Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
Otto von Busch opened his remarks with a video from YouTube about Flood of a Fire Ant Colony. This was followed by additional images of TROPHALLAXIS ants and butterflies all serving as metaphors for various subgroups of the craft community and more specifically the social structure of the web.
His lecture was fast and confusing (as his web site). We were trying to hold on to a rambling train of thought from one idea to the next. The lectures was rushed and unorganized, a product of writing the lecture in your hotel room at night.
As entertaining and irreverent as it was, I was somewhat disappointed.
Instead of conveying a few cohesive thoughts for us to take home, I found about twenty partially filled thought bubbles in my notes.
Liz Collins started her lecture with background about her professional foray into knit fashion. Ultimately, after a few years, the pressures of the industry (listed below) proved to be too much.
While looking for a job as a designer, she started teaching, which then opened yet another new range of opportunities, perhaps most significantly, KNITTING Nation.
This was another example of community, craftivism and knitting at the Craft Forward Symposium. I wonder how hard it was for Liz Collins to acknowledge to herself and then to this audience, that the project amounted to making the maker into a machine. More people, more noise, more management of physically demanding and repetitive work sitting at knitting machines. (Read more about Knitting Nation if you're interested.)
The final speaker Teddy Cruz spoke even faster (think the FED Ex commercial shown below). Craft Forward was at full throttle right to the finish line. Yet another example of a 45 minute lecture squeezed into 30 minutes.
Teddy Cruz as architect, designer, anthropologist and urban planner, explained how the discards of over-abundance from the United States crosses the border into Mexico. The issues of reuse, urban plight, ingenuity, zoning problems and weak government are all intertwined as truck loads of shipping pallets, garage doors, and used tires are hauled across the border.
Watch the video below, A City Made of Waste, as it includes images and information very similar to his presentation at the Craft Forward Symposium. You will get the idea right away even without Teddy Cruz" commentary. It shows construction in Mexico using re-purposed materials and transformed into houses, workshops, and retaining walls.
Teddy Cruz has a very idealistic vision of urban planning that doesn't fit with the current reality. While I agree that more planning, zoning, and coordinated communities would be better for everyone, the Mexican urban poor have desperately, sometimes ingeniously, utilized low cost building solutions. Bigger issues include lack of government oversight, clean water distribution, the absence of sewage systems and waste management.
What were the thought provoking issues raised? The underlying theme of community at Craft Forward seemed to view "craft" with a particularly skewed perspective. A perspective that community making is somehow the true essence of craft. This perspective does not jive with the craft realities that I see at academic institutions, the craft marketplace, or pressing economic issues raised by artists and makers in their studios or on the Internet.
Background about the speakers (below).
The web site for Otto von Busch is very confusing, While I applaud innovative web design, this is information overload and just confusing. More white space would help considerably. Check it out for yourself, but let go of any expectation for easy website navigation.
Liz Collins has an interesting website about her work as an artist and designer. It is evident by the background of knitted fabric that this is an important theme. She is recognized internationally for her use of machine knitting to create ground breaking clothing, textiles, and installations.
Teddy Cruz has a blog with more information about his urban planning objectives. It is definitely worth reading if you're interested in these issues.
There are two additional videos with Teddy Cruz on YouTube offering information about the issues he presented at Craft Forward. The videos and the information is interesting.
Listen to Border Cities: Tactics of Encroachment 56:53 minutes
Creative Time Summit: Revolutions in Public Practice 6:52 minutes
Special Thanks to emiko oye for supplying many images in this blog post.