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The HAT Project 2006/07 is supporting 20 exchange fellowships between England, South Asia and Australia

Jane Webb

Residency at MIRIAD

Here and There Initial Document (unfinished)

Posted by Jane Webb on 24th July 2006

Here and There  - some initial thoughts

I have always been interested in the practice of theory and have for some years been intrigued by the way that theoretical activities, such as reading and writing have been understood in opposition to practice. This is despite the level of physicality required (sitting at a desk) being similar to many activities considered to be more practice-based, for instance the use of a sewing machine. What makes reading a book no practical activity at all? In a paper from 1999, I attempted to explore the theory of academic practice and established the idea that academic activity was generated at the same time as the development of perspectival painting. Theory derives from the Greek meaning ‘to look at’, to observe - a passive, visual posture that developed from the Greek theatre and became fully realised in perspectival representation. In order to fulfil this observational role, theory began to stand at a distance from the world, it was written from an ‘ivory tower’ and became characterised as having nothing to do with affecting actual life. Rather theory was formed into a tool of representation and supposition. As such today, to be a reader and a writer still means that one is seen as impractical and distanced from the world of people and things.

I have always tried to battle against this understanding, and see the HAT project as an opportunity to challenge the role. This is particularly important as the position of a theorist or critic, who commentates on artists’ and makers’ work, echoes the traditional passivity of the academic as s/he writes about his/her subjects – packaging their practice. In this project, such a theoretical role as this is even more exaggerated with the makers themselves taking on traditionally part-observational roles (in the field), resulting in the actual theorist’s job of critiquing and packaging their practice, as being almost an observation of their observations, pushing the critic even further away from life and practice itself! Yes, I will describe and record, collate and organise, but I would also like to challenge the notion of this type of observer, I want to question, antagonise, prompt and push, be in agreement and perhaps disagreement, as well as explore the questions of fieldwork myself. I aim to conduct my own research on fieldwork and will be simultaneously researching into the histories of the areas that the makers are going to, hopefully visiting one or two locations. This will be a parallel facet to their own experience. I also have an agenda:

In the introduction to The Persistence of Craft (2002), Paul Greenhalgh calls for a greater investigation into craft practices in relation to a number of themes, one of which is modernity. Modernity, the spirit of advancement that derived from the Enlightenment in Britain and fundamentally contributed to the philosophical foundations of Modernism, may seem too historical an issue, yet despite our apparent distance from it, the philosophical and social patterns established during that period have not been fully realised. I am interested in the social patterns of our own society and feel that we can only come to understand ourselves by considering the full impact and implications of the philosophy of modernity. For me the HAT project offers an opportunity for some of that exploration to be undertaken. This is because I see craft as particularly related to Modernism, and as such to modernity, and the concept that makers will be travelling to other continents to experience ‘otherness’ and challenge themselves is a revisiting of another and earlier Modernist period. I have tried to sketch this out in the next section.

The relationship between craft and anthropology In the introduction of the first volume of Reinventing Textiles: Tradition and Innovation (1999), Sue Rowley identifies craft as having been out of step with the Modernist avant-gardism of the early twentieth-century. She compares a love of technology and a search for originality (i.e. anti-history) in fine art practice with that of an embrace of hand-making and of history in early twentieth-century craft practice. Rowley suggests however that craft has played the vital role of ‘other’, meaning that the “…ascribed conservatism of craft” has become “pivotal to maintaining the radical traditions of art”. In considering the relationship between craft and anthropology, I find myself disagreeing with Rowley’s conception that craft practice from this early period was in opposition to avant-garde Modernism, particularly if one compares craft with design and industrial design, yet I do agree with her identification of craft as ‘other’. Craft, in the period of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries, played a crucial role in critiquing industrialised production and its resulting social organisation, indeed this is one of the reasons why I see craft as very much part of the utopian drive of modernity. The logic of this apparent contradiction is clearly visible if one investigates craft from a more anthropological perspective, as well as in relation to industrial production.

For many Western writers who were exploring the history of art and industry in the beginning of the twentieth-century, the culture of ‘primitive’ societies, as they understood them to be, provided a starting point in the evolution of human artistic and scientific endeavour. Books such as Herbert Green Spearing’s The Childhood of Art or the Ascent of Man (1912), Ozenfant’s The Foundations of Modern Art (1931) and to some extent Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art (1950), all offered a social evolutionary model where Western perspectival art was considered to have derived from the basic elements of primitive graphic representation, and in which industry emerged from the systematic advancement of craft based hand making (see figure 1). These texts drew on an earlier Georgian and later Victorian system of measurement where the level of ‘civilisation’ of a society, or part of society, was classified using the yardstick of both Western illusionary art and the products of a social order shaped by industrialised mechanisation. This measure, it is important to remember was employed in Britain to consider simultaneously the apparent primitiveness of other societies, as well as the ‘other’ of the West’s own past and differences in class, race and sex.

As is well know in the story of Western art history, texts such as those by Spearing, Ozenfant and Gombrich, though reiterating the accepted scale of primitiveness to advancement, were written during a time when the aesthetics of ‘the primitive’ were employed as a critique of contemporary Western art and society. Thus Modernist artists embraced the refreshing ‘honesty’ of basic elemental shapes and primitive marks, while those dissatisfied with a society bound by the constant demands of industrial manufacture, found the answer in the seemingly primitive work of small-scale production, or the hand made. Examples of this can be found predominantly in Britain, such as the work of William Morris and C. R. Ashbee, but perhaps the most successful use of this philosophy was the later role of weaving by hand in the fight for Indian Independence. The traditional, hand made construction of khadi was used by Mahatma Ghandi as a method of, not merely, symbolically disrupting the Indian dependence on British manufactured goods, by reinstating the importance of a traditional, hand-woven garment, but by, as a result, creating the actual disruption of import/export patterns (and thus undermining economic and political interdependence). Khadi was also worn by the members of the Christa Seva Sangh (CSS), an off-shoot of the Church of England who followed Ghandi and “…devised a new liturgy incorporating elements of Indian music, art and architecture”. Yet by some, the regime that the garment symbolised, i.e. puritanical reform through vegetarianism and prohibition, was subsequently seen as too restrictive and, according to Verrier Elwin, who had been one of the CSS, it was an aesthetic and philosophy in opposition to the indigenous traditions of the more rural tribals of India. He described this feeling of repression as the experience of sitting under a khadi mosquito net, “…though utterly patriotic and highly mosquito proof, [it] appears to admit no air whatsoever”. Just as in Britain, during the first half of the twentieth-century, it seems that Modernism was beginning to be seen as too repressive and too universal to represent the diverse identities within and between nations. Yet here we see how the formation, overturning and reformation of national identities are inherent to both the aesthetics and production methods of art, craft and designed objects. Objects and the way we use them, are the currency by which we understand and represent ourselves and other cultures.

In 1910, Gandhi had been in South Africa and had read the work of the geologist Ananda Coomaraswarmy who, in supporting the Benghal Swadeschi movement had suggested a boycott of British goods, and more importantly argued that “the alternative to British manufacture must be handicraft”. These comments derived from a period when he and his wife Ethel had undertaken a scientific expedition to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) between 1903-1906. As with much early ethnography and anthropology, though the intentions of the study period had been scientific, the Coomaraswamys also became interested in the traditional arts of Kandy where they were residing. Though it was Ananda Coomaraswamy whose name was on the cover of the resulting Mediaeval Sinhalese Art (1908), it was his wife Ethel who documented the regional processes of embroidery and weaving, publishing her first article on Sinhalese embroidery in 1906.

Ironically, the desire to record these crafts was made more urgent by the imminent threat of their loss, attributed by Ananda to “…a change such as the industrial revolution has brought about almost all over the world”. In the light of this, Ethel’s quoting of William Morris’s comment that one should ‘have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’, which concluded her article on Sinhalese embroidery, clearly identifies yet again a vision of ‘craft’ as an alternative aesthetic and cultural model to industrialised production and its resulting effects on social organisation. It is then somewhat ironic to consider that the reason for the Coomaraswamys visit to Kandy was the type of scientific expedition that fuelled (sometimes literally) the ‘improvements’ and advancements of the industrial revolution – the type of investigation that formed the perception of the world as the store cupboard of the West. At this period however, the objectivity of the scientist and observer had not been overtly questioned. Indeed Gandhi saw an ally in the Coomaraswamys and visited Ethel in 1914 (by which time she was married to Phillip Mairet and had taken his surname) in order to consult her about hand spinning and weaving. She continued her ethnographic activities and investigated textiles through further study visits to Scandinavia and Yugoslavia.

The same uneasy relationship between the study and destruction of other societies by the growing intellectual colonialism of the West was also visible within early anthropology. As a discipline it began in the nineteenth-century, emerging, just as the work on Sinhalese art by the Coomaraswamys had done, as a result of the ethnographic writings of travellers, merchants and scientists. But in contrast to ethnography, the new social science was an attempt to utilise a more systematic method of fieldwork in which scholars lived in the societies they studied, becoming ‘participant-observers’. This method was adopted by Franz Boas, a one time physicist himself. He made studies of the art of the North-West Coast American Indians, an investigation which resulted in the book Primitive Art published in 1927. Despite its rather unpromising title, the study explored the works of the region in subtle and interesting ways. Boas noted that the artists were certainly capable of what a Western viewer might identify as ‘realistic’ representation, but had chosen to represent animals using an alternative graphic convention, different from perspective but no less appropriate to the way in which their art played a role in their society.

That Boas wrote about art in this egalitarian way was reflective of his general approach to anthropology which had brought about a revolution in terms of the interpretation of race. In an earlier book published in 1912 entitled Changes in Bodily Form of Descendents of Immigration, conducted for the United States Immigration Commission, Boas provided evidence for his theory that the environment played an important role in shaping the physical body. This challenged much of the racist tenets of the time and was highly controversial. The study demonstrated for Boas how comparative analysis was an affective methodological tool in addressing physical attributes, and in a similar way, it was the method he adopted for the art of the North-west Coast. The comparative analysis of material culture was possible because Boas developed a method based on scientific principles by which objects were treated as artefacts, specimens that could be taxonomically catalogued and displayed. But again ironically, it is this structured collecting that may be seen as both part of the destruction of societies and also as a tool for their rebuilding. The “meticulous recording” of North-West Coast American Indian objects and architecture has allowed contemporary American Indian artists to reclaim and reinvent a heritage that seemed lost.

Marshall Sahlins (1999) explains that the sense of the immanent loss of the culture that is being studied has haunted anthropologists since the first European encounters with the Pacific, just as Ananda Coomaraswamy also feared. Sahlins points out that this concern, which he calls ‘despondency theory’, assumes that there will be an emptying out of culture from societies that have suffered the impact of the industrialised West. Furthermore ‘despondency theory’ proposes that the resulting empty cultural vessels, would be filled up with Western beliefs. Though change has occurred, an often enforced change that cannot be particularly welcomed in most cases, far from emptying out culture, Sahlins notes that an enriched creation of indigenous cultures has often developed in its place. However, some anthropologists have not seen these ‘traditions’ as authentic, because their newness is clearly evident. Yet in this way Western observers (and I use the term on purpose) have not given credit to the subjects of their study and have not allowed for the possibility that they will ‘look back’ and react, and in effect use the West as their ‘other’, in the same way as the West has commonly used the rest of the world. Their resulting culture is therefore as equally authentic as the impact of primitivism on our own early twentieth-century society. In addition Sahlins points out that this influence does not make a society ‘entangled’ with our own, as the anthropologist Nicholas Thomas has described it, but rather creates a sense of a coherently structured culture, experienced as such by those that live within it. Yet this view is not necessarily representative of all anthropology, which as any other discipline, is constantly transforming, leaving some scholars feeling disorientated.

In a review of a recent anthropology conference, Francis Khek Gee Lim (2004) asked ‘Does any one else feel that these days anthropology is perpetually insecure about its own identity’? This exasperation with the self-analysis of anthropology was also noted by another attendee who claimed to have left the conference “…no more illuminated about the issues in question” than when she arrived. Anthropology has been suffering from a crisis because its methodology was and continues to be based on a colonial tradition characterised by Keith Hart (2004) as the following:

\"The object [of anthropology] was ‘primitive society’, far-flung peoples of the empire encountered in the here and now. The theory was ‘functionalism’, the idea that customary practices, however bizarre, make sense and fit together, since daily life would be impossible otherwise. And a method, as the latter-day heirs of this tradition repeat in an unchanging mantra, was ‘fieldwork-based ethnography’, joining people where they live to find out what they do and think, then writing it up in universities back home.\"

Hart claims that this methodology has not been deconstructed or challenged but rather that anthropology, in an attempt to make amends for its colonial past, has altered its attention by shifting its subject matter. Now anthropologists focus on the societies that they themselves come from and on issues of public concern. All this, Hart believes, does not make up for the fact that anthropological methodology remains the same.

In his book The Predicament of Culture (1988), James Clifford has examined the breakdown of the anthropological certainty that fieldwork and the scientific observer are able to provide an accurate rendering of another society. In exploring the hidden mechanisms that have previously made up anthropological authority, he comes firstly to the very status of the anthropologist as the heroic observer, one who arrives at a village with no other ideas than to record what s/he experiences. This, Clifford notes, always distinguishes him or her as a professional, in opposition to other visitors such as tourists or missionaries who have ulterior motives for visiting. As a participant-observer, a certain understanding of indigenous language is naturally required. Yet, as Clifford notes, the anthropologist ‘uses’, rather than speaks, the language of that society during the generally two-year study period. This basic linguistic level is acceptable partly because the anthropologist, though described as a participant-observer, places most emphasis on the role of observer, being thus able to record and comment on activity during the period of visiting. This means that any spontaneous use of language is not of paramount importance, yet for Clifford, such a child like linguistic ability does not constitute an acceptable standard by which to deconstruct the phenomena of another society.

Another aspect that was of particular concern to Clifford was that since fieldwork was undertaken over a relatively short period of time, the anthropologist was forced to focus on a selected perspective of a society, such as certain dance rituals, counting systems or the life of an individual. Thus the implication was that there existed a structure to any society, where a part might exhibit the whole. This Hart had characterised as ‘functionalism’, “the idea that customary practices…make sense and fit together”. Ultimately Clifford showed how anthropologists are able to make things ‘fit together’ through the tools of language and photography, by which they select, frame and therefore effectively construct the cultures that they are studying.

In addition to Clifford’s breakdown of the elements of traditional fieldwork based study, there are further difficulties which have perhaps been brought into even sharper focus in the intervening years between the publication of his book and now. As Sahlins described, these are the complexities of studying post-colonial societies where the impact of a powerful other is clear, alongside the self-conscious attempt to reclaim a history from the fragments of evidence remaining. To this is added the even more profound difficulty of globalisation and its subsequent transformation of a sense of place, destabalising the understanding of what working ‘in the field’ can actually be. As Lim notes “according to globalization theory, culture undergoes a constant process of de-territorialization and re-territorialization that vastly complicates its relationship with place”. Thus anthropology has clearly lost its confidence in itself, its subject and even on the viability of its methodological reliance on fieldwork, yet this difficulty provides creative opportunities.

But what of craft? I left craft with Ethel Mairet and this is the point from which I would like to return as she seems to provide an interesting link between craft and anthropology. This is because Mairet did not just write about her studies in Sri Lanka, Scandinavia and Yugoslavia but used them to strengthen and extend her understanding of techniques in spinning, weaving and dyeing. In addition to this, what also seemed to occur after her studies was a sense of how indigenous production fitted into the social world of the people that she interviewed and visited. Just as Clifford and Hart point out, anthropologists tend to assume that the study of a fragment of society is viable as it will be enough to reveal the structures of the whole. However, in Mairet’s case, she looked not at the society that she studied, but rather at her own and began to question the role of production within it. In the 1918 booklet Essay on Crafts and Obedience, she and her husband Phillip Mairet outlined a role for the craftsperson within Western society. Though this was for them effectively a Christian one, they called in general for a unifying spirit that did not rely on historical styles, but that created a new aesthetic for a modern age, or as they termed it “…tradition is a living force and we must be fully conscious that we are building tradition”. Note how they write of creating tradition, just as Sahlins notes contemporary cultures are transforming and building theirs.

Mairet’s own work did indeed create a new aesthetic based fundamentally on the process of weaving itself and the texture of yarns. Though receiving awards for industrial design, it was through Marianne Straub, who attended the Gospels workshops, that Mairet’s desire that there should be a new aesthetic emerged. Straub developed the pioneering relationship between craft innovation and industrial manufacture that was so influential in textile production during the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s in Britain. But what is interesting is what happened to craft practice as a self-conscious activity after this period. As an emerging force, particularly perhaps developing from America in the 1950s, craft activities were becoming more associated with personal expression and objects that were produced by named makers. As Tanya Harrod (1999) describes, with the establishment of the Crafts Advisory Council in Britain, the term ‘artist-craftsman’ was introduced and used in opposition to the term ‘designer-craftsman’. Angus Suttie (1988) noted how this new sense that craft practice could be akin to art meant that “…[i]nstead of making within an external, shared language of form and meaning, each [maker]…has to analyse and question [the]…subjective self”, a comment that seems to acknowledge the shift in the philosophy of craft practice from the ambitions of Mairet. But what is interesting about this relocation of craft practice is that it created a sense that “[t]he crafts sit in the middle of art and design”. In other words that the meaning of crafts had come to be seen as its relationship to other disciplines, rather than to society as a whole. This is perhaps why Rowley in her introduction to Reinventing Textiles characterised craft as being the ‘other’ to art, and as such purports that it was not part of the avant-garde because it did not embrace personal creativity and originality. Clearly this characterisation does not reflect the subtlety of the work of someone like Mairet.

It therefore seems that just as anthropology has undergone a crisis in which it appears to have deconstructed itself to non-existence, so craft was also measuring itself against other disciplines and finding itself lacking. Indeed by 1999 even the middle ground territory that craft found itself in, between art and design, had apparently been left vacant as Michael Horsham noted in his essay ‘The Value of Confusion’, from the introduction to the ICA exhibition Stealing Beauty:

\"…a middle ground where the anonymously conceived and executed world is re-appropriated into a much more human and skill based universe, where the marks of the hand are discernible against the blank and regimented canvas of mass production [has appeared]…It is as if the firmly drawn line between art and design has widened to become a distinct area, a no man’s land in which a newer breed of makers can exist between the concrete worlds of artist and designer.\"

Where craft seemed to have stood in the 1980s was now a no-man’s land that Horsham decidedly claimed did not belong to craft, a practice he believed had had “…little widespread success”. However, what fascinated me about this quote was that there was an absence where craft had seemed to sit, and I would propose that this allowed a freeing of craft from that stifling location between art and design. What’s more, even if craft was seen as simply an absence, in a conference paper delivered in 2002 at Edinburgh College of Art, I proposed that this was an absence full of promise and potential.

In that paper, I had used the absence created by Horsham’s essay to explore the potential of craft. I did this by deconstructing an article written in Crafts magazine by Christopher Reid in 1983, in which he bemoaned the new style of ceramics, such as that of Henry Pim, Alison Britton, Jacqui Poncelet and Richard Slee. Reid claimed that their approach was not unified by a common style, but was rather a common approach to the “…reinvention of culture”. Note here how the connection of makers through a ‘reinvention of culture’ could be seen as resonating with Mairet’s understanding of craft as the forging of a living tradition. Just as Mairet had aimed, Reid claimed that these makers squandered and ignored the wealth of historical styles, recorded and collected by the West over many centuries. Of the makers Reid wrote about, he singled out the work of Henry Pim, describing it in various terms such as “nothingness”, “nullity”, a “zero”. I do not want to reproduce the paper here, but I do want to just highlight the main points of my argument as I think they are pertinent.

Inspired by deconstruction, I had taken what Reid intended to say about Pim’s work and considered how his language could unravel, subverting his intentions. This was visible most obviously in the focus of his article, which was fundamentally about nothingness, a concentration that therefore made this quality the subject of the essay, and gave it a presence. I suggested also that ‘nothingness’ could be taken as a philosophical label for either of two notions that were particularly important during the 1980s and ‘90s. ‘Nothingness’ could be used to signify the emergence of deconstruction itself within the visual arts. Though this was and is primarily a linguistic movement, in the principles of exploring how meaning is constructed and deferred, deconstruction began to be used to analyse the grammar of objects and buildings. Thus for instance in architecture the grammar of function, the understanding of a building through the aesthetics of entrances, rooms and corridors, was explored and challenged. In the same way the vessel form with its functional grammar was also becoming the subject of scrutiny by makers. Henry Pim claimed that “[w]hen pots are freed from their requirements of usability…What remains is the archetypal symbol of the vessel and the vessel as image is what matters”. In other words, the unravelling of the symbolic function of the vessel was of prime importance, this concern was what Mark Del Vecchio (2001) noted was central to contemporary makers and was “…without substantial historical precedent”. Again, this movement away from history towards a contemporary understanding does not have to be seen in relation to fine art, as Rowley does, but could be seen as part of the Mairet tradition.

Alternatively, I suggested, ‘nothingness’ could have been used as a label for what has since been identified as the ‘uncanny’ in craft. This is the Freudian idea that a relationship with everyday objects can at times reveal childhood traumas when the things of home become unfamiliar and threatening. In the exhibition called The Uncanny Room in 2002, the work of Richard Slee was included suggesting a direct lineage between Reid’s label and the concept of the uncanny. Thus ‘nothingness’ could be seen as a positive attempt by Reid to identify these two emerging qualities of contemporary craft practice. Finally I noted that ‘nothingness’ had an important historical precedent, namely the work of Jean-Paul Sartre entitled L’Etre et le Néant (1943). This title, translated as Being and Nothingness suggested that ‘nothingness’ was actually at the core of consciousness because it was simultaneous to being, indeed ‘nothingness’ allowed us to have choice and therefore freedom because it was always present as a possibility when we asked questions about our own existence. Thus ‘nothingness’ could be taken to signify the enormous potential of existence, a characteristic I suggested was highly appropriate as a contemporary conception of craft.

When freed of comparisons to art and design, craft can be seen as Ethel Mairet did, as having creative potential and as the basis for a living and developing ‘tradition’ – tradition seen as a dynamic and constant attempt to rebuild and recreate society. It is in this light that I would situate the HAT project, because in literally meaning Here and There, it offers an opportunity to revisit the experience and enormous potential of exploring ‘otherness’ within an indigenous craft context, in this case for craftspeople from India, Australia and Britain. The following are the generic research questions that can be considered in the light of the relationship between craft and anthropology that I have briefly sketched:

Generic Research Questions

• The role of ‘authentic’ craft production as a measure of ‘the local’ within the visitor’s perception of a society. Though in some ways we are more subtle in our conception of the role of craft in society, when we travel we expect an ‘authentic’ level of craft production, whether this is Nigerian sculpture or Welsh love spoons. By ‘authentic’ we expect that the object has been made in the area, by hand rather than any more technological machinery, and that its form is built on tradition or myth.

This is not just the case for tourists, for example, the anthropologist Mike O’Hanlan initially questioned the choice of a bowl produced by the Sepik people of Papua New Guinea. This was to be shown in an exhibition that was selected by the Wahgi people of Mount Hagen to represent all aspects of their everyday life. Yet despite the fact that they used the bowls in pandanus processing every day, O’Hanlan initially did not see their choice as ‘authentic’ as they had not made the bowls themselves.

What will the makers be expecting from their residencies, and why have they chosen to be part of the project, is it for reasons of discovering some ‘authentic’ history, such as a motif, technique, or perhaps their own lineage?

• What constitutes culture, how do we measure and understand the ‘culture’ of the ‘other’? Are there certain subjects that would seem more ‘cultural’ than others, what would the artists leave out of their diaries and observations? How would they frame their experiences and their pictures, would they construct the culture that they had envisaged would be there? Or is culture real and definable? Moreover, who do we explain culture for, the people who live in it or for ourselves?

• In anthropology, fieldwork is a means of study by which to produce a usually academic, theory-based result, what is the role of fieldwork in the HAT project? The academic results are also seen as a contribution to human knowledge, as universities characterise it. What is the subject of the fieldwork in this instance, is it the maker themselves or the society that they visit, or their own society? Does craft offer interesting challenges to the methodological problems of doing anthropological fieldwork because it gives the ‘observer’ a role beyond that of the academic scientist?

• In relation to this, the question is where will the work of the makers be produced? Will the making process be part of the experience ‘in the field’? If so, how can this be used to challenge the traditional concept of observer, where practice and action are thought to happen somewhere else outside the field.

• Will there be a challenge to a concept of craft practice as an individual creative process? Do Mairet’s attempts to consider craft as a tool for building society relate to contemporary craft practices?

• Can craft communicate issues and research?

• How will the makers experience a sense of power or powerlessness? Travellers are essentially privileged when they are able to relocate for however brief a time. This creates an inevitable sense of power, particularly when one’s study is legitimised by an institution. However, how does this relate to the inevitable sense of dislocation and therefore loss of power that a visitor will feel when the boundaries and agenda of their visit are not prescribed?

• In his book The Art of Fieldwork (1995), Henry Wolcott notes that fieldwork is often characterised by a feeling of self-doubt where the fieldworker does not know the rules anymore. As such Wolcott suggests fieldworkers should have a “tolerance for ambiguity”. Could this relate to the concept of ‘nothingness’, that state of potential creativity?

• How will the people, places and institutions that are visited by the makers be affected by them? What role will be assigned to the makers by their hosts, and how will this relate to the makers’ own ambitions?

• Will there be a difference, given the past colonial relationship between Britain, India and Australia for the artists coming to Britain and those going to India and Australia?

• Are there differences in the way that makers from different countries will travel? It is the tradition in Britain to travel and then appreciate as stationary a view or a scene, for example in Anne Wallace’s study of the place of walking in English literature, she notes that travellers do not walk. They arrive and then observe. Are there other traditions of walking and experiencing?

• When do you begin to feel a sense of ‘otherness’ and dislocation. In recent theory, there has been the establishment of a notion of the ‘non-place’, an area of postmodern or ‘supermodern’ theory that identifies architecture, such as airports, as places that are neither one’s home nor one’s destination, how will this become part of the experience for the HAT makers?

• There will always be a here and a there in the maker’s experience. How will the there of the destination eventually become the here in which the maker feels ‘at home’?

• How does the history of anthropological methodology and its scientific basis impact on activities of the makers? What aspects of another society are makers interested in, is this always human society, or is the environment, flora and fauna a focus for study? How does this relate to the ‘intellectual’ and material colonialism of the West.

• What is belief and how can it be understood and experienced by non-believers or believers of other faiths? In an article about the issue of belief in anthropological methodology, Matthew Engelke (2002) noted that belief was treated as “…subjective and not a social fact”. He considered that this may have been because there was and is an imperialism in scientific method that constitutes, “…a refusal to acknowledge that the subjects of one’s research might actually know something about the human condition that is personally valid”. How could personal belief impinge on the experience of other faiths and practices, to which craft is often allied. How does this also relate to forms of journeying, outside of the academic fieldwork tradition, such as pilgrimages?

• What are the things in common that the makers will find when they expect difference?

• What purpose and changes will the experience of working in the field have to the philosophy of art and craft in the maker’s home countries?

Relationship with other writers It is on this final point that I feel there is a relationship between myself and Anupa Mehta. She writes of exploring herself and her own society and of coming to terms with the multi-layered aspects of Indian rural and urban cultures. What is Indian art and craft and how could it develop by bursting the cultural vacuum as she terms it? I have the same questions for British craft in particular.

The Act of Recording and Provoking I see the act of recording this experience as also an act of provocation and exploration, one in which the makers and myself will challenge each other.

Before I would like to be aware of each of the makers’ proposals and aims before they go into the field. This could be restricted to those makers leaving Britain, with Anupa and other colleagues based in Australia, contacting the makers from India and Australia respectively. Or I could contact all the makers. How ever you would like this organised, I feel it is important that there should be an initial, reflective dialogue in which the makers can explore their ideas and in which the theorists can begin to consider each of the artists’ individual paths. The form of this will be dependent on the makers’ needs. However, it should occur at least a month before they leave so that there is chance for a fully rounded two-way discussion.

Some of the initial questions would be: What is the focus of your study? What are you seeking (i.e. what are your research questions)? Why have you chosen this? Why do you feel the need to travel? What are your expectations – fears and ambitions? What do you plan in terms of travel and activities? What sources have you used so far? How are you intending to document your experience? What have you packed as essential and why? What have you packed as inessential and why?

During I feel that it is crucial that the experience during the maker’s study visit should also be explored as this is the way in which the slow shift from dislocation and possibly frustration will be transformed into positive action. It is important that this contact should not be too intrusive, and rather than conduct an interview or online discussion, I feel it would be more useful to be almost an anonymous prompt and challenge.

To do this, I would send letters and postcards and hope that, if possible, the makers would return equivalents to me, in which simple questions are asked that may inspire the makers to respond or at least to reconsider certain ideas. This is particularly so for issues that have been discussed earlier under the section on generic research questions, such as for instance, the procedure by which an individual composes their concept of culture. Challenges to what they are not recording, what they have not taken a picture of etc. will be useful here. 

At the end of the study visits, the makers will be interviewed. Again, this could happen as before the visits, either solely by myself, or alongside other colleagues. The form of these interviews will be dependent on the paths taken by each of the makers but should help the critic/theorist to compose a brief summary of each maker’s experience and work while the makers themselves will write and present their own pieces.


AUGÉ, M. (1995) Non-places: introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity. Translated by John Howe. London: Verso.

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Appendix 1.


Jane Webb's talks to during cHAT week at Sanskriti, Delhi, India. March 2007

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