Theorising a transformative agenda for craft
By Matthew Kiem
Abstract: This paper examines the potential of craft to facilitate cultures of quality and social transformation in the interests of sustainability. This approach is theoretically grounded in the work of Tony Fry. It draws particularly on his concepts of sustain-ability and Sustainment to construct an argument for what is both valuable about craft as a practice of material fabrication, and what broader social goals craft practitioners might set themselves in recognition of this value. The transformative potential of craft is explored through David Harvey’s dialectical theory of social transformation.
This exploration of the potential of craft is also coupled with a recognition of current constraints within contemporary craft practices. In particular, the role of craft within practices of symbolic production and exchange is critiqued through the work of Jean Baudrillard and Pierre Bourdieu. Through these thinkers we observe how crafted artifacts are denied their sustaining potential and how craft practitioners themselves may become absorbed in facilitating the negation of craft as Sustainment. By way of conclusion it is proposed that in order to realise both the sustaining and transformative potential of craft, practitioners must develop a capacity for ongoing critical reflection that informs vocational commitment to change through craft practice. In this capacity, it is a call for practitioners to both recognise and engage with the political agency of craft as a way of fabricating new, and more sustainable modes of (human)being. Read Complete Paper
Abstract from Theorising a transformative agenda for craft by Matthew Kiem
Full paper published in craft + design enquiry; Issue 3, 2011, Sustainability in craft and design Edited by Kevin Murray