, its colours and pattern evoking the the jumpers she knitted herself as a child. The jumpsuit looks clumsily-made. It is actually made of two identical jumpers, one of them is worn as if it were trousers. Upside-down, like the world in the video.
Ziesche explains her work in this video.
A flickr set of the exhibition.
It's getting increasingly chic to explore the borders between art and other creative disciplines: design, architecture, craft, etc. One of the exhibitions currently running at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam investigates the intimacy that arises when art meets fashion.
I used to associate the Boijmans with Paul McCarthy's giant Santa Claus brandishing a Buttplug. It had been acquired by the municipality of Rotterdam to be installed in a public space but citizens were not enchanted by the idea of having a six metres tall gnome flaunting a sex toy on one of their town squares. A debate ensued and the sculpture was put in semi-quarantine, in the courtyard of the museum. Last year, sexy Santa was finally moved to the Eendrachtsplein, right in the middle of the city.
No more Santa in the courtyard of the Boijmans then but an object that looks as exotic as McCarthy's sculpture: a phone booth!
Quite the befitting piece of design to introduce the exhibition The Art of Fashion: Installing Allusions. The Art of Fashion doesn't deal with Cattelan taking pictures as if he were a fashion photographers or with fashion designers snapping pictures as if they were artists. It goes deeper than that. Nowadays, fashion designers know how to put on a show: they use installations and performances as part of their practice, and their avant-garde designs can sometimes bear more similarities to sculpture than to garments people would actually (want to) wear.
Some art critics have argued that fashion designers might be creative but that doesn't mean they are artists. I'm not so sure that the boundaries between both disciplines should always remain hermetically sealed. Like art, fashion is a forum for personal expression, it has the power to evoke imaginary world, it refers constantly to the world we live in. Like fashion, some forms of contemporary art (only some of them, thank god!) are more about looking edgy and interesting, wowing the masses and finding a market than arousing your educational and intellectual background or challenging your beliefs.
I'll have to admit that some pieces in the exhibition made me cringe (oh! that bottle of perfume hidden in a dark room for extra drama!) and that the design of the exhibition was depressing and inadequate but there were enough talent and vision in the show to make me more than happy to be there.
The Art of Fashion presents works by twenty-five international artists and fashion designers. Besides, the H+F Fashion on the Edge Foundation invited designers Viktor&Rolf, Naomi Filmer, Hussein Chalayan, Anna-Nicole Ziesche and Walter Van Beirendonck to create brand new pieces for the exhibition. I can see i'm getting long today so i'm going to paste below a few amusing images from projects i saw at the exhibition and keep the commissions for tomorrow.
Charlie Le Mindu is a hairdresser but he sure knows how to transform hair into fashion and fabric.