NeoCraft Discourse - I can do this, too! (part 1)
- Series: Media Art
Since the industrial revolution, the cross-linked European societies have moved more and more away from physical production of goods. The exhibition Making is Thinking is showing alternatives for times of crisis in Rotterdam until the end of May.
Terms such as "NeoCraft" have been hitting the headlines of feuilletons and blogs. What is meant is the renaissance of the old "do it yourself" attitude of left-wing milieus in creative scenes. Yet in times of economic crisis, man-made and non-man-made natural disasters, it is not only those who used to wear batik in the 1980s who now promote the return to individual technical skills as counter-model to mass consumption and the alienation of citizens of the production of their goods and products.
Getting my hands dirty, yes please!
The aim is to awaken a new awareness for the value of handmade products and the skill, to be able to manufacture and repair them, and to set aside the old arrogance of the superior feeling of purely mental work as against practical work. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Sustainability and a critical look at your own work, life and consumption conditions have become mainstream - far away from old ideological battles. The Rotterdam-based exhibition venue Witte de With – Center for Contemporary Art has dedicated the current exhibition to Making is Thinking.
Eva Berendes, Untitled, 2009
Witte de With
For 20 years, the art centre Witte de With - which is named after a popular street with many galleries, bars and clubs in the city centre of Rotterdam - has been dedicated to the presentation and promotion of new tendencies in contemporary art. Numerous publications and symposia that take place at Witte de With regularly and where the who is who of the international art scene gather are proof of the international acclaim that the venue receives. In their work as curators, the artistic directors of German exhibitor Nicolaus Schafhausen demand the creation of a laboratory situation - a "White Cube" that enables a debate on the "here and now" as the social discourse of our time. The opportunities of an art room shall be used to allow for complexity and to be able to react quickly to current topics as a small organisation as opposed to large instituions such as national museums who have to plan years in advance.
Culture for an elitist it-crowd?
In this context, Witte de With sees itself as the counter draft to the increasingly vociferous politicocultural climate in the Netherlands where the new centre-right government of Mark Rutte evaluates the entire art and cultural sector in terms of its profitability only by putting high taxes on the tickets for cultural events and cutting subsidies. The team at Witte de With is not undisputed for its attitude. Sometimes, the artistic directors have to stand accused of being too elitist, to provide too few education or intermediation and to only cater to an "it-crowd" of the art scene that - following a yearly calendar - travels from one biennale to the next vernissage while keeping their knowledge to themselves.
Looking at the many workshops for participants of all age groups, the numerous high-quality book publications, discussion rounds and the embedding in an urban context, this accusation seems to be obsolete. And yet to legitimise his actions on a local level, Witte de With seems to need an international approach that can be seen in the extremely heterogeneous visitors.
Read more in part 2:
The separation of thinking and acting is obsolete / Individual handicrafts vs. the democratisation of digital production tools / The fear of the West of "freak events" – bankers invest in farmland
Read more in part 3:
Alternatives to mass production and -consumption / Artistic practice between intuition and concept / May the return to old craftsmanship be too euro-centric?
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