Director, NETS Victoria
NETS Victoria is thrilled to be partnering once again with Shepparton Art Museum (SAM) to present Craftivism: Dissident Objects and Subversive Forms. There is something special about objects made by hand. It is almost as though, through the process of making – of putting stitch into cloth or the moulding of clay – that we embed a sense of ourselves and ideas into the material.
Once relegated to ‘something my Grandma does’, craft is being embraced by contemporary artists as a vehicle for making a statement. I often think that a political statement made through the materiality of craft can be heard by a broader audience than one made in high art. Craft is for the people, it is something that everyone can embrace, whereas art is often seen as elite.
The history of using craft as a forum for change is a long one. I think of the beautifully embellished banners made for the women’s suffrage movement now celebrating 100 years in 2018. They provided a way for everyday women to use the materials and skills at hand to create bold statements. Often it didn’t matter what the phrase was on the banner; the positioning of colour and images is what got the message across. There was a pride in making, of ensuring the longevity of the work and the message.
The Suffragettes used their needlework skills to fashion a new visual vocabulary. These were not the vast, commercially produced, painted banners of the male dominated trade unions sporting golden portraits of
political heroes. Instead, the suffragette banners were
deliberately made by hand. Embroidered and appliquéd,
bearing feminine and symbolic emblems of birds, flowers and lamps, inscribed with women’s names, made in drawing room fabrics of velvet, silk, brocade and satin; they were splendid, rich, beautiful.1
Fast forward to 2018 and we see a large number of artists embracing the skills and ideas of past ‘crafters’. For some, these skills were passed down from their mother or grandmother – or as in my case, their father. Others will have learnt them the modern way, by YouTube tutorials or just by trial and error. No matter how they have learnt their skills, what does occur is an engaging conversation between artist, artwork and viewers. Often these viewers will relish sharing their own stories of making, bridging the gap between generations and cultures.
Craftivism. Dissident Objects and Subversive Forms was developed through NETS Victoria’s 2017 Exhibition Development Fund (EDF), which allowed an initial idea from SAM’s curatorial team to grow into a national tour. This annual program, supported by Creative Victoria, is a unique offering by NETS Victoria and has proven to produce a series of fascinating and ambitious exhibitions such as this one. We are also very grateful for further funding from the Australia Council for the Arts through its Contemporary Touring Initiative, which has provided financial support for the tour and has allowed us to deliver unique public programs for each venue.
I’m certain that Craftivism. Dissident Objects and Subversive Forms will inspire and provoke all those who attend the exhibition and take part in the accompanying activities. With many hands and voices, change can be made.
1. Clare Hunter in ‘Our History of Banner-Making’, Processions, Accessed 17 August 2018, https://www.processions.co.uk/ story/history-banner-making/.