Critical Interface reading response

The text was a good introduction to how integral dress and technology is to live applications of critical rhetoric, though I’m curious as to why it never uses the term “activist art,” or more generally activism. It may seem too obvious to state, but sometimes the obvious is informative.

The last half of the text I had a lot of issues with. It was at turns dismissive, misogynistic, and patronising, where refusal to understand the communities it was judging ran rampant.

The author quotes and agrees with Michael Hardt, stating that craft “has little cultural value in the past.” This is an assumptive claim. In the United States alone, the Arts and Crafts movement in the 1910s specifically celebrated the cultural value of craft. Globally, craft is a livelihood and a means of preserving memory, and art, all things that have cultural value. The general statement that people who craft today have a “refusal of mastery”is insulting. Just because something is hand crafted, does not inherently mean it is of inferior quality or not masterful. Often, it’s quite the opposite — look at haute couture or Shaker furniture.

The statement “the recent return to craft is not innocent, it positions itself as witty, nostalgically ironic and somewhat aloof” is misogynistic, and untrue. In this passage the author is referencing people who use websites like Etsy, which is largely women. Women are active participants in their pursuits, and they understand what that are doing when ‘returning to craft.’ The author is claiming women have ulterior or sinister motives in doing so, when in reality, women are doing what they always have done – supplementing their income through craft, but in this circumstance they can market and cater to what people want — it’s smart business to embroider tweets or applique cats on bags, not an ironic statement.

The author goes on to say that “using arduinos are not overtly politicized.” I would argue that using an arduino is largely political, in particular for women.  A woman engaged in a male dominated tech field, where “simplified” technologies are utilized through a gendered activity of sewing is definitely a political statement in my eyes, and quite overt. It’s retaking a technology that was ripped out of their hands by men — women founded modern tech!

Political critique is not missing from craft and never has been. In the 1890s-1900s, women sewed banners for suffrage and labor rights. In the 80s, people came together to create football field sized memorials quilts for AIDs victims. Today women like Chawne Kimber explicitly point to racial injustice, such as her “I can’t breathe” quilt. It may not be using technology in the way the author wants politically motivated art to be, but I resent the author’s superiority stance that critique needs to be fully modern and teched up to be effective.

I believe craft and tech can enhance one another. But I also believe it’s important to not let feelings of ‘better than’ become too entrenched — shutting down connections between the two won’t lead to innovation in either field.

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