Writer Dennis Stevens recently wrote an article titled, “DIY: Revolution 3.0–Beta” found on American Crafts Magazine’s website. I found the article to be quite interesting, however despite Stevens’ disclaimer: “… I am not making a simple series of generalizations about generations, social movements and the experience of groups of people,” – he ends up doing exactly that. Now, to be fair – he was trying to cover a lot of territory in a relatively short article. Stevens is comparing studio craft with “diy craft”. His goal is to “place the DIY craft movement within the larger cultural context of generational movements, as these craft practitioners comprise groups whose values and aims need to be acknowledged and understood.” He had my attention through most of the article and then at the end he completely disappointed me:
…The effect is that regardless of their political ambitions, anytime someone needlepoints a pleasant-looking phrase gleefully embedded with curse words, knits a skull and crossbones or makes a cozy for a tank, these cultural statements demonstrate 1) the semiotic literacy of the generation, 2) the nostalgic irony through which this generation prefers to operate and 3) how cynicism sometimes finds its way to the surface of this creative work. Quite simply, this work makes its cultural statements indirectly and quietly. Rather than bringing revolution to the front door and kicking it open, as their parents may have hoped to do, these independent makers are using the disarming and unassuming aesthetic of diy craft’s remixed domestic creativity to make subversive statements about the world in which they live.
I have to say that in my personal opinion the acts of creating a needlepoint with curse words or knitting a skull and crossbones are completely different than making “a cozy for a tank”. The first two examples are quite passive acts and I can understand his claim that the “work makes its cultural statements indirectly and quietly”. The pink tank he is referring to is ‘Pink M.24 Chaffee‘, a piece by Danish artist Marianne Jorgensen.
via Jorgensen’s site:
The pink covering consists of more than a 4000 pink squares- 15 x 15 centimetres – knitted by volunteers from Denmark, the UK , USA and several other countries. People were invited through Cast Off Knitting Club, from friend to friend either by word of mouth or over the internet, and by a number of knitting groups made for this specific project, or other already existing knitting groups.
Although the piece was placed in front of the Nikolaj Contemporary Art Center in Copenhagen, and thus an arranged, commissioned piece, I still find this to be a louder act of protest than Stevens’ so neatly wraps up as “indirect and quiet”. I feel that craftivism and DIY craft can make their statements passively, but I also believe there are makers out there making statements through their craft that are “bringing revolution to the front door and kicking it open”. I also don’t believe it’s fair to either outlet to wrap indie craft up with craftivism. Just as with any act of art placement and intent is key. Is the piece meant for personal use? Is it a guerrilla act reclaiming a public space? Is it meant to address social unrest? Is it the act of one artist or a collective? If, as Stevens writes, “these craft practitioners comprise groups whose values and aims need to be acknowledged and understood” – then I think they deserve to be free of such generalizations.